You’re doing something right when the powers that be shut your show down early. Denton, Texas’ experimental duo Vulgar Fashion endured this rite of passage on May 30, when the owners of a posh Dallas nightclub called The Dram instructed the two to call it quits a mere 20 minutes into their set.
The band kind of expected it. You see, Vulgar Fashion emerged from Denton’s noise scene circa 2008, as multi-instrumentalist Andrew Michael and vocalist Julie McKendrick bonded. The dark, menacing soundscapes that eventually would come to define the act wouldn’t sound so foreign in a cultured college town like Denton, but this upscale, unsuspecting pocket of the Big D never saw it coming.
“They were freaked out by it, basically. It was a big contrast,” Michael said. “Julie had blood running down her face and we had our banner with bloody ice cream cones and spider webs on it in this very plush place with $20 martinis and starch khaki shorts and things like that. I guess the majority of the people in attendance just didn’t know how to handle it.”
Michael and McKendrick share an affinity for late-’70s and early ’80s pop, as well as classic horror films from that era. While similar themes undoubtedly are woven into their music, they feel that such imagery is merely an authentic reflection of life’s darker side.
“We’re not always the most cheery people, but we are funny. We do have a sense of humor,” Michael said. “Having that darker element gives us the ability to fully express all of the different colors that go into experiencing life. It’s a dark world right now.”
That said, Vulgar Fashion is, at its core, a pop outfit. Its musical influences (New Wave and dance, mainly) are palpable; they’re just presented with a uniquely modern scope that re- contextualizes familiar elements through a collage-like filter.
These sounds, juxtaposed with such explicit subject matter, offer a sense of vulnerability that’s strangely relatable and unmistakably human, and the fact that some have had difficulty grasping such conceptually organic music is somewhat perplexing to Michael.
“I think it’s fair to say that we make music to bring people in,” he said. “The beat in general is so universal; there is accessibility with that.
It’s OK to come into our world, and if you need this beat to dance into our world, that’s fine.”
Many people have, too. The duo has been on the receiving end of a mounting barrage of publicity in recent months, due in large part to the absorbing potential of its five-song, self-titled debut.
The live show, on the other hand, strays slightly from the formula, as those who were at The Dram on that fateful evening can attest.
“You’re gonna get the songs off the record,” Michael said. “It’s just gonna be louder.”