ViceVersa on their ongoing legal battle with Vice Media

Struggling Los Angeles-based indie rock band ViceVersa received a cease and desist letter from Vice Media in December 2015.

Struggling Los Angeles-based indie rock band ViceVersa received a cease and desist letter from Vice Media in December 2015.

Yeah, on top of the Cease and Desist, they’re demanding evidence of how much you’ve made over the past three years and they’re reportedly a billion dollar company. Why do you think they would target a band struggling like that?

Me personally, I feel it’s just intimidation. I don’t really think they expected any backlash, or any rebuttal. I don’t really think they were anticipating that, because if I was a lawyer, I would have definitely worded it much differently, because they gave us ammo. So I think they made an error on their part, simply because it allows for engagement from the social community.

If you were to look at it from a completely objective, consumer perspective, can you think of any logical connections, other than the fact that you produce music and Noisey covers music for Vice Media, that you would make between the two entities? 

We spent some time playing devil’s advocate, and we spent some time trying to be a Vice lawyer, and no. I mean it’s too much of a stretch, because I think midway, because we’re going to be three years in July and about a year and a half [ago] when we were like “alright guys, it’s time to really utilize social media,” we started really branding ourselves. We felt that if we were ever going to have any kind of legal issue, it would’ve been with another band called ViceVersa. We thought if we were going to have any problems, it would’ve been with another band with the same name, not an entity that has a name that they would argue is found within our name. It’s like someone saying their name is Christopher and someone with the name Chris being like “no, wait a minute.” It’s like “wait, hold up, there’s more letters.”

Before all of this, were you aware of them at all, and if you were, what were your opinions on them as a media outlet?

I started noticing them about a year ago, because their articles started popping up via Facebook and you would see them, because of the EDM movement. You’d see a lot of Vice articles and I knew Vice primarily because of a documentary I saw in passing, where I think they were in the Middle East covering some metal band and I thought that was a cool story. I saw them and thought that was cool, but I never really paid much attention to them, mainly because we don’t have a TV at our studio, we just play music.

I wasn’t a follower or a fan, I was aware of them, but never was I ever concerned that we were somehow infringing with them. One of the things about our band is that when we write music, is that if one of us comes up with a piece of music and it even remotely sounds like a song we’ve already heard, we scratch it. We wouldn’t want to have a song that you think “oh that sounds like this.” When that happens, we immediately throw that out. It’s a philosophy we have with music, so with this whole Vice Media thing, they’re stretching it.

Why do you think Shane Smith blocked the band from seeing his tweets?

(laughs heavily) It’s news to me. When I saw that, I was like “seriously?” I guess he knows about us, which is cool. I really don’t know, because we never directly tagged him. In the beginning when this happened, we thought this is probably a law firm that’s going out of their way to over protect their mark. I was thinking maybe the top dogs aren’t aware of it, because when your company gets so big, it’s hard to manage what everybody does. But, given that our story broke via the Huffington Post, I know he saw it. But did we do anything malicious, or are we saying anything malicious? No.

What I’ve been doing [is], say Vice drops an article via Twitter, a perfect example was, there was an article that said “why are 20-something year olds developing mental health problems, or mental health disorders,” then I replied to that article and I go, “are those 20-somethings’ receiving Cease and Desist letters to change their band name?” (laughs) So I’ll flip their headlines, but we’re smart enough to know that given our lack of resources, we really can’t be in a position that they might come back at us and call slander, or defamation, all kinds of nonsense. We’re smart enough to not go that route, but why would he block us? I don’t know, maybe he got tired of seeing other people tag us and tag him to a link, because we can’t control what fans and supporters do, so it might have something to do with that.

What’s your opinion on them now? You guys have been around for three years and you said you didn’t even know about them until a year ago. 

I understand their logic, I guess. There’s rhetoric in any kind of negotiation, but I don’t think this was a negotiation, this was “we’re demanding that you guys stop existing.” Given that I’ve never really spoken to him, or had any interaction, I really can’t say and probably won’t know until we have that conversation and I don’t know, I doubt it’ll be direct. I don’t think we’re going to be like “oh hey Shane, how’s it going?” It’ll be a cool story, I think there’s the possibility of pretty awesome content right now.

