As far as the world knows, Jai Paul and D’Angelo have never shared a stolen night in a studio somewhere, colliding their gnarly bass throbs and falsetto soul mastery till the twilight hours. Thank heavens then for dark electro-pop newcomers Viigo, whose pulsing sound joins these dots. “It sounds like a slow motion stare out a metro window at night,” says frontman MJ Hancock, whose vocals are written on “ghost town hour” walks along the shore near his New Jersey apartment. “Lately the beach is super deserted, with fog out of a John Carpenter movie,” he explains.
Their latest official release, single ‘Paranoia’, premiered with Line Of Best Fit on June 14 via Los Angeles label 10K Islands, explores anxiety over lush strokes of electronic R&B. Sufferers will tell you that music can be a coping mechanism and ‘Paranoia’ sets out to soothe: an exploration of its debilitating effects, played out over calming keys and 1990s radio pop chill vibes. On Viigo’s other break-out singles so far, ‘Beautiful’, ‘Move’, and ‘Other Lives’, they’ve documented the emotions of falling in love, moving in, and wondering how life winds up taking an unexpected direction.
If Viigo’s music is difficult to pin down, that might be because the duo at the forefront of the project are themselves scattered. Based between New Jersey and Los Angeles, they’ve so far operated online, peeling apart ideas via email. MJ calls it “a modern approach” that has helped create the sense of isolation rife in their songs: “It’s a working dynamic that feels exciting and organic even though we’re all by ourselves in our little studios.” His instrumentalist partner Michael McGinnis, recently relocated from Chicago to LA, however, has a simpler explanation. “We work best alone because we’re weirdos.”
The band started in April 2015 inspired by Depeche Mode, Underworld and more. They quickly cooked up a string of tracks packed with intense beats and big hooks. Their first release, ‘Move’, began as a beat and soon morphed into an introspective meditation on recent changes in MJ’s life. “I’d watched an out-door showing of Sunset Boulevard on Miami Beach, which has this old starlet moving a young screenwriter in with her,” he says. “My girl and I were getting ready to move up north, ready for our baby and intense trips to Ikea. Walking back to our apartment from the movie, passing the people at that hour going out dancing… all that informed the song.”
Elsewhere, the band made their live debut at Miami festival III Points in October 2015 – a performance that was took them “out of an email chain” and into the real world, grins MJ – and there are further exciting releases in the pipeline. They may liken their music to a slow-motion stare out of a metro window, but expect Viigo’s rise to electro-pop notoriety to come thick and fast.