Monday, July 9, 2007

License to Pop.

Dzuy Vuong from Sailboat at the Hollywood racetrack
By Jasmin Blasco.

Dzuy Vuong and I became friends based on our common interest in Bukowski and the music of Tom Waits, but as he got in my car to drive to the Hollywood Racetrack we discovered an another similarity in our musical tastes, I started playing The Queen is Dead by The Smiths and we sang along to the album most of the way there.

Dzuy is the front man and songwriter/producer for the electro/pop outfit Sailboat. A band that sounds something like the glamtastic bastard child of Daft Punk and a Mechanical Animals-era Marylyn Manson. While they retain the effortlessly danceable thump of the former and the shock rock value of the latter, they add to it more humor than any of the two. In speaking of his creation Dzuy mentions: “It’s so ridiculous that we are a band of dudes in sailor suits but that's what’s great.” Indeed Sailboat does dress up. Testament to this is their video for the song “Mannequin” which features sailors and sailorettes alongside an assortment of aquatic wildlife.

We get to the track, proudly stepping into the footsteps of our common hero Bukowski to find just how inept we are at placing a bet on a horse. After attempting to place a bet on horse that isn’t in the race and then a horse that is in the race but loses us our $5, we finally get our bearing. Dzuy looks up the meaning of the expression “Trifecta bet” in the race form and discovers it to be the placing of a bet on the order of the three winning horses of the race.
With a buy-in at $1, the Trifecta seems a risk less opportunity. However, much to our surprise, we win. “Wow how much do you think we won?” he asks. “I don’t know maybe ten bucks or something” I answer. A minute later we are informed we pocketed $140.
We go buy ourselves a beer at the bar.
In the wake of our gambling success I ask Dzuy a few questions:

J B- “So how does Morrissey fit into the influences of Sailboat?”
D V- “Well in the sense that the first time you watch a video or listen to the CD there’s a part of you that always initially thinks: "my god, what an asshole". It must take a man of a certain substance to be this big of an asshole. And then after a while he grows on you and you think, "wow there’s no asshole like him". I wanted to be that one asshole too.”
JB- “So tell me about the starting point for Sailboat.”
D V- “Well you know, it started of as this total farce. Everything I ever loved about David Bowie, Prince, and Morrissey mixed with everything I’ve loved about electro/clash and very flamboyant metro-80s music.
And musically it was like three years of art school pop repression, using every melody and progression that I was holding back for three years.
It’s almost like it gave me a license to pop. I did my time and now I have a license to pop.”

The importance of strong charismatic figures in ones adolescence cannot be underestimated. The choices made are necessarily revealing. In identifying we hope to witness our potential fully realized.
Dzuy has gravitated towards musicians that express their individuality thru self-created characters: Morrissey, Reznor, Waits, Bowie. He spoke to me of his kinship with the idea of the one-man band in the example of Trent Reznor of Nine Inch Nails. “I like other peoples compositional ideas, I like to see them fully realized, but when it comes to writing my own songs I prefer doing it myself.” As for his singing voice he explains himself in terms of English crooners like Morrissey and Bowie but states that he is simply trying to sing in his natural register.

Towards the end of the day as we go to take a look a the faded pastel fa├žade of the neighboring casino I begin to assemble the running threads of Dzuy’s musical heritage. For him it is the same glamour and decay that inhabits the baroque decadence of a Tom Waits, the resigned and decrepit practical wisdom of Bukowski and the space-bound romanticism of Ziggy Stardust.

Sailboat, like any self respecting glam band anticipates its own demise.
Their lyrics speak of the substance of abuse and the refusal to let go of the high. The idea of glamour is bound to a time and place. Sailboat is a band fully aware of this. Their references to musical eras are informed by the fleeting nature of style and fashion.
In talking with Dzuy Vuong its plain to see that he wishes to honor the impermanence of pop music rather than take it for granted.

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