Orgy

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orgy

“Initializing vapor-transmission sequence. Engaging vapor… engaging vapor…. Three… two… one….
“Welcome to the Odyssey.”

Your watch reads 1:07, a.m. or p.m., who knows? And you’ve just escaped through a black hole to the Andrio System with gender-swapping Dramatica. You had to get away from the Bomb-Bomb Boys and the Jockstrap Girls somehow. But now you’re feeling paranoid, searching through the flashing lights for hapless Gerrold (you thought he could find his own way home) and sainted Eva, the one person who can show you wrong from right. All you want is a little clarity and compassion in this ambiguous world, but some suckerface is trying to drain your time and energy, and your former lover dreams in digital and likes it.

What you need is a superpill to make you feel better. Yeah, a superpill to make everything all right. But don’t let the radio see you swallow it. Then the Opticon will know your plans…

Or something like that. For those of us who felt a perverse hint of disappointment when the world failed to spin off its axis in the new millennium, and life remained so… “last century,” Orgy introduces the first album of the year 2000 that truly sounds like it was made in and for a new era. The 30th century, that is, according to “The Oddyssey” from the band’s new album Vapor Transmission.

Not only does Vapor Transmission sound like the synthesis of every crucial youth-music movement of the past 30 years, but the ultra-vivid songs are so heavily peopled and rich with imagery they could easily form the basis of a video game, a screenplay or even a musical (and may still). More importantly, they draw open the screen of a listener’s mind. From there, it’s up to the individual to project his or her own future legend like the one above.

Singer Jay Gordon knows a few things about creating alternate universes for listeners. Of Orgy’s platinum-selling debut, 1997’s Candyass, he once claimed he and his bandmates guitar-synthesist Amir Derakh, guitarist Ryan Shuck, bassist Paige Haley and drummer Bobby Hewitt had just “conjured up a bunch of lies and fairy tales.”

Vapor Transmission, therefore, must be another engaging batch of fantasies set to the band’s patented “death pop,” right? Not even close. Like the world Orgy projects on the new album, everything you know about the band is wrong.

“The songs are definitely based on a lot of real-life factions this time,” admits Gordon. “It’s about scenes from my life and other people’s lives that I’ve witnessed or heard about. There’s a lot more truth involved.” But he’s changed the names to shield the not-so-innocent? Wrong again. “Gerrold is a real-life character. He’s a friend of ours from New Orleans,” says Gordon, by way of example. “Where’s Gerrold,” is the track that closes the album with this unhinged bit of stream-of-consciousness: “Bright lights flashing. Cover my eyes. I’m feeling sick. I’m feeling paranoid.” Likewise, “Eva” has a basis in reality: “Eva is our producer Josh Abraham’s late mother,” he reveals.

And will anyone recognize themselves in the unflattering portrait Gordon renders in “Suckerface”? “Raised by the queens your mother paid. How does that make you a human god?” he sings, while Haley’s filtered bass seemingly vomits out the song’s gargantuan riff in agreement. “Suckerface’ is a label for a lot of people,” Gordon admits. “With specific lines, some people might think, Oh, he had to have written that about my situation,’ but I’m sure a lot of people feel a familiarity with the things I’m saying in that song.”

With the number of characters inhabiting the songs, the album almost sounds like a scene report, in which Gordon passes through various rooms at a party and comments on the melodrama.

“That’s exactly what it’s like,” he agrees. “It’s just me taking an artistic impression of what I’ve seen. I wanted people to see that there’s a lot more than just the music happening on this record.” Again, the party analogy is more literal than you might expect, according to Shuck, who also contributed lyrics.

“You’re listening to us literally hanging out, episodes of our last year. The lyrics are about real life, even though they’re put in a science-fiction setting. Orgy lives in a make-believe science-fiction world I’m gonna have to admit that. I hope when people listen to the album they can come into that world a little bit.

“The majority of the album was done at what we call The Clarinda House,’ this big mansion in Tarzana where we all lived for three months,” clarifies Derakh. “There was a gym separate from the house that we turned into the recording studio so it could be running 24 hours a day and people in the house wouldn’t be disturbed.

“And we had what we call our lurkers,'” he continues. “Those were friends and relatives who were hanging around (whoever was there visiting) and they turned out to be inspiration for some things.” “Yeah,” admits Hewitt, “we know… well, Jay’ knows a lot of weirdos people who would show up at four in the morning, out of their heads and have these ideas’. And next thing we knew there was a song written about one of them.”

