Girls Against Boys (GVSB) first recorded in 1988 as a studio project before evolving into a full-time band in the early ’90s. All four members (Scott McCloud, guitars/lead vocals; Eli Janney, keyboards/bass/backing vocals; Johnnpy Temple, bass; and Alexis Fleisig, drums) were participants in Washington, DC’s punk music scene. From the start, GVSB utilized an unusual mixture of instrumentation for a band with punk roots, including keyboards, samples, as well as two bass players on many songs.
After an EP (featuring fellow DC musicians Brendan Canty and Amy Pickering) and a full-length LP on Jeff Nelson’s Adult Swim label, the band fully relocated to New York City and soon joined the roster of Touch and Go Records, with a handshake agreement to do three albums together. Upon the release of their critically acclaimed Venus Luxure No. 1 Baby album in 1993, GVSB embarked on seemingly endless rounds of touring in the US and Europe, sharing stages with the likes of Fugazi, Helmet, The Jesus Lizard, and Jawbox.
The following year Touch and Go Records released Cruise Yourself, and the band once again found themselves touring the world. This time the audiences also consisted of representatives of every major record label, all trying to sign the band.
“It started to be one of the main things we’d talk about in the van: do we really consider signing to a major label or not?” McCloud remembers. “Finally it became clear that although we had a lot of trepidation, it was something we were probably going to do.”
McCloud called Corey Rusk from Touch and Go Records from a truck-stop payphone to discuss the situation. GVSB then decided to honor the handshake agreement and release its next album on TG before releasing anything with one of the major labels. House of GVSB was that final record for the label. (The next album was on Geffen/Universal, who won the bidding war.)
Recorded in 1995 at Water Music in Hoboken, NJ, with producer Ted Niceley at the helm, House of GVSB captures the four-piece at the zenith of its musical prowess. Among other dynamics, the album has a simmering anxiety throughout, a kind of vertigo, a taste of what the band was actually experiencing at the time.
About the LP and the lead track, “Super-fire,” SPIN said: “A fast metal-chime guitar riff (like a snippet of Big Black or Killing Joke) repeats four times, then heavy drums surge in along with two thick bass lines, the guitar switches to a sticky wah-wah drip, and Scott McCloud adds his flat speak/sing (like Mark E Smith of the Fall, but under light lyrical control), mouthing “nothing satisfies” with enough pump and angle that the sentiment isn’t hackneyed—just another needle under your skin. The 40 minutes that follow these 40 seconds feature multiple surges just as utterly convincing, it’s the biggest, most contemporary-sounding, and physically enticing hard rock anyone is offering right now.”
Additional lyrics on “Super-fire” include French idioms about losing one’s mind: “nothing in the lemon” (rien dans les citrons) and “spiders on the ceiling” (araignées au plafond). These phrases—which McCloud stumbled upon while on tour in France—contribute to the sense of alienation, bewilderment, and fascination on the album.
“The Kinda Mzk You Like,” with its funky drums and two basses, describes a fictional meeting of nightlife revelers on an imaginary dance floor. “Disco 666” and “Vera Cruz” up the ante on electronic instrumentation: dance music played by live guitars, basses, keyboards, and drums. The album closer, “Zodiac Love Team,” provides a flickering soundtrack to an imaginary film, taut with menace, implied violence, fear, and yes, a certain touch of beauty.
Girls Against Boys released Freakonica (Geffen,1998) and You Can’t Fight What You Can’t See (Jade Tree, 2002) before calling a hiatus from recording in 2003. GVSB has periodically re-emerged for touring stints (most notably for an EP in 2013 The Ghost List) and all of the band members remain active in musical and artistic pursuits: Johnny Temple founded his publishing company Akashic Books, Eli Janney currently plays keyboards in the 8G Band on “Late Night with Seth Myers”, Alexis Fleisig has taken his photographing skills to new levels, as well as drumming for the likes of Obits and Bellini, and also plays in Paramount Styles, together with Scott McCloud, who now lives in Vienna, Austria.
House of GVSB remains probably their most favorite album.
Girls Against Boys is, as of now, working on new material.