Carlos Ascurra and Juan Gonzalez are much more popular as Viking Funeral than as Carlos Ascurra and Juan Gonzalez. It's not because they aren't impressively clever, interesting, talented dudes, it's just that their noise band-slash-artist collaborative is playing all the cool shows. In fact, they're too good to perform anywhere but Churchill's Pub or art galleries around town and have exhibited at some of Miami's fancier spots including the de la Cruz Collection, Locust Projects and Fredric Snitzer Gallery.
Viking Funeral is part of a growing number of artists working on sound projects and creating music. Artist Jay Hines also produces cassettes as Aurgare and performs as Ballscarf with filmmaker Aiden Dillard. Beatriz Monteavaro and Gavin Perry, both visual artists, make up metal outlet Holly Hunt. All three groups be performing at Drown, an upcoming show at the art space General Practice run by artist Carlos Rigau. The Wynwood house and gallery serves as an empty body soon to be pumping and ringing with screeching guitars and furiously banged drums this Thursday night. It promises to be a Miami art-band explosion, thrown in honor of the evil party monster Art Basel Miami Beach.
Ascurra agreed to converse with us about VF and talk a little bit about being funny, staying not-corny and Strawberry Quik. Sit tight for the Tiger Beat questions at the end.
Liz: So, tell me, why did you and Juan start Viking Funeral?
Carlos: We started off as a band and then started making projects that involved sound. I like to think of Viking Funeral as some sort of autonomous author. It's not about us, and it exists in different mediums. We like anonymity. I don't like to use my name in art. I prefer the anonymity of a name like Viking Funeral.
Liz: But both of you made art prior to being a "team?"
Carlos: Yeah, we both had separate practices. I guess that's why VF feels like a new, different thing that has little to do with us.
Liz: Your show at Snitzer recently was nutso. You had that thermion little robot thing that reacted to light and sort of just kept running over a video of a fire. Can you talk about how you used sound in the exhibition?
Carlos: We like to create sculptures that make the sound in-site. We don't like using pre-recorded material. These sculptures have a kinetic quality to them, so using the theremins and video and letting the sound create itself is important to us. Our last installation had that type of approach. We wanted sensory overload but we didn't want the experience to feel looped.
Liz: How do you sort of bridge the fact that you're a band and an artistic collaboration? Like are your performances "art" and is the sound sculpture a "performance?"
Carlos: We like to approach everything as a band rather than an artist collaborative. Art can be really gimmicky and trendy and we'd rather keep the two separate. If we are playing at Churchill's, I can't and don't want to think of that as art. That feels corny.
Liz: It is corny. Are you scared of being corny? I think a lot of people that make music are scared of being corny but like sometimes noise can be corny and funny and weird and it's not a bad thing.
Carlos: I hate the word awesome. I can't see myself using it on anything. It weirds me out. Awe-summmm.
Liz: I didn't use the word "awesome," but I can.
Carlos: I like doing all the things I do under Viking Funeral and I don't think Juan and I would be doing what we do unless we believed in it. Maybe that fear of making something corny comes from a little bit of insecurity. I guess I don't feel that way towards VF stuff, but I can see how everyone in general can check themselves before they do things based on not being too sure how it would be received.
Liz: VF has a sense of humor. Can you talk about that? Like the graffiti on the walls at Snitzer.
Carlos: Yeah, we like to make of ourselves and everyone around us. We drew a bunch of fried eggs and fucked up manatees.
Liz: Fried eggs are funny. So, tell me about the music. You guys don't actually play instruments, do ya?
Carlos: We do. I've played guitar forever and Juan's been playing drums for years.
Liz: And were you in bands before, either of you?
Carlos: I don't know any Pixies, Liz.
Liz: Haha. Weird, bro.
Carlos: We've been playing together since 2006 and I was in a few bands in high school but nothing serious.
Liz: You've been playing as VF?
Carkos: Yeah, since 2006. I mean we are no Black Eyed Peas but you know...
Liz: Haha. You played INC (International Noise Conference)?
Carlos: We've been playing INC I think for the past three or four years.
Liz: Let's get stupid for a sec. Stupider, pardon. Tell me about music and art in Miami, teach me something.
Carlos: I'm glad people are doing things here. I think the Snooze (Theater) up north is great. I wish I saw Ed Wilcox a lot more often. When's the next Ballscarf show?
Five questions with Carlos that make him look both appealing and badass.
1. What's your favorite dessert?
2. Do you like to cuddle?
I like to call it schnuggle.
3. Do you or have you ever owned a motorcycle?
No, you get rashes.
4. Are you allergic to cats?
5. What'd you buy your mom last Christmas?
Nintendo DS and got her off going to the Miccosukee.
Viking Funeral will be performing at Drown with Ballscarf, The Ice Machine and Swift, Slashpine, Holly Hunt, M.B. Evans and Nick Klein on Dec. 1 at 10:45 p.m., 3930 NW 2 Ave, Miami.
Photos courtesy of Liz Tracy.