I do feel that it could be spinned in a very positive way. There are some commenters and fans going “aw man, they should just sign you guys, or they should feature you guys,” because it goes in the same creative realm that their in. Say if it was another news outlet, I have found out that Vice isn’t so keen with other competing outlets, say we had a name that was similar to Gawker and say Gawker sent us a Cease and Desist letter, if the tables were turned in that way, I could see Vice picking up the story and making a big deal. But I do have a big imagination.

I’ve noticed that a couple other publications have blatantly said that they’re bullying you, do you think that is a kind of stick it to Vice, from the other publications?

I have noticed just from observation that there is this growing animosity towards the company, I found out that when they moved to their New York headquarters, two venues had to be shut down because they took over the spot. So they have taken an indie hit in certain demo’s and I feel like this is the tipping point. Depending on what happens when we do have that legal conversation and if more media outlets pick it up, it’s going to be an interesting couple of days.

Earlier this year, your most recent EP was voted #1 in LA Record Magazine’s Best of 2015 Reader & Contributor Poll. What was that like?

I mean, about time! No, I’m just kidding. (laughs) It’s cool knowing that the more work we put in, we’re starting to get recognition. Because this whole band has a statement, I wish my bandmates were here with me, but it’s kind of cool that they’re not, because I get to say this. I love the fact that I’m playing with two girls, I love it. Especially in super sexist Los Angeles, because when we play shows and say people don’t know who we are, almost 100 per cent of the time, we get people saying “oh, it’s a chick band, oh it’s chick music,” or something along those lines.

Sarah and Ariel have encountered tonnes of “oh, are you here helping your boyfriend with his drums?”, or more condescending comments. As soon as we start playing it’s like holy moly, everyone does a 180, and what I really like about playing with my bandmates, is that from the get go, we said something like “we want people to recognize you guys as musicians before a female.” With Ariel I want people to say “yeah, she’s a great drummer, who happens to be a girl,” as opposed to a girl who plays drums, because that’s how it gets framed. We just really want to get back into the studio and get our LP out, we’re ready to drop our first album and in a weird way, this is kind of a good thing. I’m not naive to not be aware of that, but I’m just conscious that hopefully we make all the right decisions, because we’re ready to play for a bigger audience, that’s for sure.

It almost ties in with what you were saying. Do you think it’ll bring a different sense to the band? Because you’re already fighting sexism and with Vice tearing you down, you’re fighting with that too.

Yeah, because we understand that this is about more than just us, we understand that this is about more than just a name. We’re in a time now with social media and the internet, where we have access to all kinds of information and I feel that what we’re doing, is we’re standing up for anybody who’s independent and the whole notion that there is no such thing as too big to fail. That’s something that was passed around here in our country, “oh, they’re too big to fail.” What kind of bs is that? If someone is doing something wrong, or an entity is doing something wrong, we should have the ability to call that out.

That must be a pretty cool feeling, being relatively small and having the ability to fight for something like that, for other people.

It’s pretty badass, I’m not going to lie. I mean yeah, we don’t know what’s going to happen, but as of right now, it’s pretty cool, because this is what our band is about. Our band is about making good music, it’s about doing our homework, respecting our past and understanding where we stand and where we want to go in the future. Given how quickly the music industry is changing towards a more independent realm, for all the bad that digital downloading has done for big record companies, it’s allowed everybody with the ability to write music, to record it on their own.

I want more competing artists than I want competing companies, because when you have artists competing, you get the best out of the artist, but when you’ve got companies competing, it eventually all becomes formulaic, because they have to appease their stockholders.

Where did the name come from, originally?

When you’re learning to play and imagining your group, it’s when you’re trying to name your first baby. (laughs) “What am I going to name my baby,” right. For me, the name was really about the fact that we didn’t want to be framed into one genre. We didn’t want to just be rock, or funk, or punk. We wanted to be able to play whatever we wanted, whenever. Case and point, when we play shows, we don’t really have a set list. It really depends on the crowd and where we’re at and what people are vibing to. We could always dial in a set list that can resonate with the crowd more than with us, because we’re lovers of music. When we’re not out on the road, we’re usually listening to five or six albums a day, and we really want to have a wide palate. So ViceVersa was like “well, we could play this song, or we could play this. We could play this genre, or, we could play that,” and it really came because of that, that’s where the name origins from, if we were to give it a definition.

Contribute to ViceVersa’s GoFundMe page here.

This article can also be found originally posted on aestheticmagazinetoronto.com

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