Call it futurepop, EBM, darkwave, whatever you want -- but alternative electronic icons VNV Nation have long struck a chord in Florida, where a predilection for synth-pop is long-standing. The group's frontman and leader, Ronan Harris, is based in Germany, while his musical partner, Mark Jackson, usually resides in France.
But every time VNV makes it across the pond, multiple stops throughout the state are guaranteed. The duo's current tour behind its latest album, Automatic, brings it to Culture Room tonight for a headlining gig. And Harris, ever the talkative type, promises he'll be as accessible to fans as ever.
"The shows are always very interactive," Harris says. "I always communicate with people in the audience -- I'm the one with the mic, and nobody can stop me. Like in Tampa, there's a weird tradition of bringing inflatables to the show. Last time we played there, there was a balloon-animal guy making animals that were being passed up onto the stage. So I said, 'You are distracting us. Unless you're able to make a double helix of DNA, you're not allowed to make any more balloon animals.' So a couple of songs later, there was a commotion in the crowd, and someone handed me up a double helix of DNA!"
If the description of that kind of festive mood is surprising for a band so often associated with the vaguely goth-related club scene in the U.S., then you haven't really been paying attention. Yes, the earliest VNV Nation material from the mid-'90s to the early '00s helped define a certain sect of dark electronic music, full of hard, industrial-influenced rhythms and walloping synth.
But as time has worn on and technology has improved, the VNV sound has become much more open, melodic, and even euphoric. That's especially true of Automatic, which even reached the top ten on the German album charts. As such, the crowd has become more diverse, says Harris.
"It attracts a wide range of people from all different backgrounds, and I love that," says Harris. "We also try our best to really put on good shows and give people value for their money, where they walk away thinking, 'Wow, that was really, really cool.'"
Besides putting on an involved multimedia spectacle, Harris and Jackson are also beloved by fans for hanging out before and after their shows and for happily engaging in nearly any conversation, no sucking up required.
"My kickback time is around the show, after the show, and then going to the party," Harris says. "So many people want to say hello, and I love socializing, so I want to give people the time to talk to them. And I don't just want to hear compliments -- I have no problem with someone coming up and saying, 'I hate your band.' I'll say, 'That's great!' I bought the last guy who said that to me a drink."
Harris also guarantees that the band will show up to celebrate at the designated afterparty, a David Bowie tribute night and late-night dance party thrown by promoter Mike Linder at Green Room. "They'll have to put up a barricade to stop us from coming," he says.
Download the single "Control," from the group's album Automatic, by following the link below to the group's Facebook page.
Download: VNV Nation - "Control"
VNV Nation, with Straftanz. 8 p.m. Friday, February 17, at Culture Room, 3045 N. Federal Highway, Fort Lauderdale.Tickets cost $20 in advance, $23 at the door; all ages. Click here.
Bowie's in Space tribute night. 10 p.m. Friday, February 17, at Green Room, 109 SW Second Ave., Fort Lauderdale. Admission is free; age 21 and up. Click here.
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