In that hang-out continuum, Orgy somehow found time to substantially build on the cybernetic-rock experiments they’d started with Candyass and later honed through trial and error on the road with the original Family Values tour and on subsequent headlining tours. “Playing live really cemented what we are,” says Haley. “It helped us to truly discover ourselves and our sound. And what we discovered is that live, no matter what we did, we couldn’t keep down the fact that we are a heavy band.”

“Now we’re much more sure of what we wanna accomplish and what our style of music is and what our way of dressing is,” says Hewitt. “The first record seems like an experiment.”

“We didn’t really want to depart from where we started,” amends Derakh, “but we definitely wanted to take a step forward with this record. There was a conscious effort to make it heavier in some ways, without losing our sound.” Gordon agrees, citing “Fiction (Dreams In Digital)” as an example of Orgy’s ability to seamlessly blend contrasting styles: “With Orgy you get the heavy and the catchy. We’ve all been in some really heavy bands before, but with Orgy, the premise was to do something different. I think every band starts with that in mind, and then they end up finding their niche. And I think ours involves making the pop world see things in a different way. Just because it’s on the radio doesn’t mean it’s shitty.”

In a couplet from “Opticon,” Gordon fires the first shot in this latest pop revolution, drawing a line between the new guard and the old guard in the process: “Those neon eyes make mom and dad think we’ve lost our minds. They’re just terrified of all new things.” Vapor Transmission is full of such startling visions of a future world in which communications technology has been turned against us, becoming a tool for government surveillance rather than personal convenience. Gordon doesn’t think the vision is that far from reality.

“I’m a fan of technology, but it can be used for the wrong purposes. Things are crazy. They’re coming up with new ways of doing things all the time. Soon you’ll be able to talk to someone on the phone in your car and see the person you’re talking to. I’m sure the government will love to tap in on that. And Opticon’ is the eye that sees all the paranoid, Big Brother thing. Like a satellite can pinpoint a soccer ball on a soccer field, for instance. It’s checking out what you’re wearing. It’s my version of how things are.”

And on “Eyes,” Gordon sings, “Radio waves hitting your brain on the phone. I can see what’s on your mind, because you’re never alone. I’m the eyes in your radio.” The song’s not only based on high-tech paranoia, but a childhood memory.

“[In Eyes’], the transmission from the radio is sent to the Opticon. The eyes in the radio are looking at you at all times while you’re in your car. Like when I sing Painted in chrome Max Factor,’ it can see all these things. When I was a kid, I used to think the radio was talking to me,” says Gordon, laughing at the innocence of the song’s inspiration. And lest you think Vapor Transmission deals exclusively in paranoia, personal politics and future shock, check out “Eva.” The song not only forms the heart of the record, but could be Orgy’s most poignant song yet. “I’m not as fearless as you,” Gordon sings of producer Abraham’s late mother. “Still I pretend that you’re still standing by to tell me wrong from right. Never got a chance to say goodbye.” The longing is palpable.

“She passed and Josh didn’t really get to talk to her,” says the singer. “It was a really heavy thing in my life. We put our band together in Eva’s garage. She was a great lady, and I wrote the song through Josh’s eyes.” Still, Eva’s the exception on Vapor Transmission the album’s other inhabitants don’t get such sympathetic treatment. It’s almost as if Gordon is holding her up as an ideal for the rest of the characters.

“Groups of people can get together and be quite vicious; it’s not cool,” says Gordon. “So there are a lot of references to how I feel about that. I’m not bitter about anything, though. I may not be happy with some people’s actions, but I’d be just as ignorant to harbor hostility towards them.” Derakh has a more succinct theory about Gordon’s more caustic lines: “I think that’s from being in L.A. there are a lot of fucking idiots here,” he says, laughing. “We have to deal with so much bullshit, whether it’s girls or… there’s always some kind of drama going on. And I think that’s where a lot of that comes from. I think it’s cool, because even though it’s not specific, it’s our way of getting back.”

Shuck shares a similar but more visceral attitude about Vapor Transmission: “The album just punches you in the face, but in a manner like, Yeah, I’ll knock you out and take your girlfriend’s lipstick.'”

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