Vicious Vicious
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Vicious Vicious

Band Alternative Rock


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The best kept secret in music


"Tears of a Clown (2002)"

We've got a real rock clown in our midst. By day, he may look like an earnest Minneapolis working stiff, but by night, he's dancing and strutting around onstage, shooting finger guns at his audience with reckless abandon. When he picks up his guitar, this wriggly monkeyshiner is known as Vicious Vicious. But keep this tip under your hats, citizens: Vicious Vicious lives in the same body as his modest (if smirky) counterpart, Erik Appelwick.
Sitting on a stool at the Loring Pasta Bar in the middle of the afternoon, Appelwick won't talk too seriously about the making of his debut solo album, Blood and Clover (self-released). Indeed, he won't talk too seriously about anything at all. Take his approach to getting acquainted with strangers: Rather than inquiring about, say, their political stance, education, or personal philosophy, this cat would rather observe life's dopey details. He'll ask if you've ever seen a UFO, or what movie stars you'd like to bed in your shallowest dreams. And he is happy to indulge in such whimsical subjects--especially when they carry over into his music.

"The original concept was like, I'm gonna take contemporary beats, like hip-hop beats, and put roller-skating music to it," Appelwick says of Blood and Clover's beginnings. Drum machines, a little acoustic percussion, Hammond organs, and energetic guitars make the backdrop for both Erik's sunshiny fancies and lamentations. "Shake That Ass on the Dancefloor," a whisper-sexy, snickering hip-hop lampoon, suggests Beck's nudge-nudge-wink-winking, and "Sinister Summer" minces about like Donovan's "Mellow Yellow" without the stoner grin. The music is wry and inventive, but the use of canned drums seems to be a small point of conflict for our hero. "I kind of felt like I'm sacrificing too much cred by using these fake beats," he says. "But I've convinced myself that I'm doing something that's unique."
Appelwick's slack, gritty-sounding production creates a light, playful sound, recalling Syd Barrett sans psychedelia. His purposefully unpolished performances add frankness to his songs. "There's the occasional missed note and there's a lot of really loose things in there," he explains about the recording. "It's really human, which is a characteristic that I'm a really big fan of."

Human emotions, as well as workaday events and kitchen-sink scenes, create the humor of Blood and Clover and underline the more sincere expressions of emotion. "Gate 14-A," for example, describes how walking past a TV stand in Gold Toe socks generates static electricity when you're rushing to the phone to breathe a heartfelt sigh in the direction of a distant lover. "Oh, I Would Do Anything for My Girl" incorporates a bit of self-depreciating wit: "Everybody wants to steal my girl/I spend my Sunday afternoons washing her clothes/ I would follow her everywhere she goes... just like everyone else does." So, the guy has feelings, but can we lend our sympathy to a person who's so whipped? Nope, and he won't ask you to. Anyone listening to the good, honest mope of "Blue Tuesday" can hear Appelwick's Charlie Chaplin-esque pathos: He might be pouting for real, but he's still a jester.

Appelwick flies completely solo on Blood and Clover: He wrote, produced, and performed the music largely by himself and was thus able to stretch genre limitations of his other musical projects. (Since moving to Minneapolis from South Dakota a few years ago, he has played guitar and bass in such acts as Kid Dakota, Camaro, and Alva Star.) "My next record could very well be a country-pop record," he says, half-jokingly. "There's a lot of music coming out of me right now, and I want to be able to play it."

Apparently, those songs have been waiting to come out of him since he was five years old. When he heard Kiss at that age, he says, "That's when I knew I was supposed to rock 'n' roll. Only, onstage now, they don't have a bed for me to jump up and down on."

- City Pages (Minneapolis, MN)

"Vicious Vicious: Mr. Soul (2005)"

Erik Appelwick’s time is now. After years spent honing his craft—in his native South Dakota, on the coffeehouse “scene” of Montana, and finally in the more fertile creative grounds of the Twin Cities—Appelwick (under his recorded guise Vicious Vicious) has made a record guaranteed to turn heads and shake behinds. There’s only one catch of course—it’s not quite out yet.
“I haven’t really ironed anything out yet in terms of a release date and record label [for the new Vicious Vicious album],” explains Appelwick over early evening drinks just days before his other band, the Olympic Hopefuls (which he co-fronts with Darren Jackson), is to play before a sold-out crowd at the Uptown Bar. “A couple of the guys from [chart topping pop Hip-Hop producers] N.E.R.D. are sort of shopping it around right now. I’ve talked to the biggies, talked to some people around town. I’m sort of just waiting right now to see what happens.”
What’s been happening for Appelwick lately are plenty of good things. The Hopefuls—a band started on a lark as a basement recording project with Jackson—have seen their popularity skyrocket locally and nationally since the April release of their debut album, The Fuses Refuse To Burn (with Appelwick’s single “Let’s Go” recently featured on Fox’s 21st Century “Beverly Hills 90210” update “The O.C.” and added to rotation at local commercial radio giant Drive 105). The band’s even started making some of their first touring forays away from the already won-over home crowds. As the buzz has grown, however, the bulk of Appelwick’s writing efforts have been focused away from the spritely pop songs and orange jumpsuited buoyancy of the Hopefuls and on a proper follow-up to Vicious Vicious’s well-received 2001 debut album, Blood & Clover.

