Vancouver's The Vincent Black Shadow is best known for "Metro," a song that, according to guitarist Rob Kirkham, initially broke on Colorado Springs' KRCC-FM 91.5. With its infectious "The drugs don't work no more" chorus, it's arguably the catchiest pop song that No Doubt never recorded.
It's a comparison Kirkham has heard more than a few times.
"We got really used to it a lot, especially on our first Warped Tour and a little bit into the second one," says Kirkham, who figures it's mostly because vocalist-lyricist Cassandra Ford can actually sing. "I remember Fletcher from Pennywise came up to my brother Tone [TVBS bassist; another brother, Chris, is the drummer] and was like, 'So I hear you guys are the next No Doubt.' We were laughing about that, but you know, to me it's not a big deal. It's nicer to be compared to a band that sold 20 million albums than to be compared to a pile of dog crap."
So true. And even though Kirkham thinks Tragic Kingdom is a great album, he insists Primus, the Red Hot Chili Peppers and even Megadeth would be bigger influences.
So exactly which drugs don't work anymore?
"I actually also teach elementary school, so I've encountered a lot of parents that believe pharmaceutical drugs are the way to go to basically raise their kids, because they're not behaving the way they think they should," says Kirkham. "The pharmaceutical companies make billions and billions of dollars every year, and that's why you see those ads every day, like, 'Get Fuckanol, it'll get rid of all your terrible woes.'"
The Vincent Black Shadow got its start when Kirkham and Ford met in a Vancouver bar. The resulting musical collaboration was subsequently interrupted when Ford, who'd spent the first two years of her life in the Philippines and the next 10 in a British convent, accepted an offer to return to the Philippines and record for Universal Asia.
She first sent some cover songs (including Fiona Apple and, yes, No Doubt), then headed to the land of her birth armed with a bunch of songs she'd written with Kirkham. When she got there, she found local producers and songwriters had been hired to take her in a "cheesy pop" direction. Ford bailed.
"I think it was a ballsy move," says Kirkham. "Most people these days want things so bad that they'll sing a song by Barney if they think they can get famous."
After three years of touring, a sophomore album (El Monstruo) released in September, and no Barney covers as yet, TVBS is back on the road. The group has toured with everyone from Canadian hardcore band Silverstein to Runaway-turned-pop-stalwart Joan Jett, and its members argue they still don't fall into any musical category.
"I really get annoyed," says Kirkham, "when jive-ass punk bands come out and go, 'Oh, we're punk,' because they have these denim jackets with patches all over them and they have their Mohawks. But they all look the same and it's like, 'Unless you dress this way, you're not punk.'
"I think punk is an attitude more than anything else," he adds, arguing that Iggy & the Stooges' hero Jim Morrison was more punk rock than most of TVBS' contemporaries. "And that's how we are: We're always the dark sheep in every musical community."