VHS or Beta has right ring to it

Jewish Telegraph, May 2005

EVERYTHING about VHS Or Beta screams 1980s. From the group’s name, to their sound . . . and even their mobile phones.
Interviewing bassist Mark Palgy by telephone was like going back in time to when the gadget was as big as a brick and a lot heavier.
The Israel-born musician’s every sentence finished with “crackle, crackle, hiss, hiss”.
Mark was born near Afulla but his family moved to America when he was two.
He started to learn the piano when he was six.
“It was short-lived because I was not good at practicing,” he laughed.
Instead he switched to the guitar, but at the age of 20 he made the change to bass.
“I had been in different bands but VHS or Beta needed a bass player.”
Other members of the Louisville group are guitarist/vocalist Craig Pfunder, guitarist Zeke Buck and drummer Mark Guidry.
While their debut album, Le Funk, was an homage to mid-1990s French dance music, their second album, Night On Fire, released last year on Astralwerks is definitely based in the 1980s.
The album is very reminiscent of Duran Duran with some Cure thrown in for good measure.
“We are influenced by lots of different things,” Mark said. “Sonic Youth are an influence; Daft Punk are an influence. New Wave bands are a slight influence but not fundamental to our sound.”
Mark describes being in the band as “a lot better than waiting tables”.
He says once VHS or Beta started to take off in their home town, they realised that “this is what we wanted to do”.
When I asked him how his family felt about his musical career, Mark replied: “We are still on a level where we are trying to prove ourselves to people and this will continue until we are self-proficient.”
Mark will be visiting Israel this summer for the first time in five years.
His father still lives in the country with “his new wife and my three sisters”.
Mark said: “It’s beautiful there and such a cool society. It’s my home away from home. If I knew we would be safe, I’d like the band to perform there.”
He added: “I’m not religious but I feel strongly about Israel and I like to keep up with the politics of the country.
“I feel my Israeliness but I don’t like to read Torah. It doesn’t connect with me.”
Mark said he has had no problems with his background in America but is worried that it may be an issue when the band tours Europe.
“The press in Europe always talks about my background and the fact that Craig is adopted from a Korean orphanage while in the States it is never mentioned.
“I wonder if it will have any relevance with the crowd.”
VHS or Beta’s British tour starts on Wednesday at the Biekeller in Manchester. The following night it calls in at Glasgow’s King Tuts and Panic in Liverpool on May 13.

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Mike Cohen

Jewish Telegraph deputy editor and arts editor. Email Mcohen@jewishtelegraph.com with your Jewish arts stories