Hit The Decks! It's Vivabeat

Eighties techno group Vivabeat's origins actually date back to mid-1978, when guitarist Alec Murphy, a Boston ex-pat and Berklee College of Music grad, reached out to synth player Consuelo “Connie” DiSilva and Mick Muhlfriedel, bass/songwriter about a band he was playing with in Los Angeles.

"Connie and I were students at the Boston University Film School and classmates in a B.U. electronic music class," says Muhlfriedel. "Alec had collaborated on a number of student film scores with us and wanted us to move out to L.A. to join his band. He told us they had serious interest from a record label. Convinced, I quit my job and made plans to go, enlisting my friend Doug Orillio, drummer for the popular Boston band Reddy Teddy, to join me. Connie soon followed. Once we all arrived, we were joined by Alec’s bandmate, Marina Muhlfriedel (Marina del Rey), and the quintet began rehearsing. The only thing missing was a lead singer. The dilemma was solved by Marina, who reached out to Terrance Robay, a budding teen idol she met through her day job as Entertainment Editor at ‘Teen Magazine. Terrance had recently arrived back in the States after a stint as the star of a London stage production on the life of James Dean. To our surprise and delight, Terrance signed on, and the original line-up of Vivabeat was born."

There was never any musical formula or genre to the Vivabeat sound.

"We were mostly interested in writing the best, cleverest, and most musically interesting tunes we could come up with," Muhlfriedel says. "Also, we had what seemed like an advantage over most '80s 'synth-pop' bands in that we had a gay and proud lead singer, which opened up a whole world of lyrical possibilities that weren’t available to most other groups at the time. And, unlike the synth-heavy sound that a great number of bands employed, we believed in the power of a great guitar riff. Vivabeat was fortunate enough to enlist some of the best and most creative guitarists available. After Alec Murphy, a primo rock guitarist in every sense of the word, along with Connie and Doug, parted ways with the band after our first album, we quickly hooked up with drummer Chris Schendel and Rob Dean, the original guitarist for the English band Japan. When Rob left to join Gary Numan, Jeff Gilbert, a San Francisco session player, joined us. Rob and Jeff both had stellar funk chops, and we became, not surprisingly, a pretty funky outfit."

Vivabeat have seen their recent two releases on Rubellan Reissues remastered.

"In some cases, remixed/re-recorded [on] CD and a limited-edition colored vinyl compilation of songs from our first album Party in the War Zone (recorded for the Mighty Charisma Label), our Euro-only EP release, Vivabeat, and a 2001 Permanent Press Record’s collection, The Good Life, plus a number of previously unreleased tracks," says Muhlfriedel.

As they arrived at the dawn of the “synth era” in music, Vivabeat was fortunate to avail themselves of some of the most innovative and influential instruments hitting the mainstream music scene.

"We used the Oberheim OBX, Prophet 5, EML101, the Roland Jupiter 4 and 8, a vintage Roland SH3, and the Mini Korg, along with a PAIA drum machine (at the suggestion of Peter Gabriel), an Oberheim Drumulator, and the Pearl Syncussion drum synthesizer," says Muhlfriedel.

Looking ahead, Vivabeat has plenty planned for the future.

"We’re scouring our archive of still unreleased and live material and have found a few songs that have not yet seen the light of day and that we’re polishing up," says Muhlfriedel. "Also, with the big qualifier, which is dependent on putting a copasetic and willing group of musicians together, the idea of live performances is not something we’re ruling out. So, stay tuned; some surprises are in order.

Remixes of Vivabeat's Party in the War Zone and The House is Burning are out now via Rubellan.

Photo by Joel Lipton