via chris zak and NME
Ever wonder what Ezra Koenig (Vampire Weekend) and Wes Miles (Ra Ra Riot, Discovery) sounded like in high school? It was recently brought to my attention that they were involved in about fifteen projects together back in their Glen Ridge, NJ days. Add Dan Millar and Andrei Padlowski, and you've got the Sophisticuffs (photo here), with Wes on bass and keyboard and Ezra on vocals and other instruments. Suddenly, the appearance of Wes in the Vampire Weekend movie trailer makes so much sense.
So what did Ezra and Wes sound like during their pre-college days? In some ways, they sound like what you'd expect from a high school band. Calling them a garage rock band is easy, but that's the first impression that I got from listening to snippets from 48 songs, mostly from an album called Factory. While "Oh No (Oh Yes)" exemplifies their garage band sound, there is more to the Sophisticuffs, and their jazz improvisation and experimental electronic influences are more evident in the tracks that are mostly instrumental. "Reginald's Lament" is the clear standout track on the album, with brass notes that bring Stravinsky to mind. The rest of the Sophisticuffs material isn't as memorable, but it's interesting to see how their current respective bands have grown and evolved since then.
Even before the days of Vampire Weekend, the Sophisticuffs weren't completely unknown. A Google search brought me to this page on Matador records from 2001 where Ben Goldberg describes Factory as the "wildly inventive musical work" of former Matador intern Ezra Koenig. Also, a Sophisticuffs song was used in the 2002 film Don't Ask Don't Tell. Perhaps it won't be long until Ezra and Wes properly team up again.
And, if you're wondering where I got these songs, I didn't download them from the Internet. I got them from a local fan of the Sophisticuffs who still had the CDs (Thanks, D.).
Reginald's Lament - The Sophisticuffs
Oh No (Oh Yes) - The Sophisticuffs
July 24, 2009