“The tough part for me with the whole Olympic Hopefuls thing is that a lot of my songs from that first record are at least four years old—most of them I wrote in like 1998 when I was still living in Montana,” admits Appelwick. “I can’t even really write like that anymore. I’m more about like grooves and slamming bass funk shit right now—that kind of stuff.”

“Grooves” are indeed the definitive aspect of VV’s recently completed sophomore seven-song mini-album, tentatively titled Don’t Look So Surprised. Everywhere you turn—the grooves are there. Whether it’s the slinky warm keyboard lines of album opening “2 Much Time On My Hands,” the funkadelic bass of “Serious Thing” or the pulsating drums behind “Here Comes The Police,” Don’t Look So Surprised is an album defined by its incessant rhythmic drive.
Appelwick reveals himself as a truly versatile faux-soul front man, a one-man band (handling all instrumentation except drums, provided courtesy of local ace Martin Dosh)—capable of both sincere romantic balladry and playful strutting. Don’t Look So Surprised sounds like the album Beck was reaching for (and didn’t quite grasp) when he cooked up Midnight Vultures. It’s an intoxicating cross-breed of ’80s-ish new wave wrapped up in funky rhythms with genuine soul—unlike Beck’s calculated silliness—driving the whole enterprise.

Appelwick’s more than aware of the inherent dangers in white boys tackling R&B. “It’s sort of like the spectrum [of white people performing R & B-influenced music] runs from Justin Timberlake to Beck … and it’s like how far to either side do you really want to be?” asks Appelwick, stifling a laugh.

“If you listen to the record I think the subject matter is pretty serious. There is some pretty personal stuff on there. I don’t intend for the music to come across as kitschy—I don’t mind if it makes people smile. I think listening to the record is kind of like tickling somebody. Some of the grooves are really laughable just because they’re so absurd and over-the-top. At the same time it’s not meant to be delivered as a joke. The album itself is kind of a story and it has a flow and point to it.”

Repeated listening to Don’t Look So Surprised bears Appelwick out. What starts as a fun party disc over its first half slyly morphs into something darker and deeper by album’s end, as the songs begin to stretch out into more chilled-out melodies and longer running times. “It just kind of ended up that way as it was being recorded,” explains Appelwick of the album’s myriad moods. “There were a lot of things going on in my personal life at the time I was making the album that sort of ended up vomiting themselves onto the record. I wrote all of the songs really recently and at the same time and they were all being influenced by the same set of events.”

With the record now in the can and pending release, Appelwick is anxious to unveil the new tunes—and his new live backing band—to the public. It’s been over 18 months since Vicious Vicious’s last gig and Appelwick’s current lineup of supporting players features bassist Heath Henjum (Beatifics, Olympic Hopefuls), keyboardist Martin Dosh (best known for his solo instrumental work and drumming with the Fog) and new drummer Adrian Suarez (The Amber Estate). What happens once the release of Don’t Look So Surprised is finally sorted out, however, is anybody’s guess.

“I’m old already,” offers Appelwick when I ask him about his goals for the new record. “I’m not in that sort of like 23- to 26-year-old ideal age rock star sort of thing anymore. I just think good things are going to happen … but I’m not really concerned about when they’re going to happen or what magnitude. If anything, it’s good to stay hungry, it makes you more creative. A little bit of adversity’s not such a bad thing.” - The Pulse of the Twin Cities

"Local Albums of the Year (2005)"


It's a quick 34 minutes, but in that time we hear VV proprietor Erik Appelwick (also of the Hopefuls, who placed fifth in this poll last year) go from ecstatic romancer to confused lover to lost loner. One thing he doesn't lose, though, is the beat. Even at its most down, the CD is high on sexy rhythms and electronic flourishes, part Beck, Bowie and Björk. No surprise the critics loved it.
- Star Tribune (Minneapolis)

"Top 10 Local Albums (2005)"

6. Vicious Vicious, "Don't Look So Surprised" --
Unlike the breezy power pop of his other band, the Hopefuls, Erik Appelwick's Vicious Vicious is more concerned with hazy, lazy funk that's both danceable and sultry. Appelwick shared his golden touch with other Twin Cities acts this year, too, ably producing Tapes 'N Tapes, White Light Riot and Fitzgerald. - St. Paul Pioneer Press

"All Music Guide (2003)"

From the Flaming Lips-esque psychedelia of the opening track, "That's Not How It's S'pose to Be," to the sticky nostalgia of "Sinister Summer," Vicious Vicious has managed to craft a feel-good, skewed pop record with the awkward eccentricity and pop smarts of Ween and early Beck. The hooks throughout can be repetitive, but they're absolutely indelible in a lo-fi, accidentally-stumbling-into-brilliance sort of way. And like the Ween boys, Vicious Vicious' Erik Appelwick has a knack for making any music genre his own, whether it be smooth indie funk ("Shake That Ass on the Dance Floor") or soulful '70s-styled pop ("Blue Tuesday"). In the gatefold, Appelwick is pictured in a vintage T-shirt that says "Have a golden day!" And it's this image that best sums up the M.O. of the band -- golden sunshine, four-track goodness. "Save me from another sinister summer." You got that right. ~ Charles Spano, All Music Guide - AMG

"Hot and Bothered (2005)"

The rise of the mercury is directly related to juvenile madness. This is why West Side Story was not set in Manitoba in January. When the kids are left with nothing to do but bake, a certain amount of hooliganism must be expected. This is the story of Vicious Vicious's "Here Come Tha Police," a hot-weather jam where kids "twist and shake like snakes in the desert" because what else can they do? Bass and drums thump like they're trying to match the sun beating down on a hundred partying teenagers. With dancing shoes worn through, they shake their heads and yell, "C-c-c-c'mon!"

Vicious Vicious can be boiled down to one Pied Piper to bored high schoolers, Erik Appelwick, who's also one-fifth of Olympic Hopefuls. Over a drippy double-scoop cone at the Lowry Hill Sebastian Joe's, the lanky songwriter wipes chocolate-cinnamon-pretzel ice cream from his upper lip as he talks about summer-inspired criminal activity. His greatest feat of collegiate shenanigans was nicking Buddy Miles's album A Message to the People ("pretty much the dopest stuff ever," appraises Appelwick) from an abandoned car.

"There was this car with a bunch of stuff in it and after a while we figured this person was never coming back," says Appelwick. "It was open and inside were crates full of records. And then there's Buddy Miles with this psychedelic painting of a fat dude with a tall Afro and all these flames coming out of his mouth and these writhing, naked women. There's a volcano and he's wearing an American flag cape. It's slamming party music." Perhaps the last active member of the Message to the People promotional street team, Appelwick also played the album between sets at the 7th St. Entry release party for Don't Look So Surprised (Plexippus Records), Vicious Vicious's second disc.
Appropriately conceived last summer in the sweltering heat of fellow Olympic Hopeful Darren Jackson's attic, the new album fluctuates between sweaty dance songs and slower numbers cooled by a breeze blowing in from a plastic wading pool. Appelwick insists that most of his songs aren't about summer--but how many Minnesotans patronize beaches, drive-ins, and midways during the off-season months? "They just have a summery feel," he says, adding, "It's kind of hard to write fun songs about winter."

Don't Look So Surprised follows 2002's Blood & Clover, an album commonly categorized as roller-skating music, thanks to its bright and cheesy organ. But the new material shows Appelwick maturing, more or less, from rink rat to life of the party, kicking things off with "It's a Serious Thing," a funky fight with an ex brightened by infectious whoa-oh-ohs. The album revolves around the ubiquitous Jenny, a childhood friend whom the narrator can't seem to shake. In "California Skies," the pair blissfully dreams of trading in rural life for the glamorous heat of a Western metropolis. They bicker over basement games in the sedate "Truth or Dare" (with him stumping for spin the bottle, naturally). But things really come to a head on "Castaways," a modest pop song that's transformed into something deeper and grander by some ambient hum and John Hermanson's string arrangement, the perfect setting for a capsized romance. Behind all the fun and frolic of the album lies the understanding that all-night parties can lead to fatigue-induced confessions and miscommunication.

"If you listen to the first and last songs, the lyrical content isn't really so much about kicking around on the beach and stuff like that, he says. "It's break-uppy kind of stuff."

Appelwick speculates that the album is "maybe PG-13" for its mild adult content, a healthy dose of making out, and some alcohol-blurred vision, nothing too scandalous. When I say that by comparison, Olympic Hopefuls' equally summer-related power pop seems more accessible to a young crowd, Appelwick points out, "Yeah, but half those songs are about drugs." No wonder coming-of-age movies always take place during the summer.

- City Pages (Minneapolis)





Feeling a bit camera shy


Although the Minneapolis group Vicious Vicious began as Erik Appelwick's moniker for his debut album recorded entirely on four-track, Blood and Clover, it soon grew into a full-blown live band when Darren Jackson, Alex Oana, and Martin Dosh climbed aboard. With the quartet hashing out arrangements of Appelwick's home recordings, they began making waves in Minneapolis, and the local press started to take notice, earning Appelwick a nomination for best rock recording by the Minnesota Music Academy in 2002. The group earned another nomination by the same academy a year later... - All Music Guide, Gregory McIntosh