Category_Groovy Stuff, Category_VHS, Category_Weirdness -

NewVHS Champions Analog Aesthetics while Busting your Gut!

One of the most rewarding aspects of doing LUNCHMEAT are the folks that reach out to me and say, “Hey, we love VHS, too!” It always stokes me out, and it’s been happening more and more as the VHS tape seems to re-awaken in the hearts and minds of nostalgia junkies everywhere. One particularly groovy message came through the other day from a couple of dudes by the name of Spencer Starnes and Kevin Wright who shared with me a collection of VHS-inspired shorts, comedic in form and aesthetically VHS-obsessed in essence, a project that operates under the handle “NewVHS”. So just who are these NewVHS guys? Starnes elucidates: “We're a mix of directors, screen writers, musicians, and actors. I suppose you could call us a ‘collective’, if you wanted to be fancy. We're all currently based in Philadelphia, mostly attending, graduated from, The University of the Arts, but we're slowly trickling into LA, one by one.”

Production stills from the making of "Unbearable: The Last Urban Kodiak - "The bear? I think he's a piece of shit!"

NewVHS’ comedic attack is influenced by its multitude of members, drawing inspiration from each individual to create their zany mixture of absurdism and character-driven antics. Kevin Wright explains, “Everyone at NewVHS has a unique barometer on what is "funny". We often have long debates about if something works or not but we do eventually find common ground... Overall, there is a shared love the feeling of being a tad lost when entering into a sketch. The concept of a tape glitching and suddenly finding yourself in the middle of a story with no context is always funny.”

A still from "Football Dating Tips with Zeph Taylor" - "Number 3: Don't take a sack in the end zone. Play it safe"

While on the topic of influences on their comedy, Wright had this to say: “BBC's Look Around You had a very similar approach to what we're trying to do… We were all a little obsessed with Harmony Korine's VHS feature Trash Humpers for a while, too; but I'm not sure you could call that “comedy”. Maybe the concept was, but the result was horrifying. We like to think that all of that shows up a little bit in our work.” When looking at the NewVHS videos, the adoration for the VHS format is readily apparent: the grainy picture, jumpy tracking, blue screens, audio drags. All of the classic and beloved idiosyncrasies make appearances. The videos, though created by digital means, convey a meticulous attention to detail in creating an air of analog authenticity that’s sure to delight any tapehead. “The VHS format is something we pay a lot of attention to, and put a lot of time into making as imperfect as possible.” commented Starnes. Wright also went on to profess NewVHS’ love for a time when digital wizardry wasn’t flooding the market and why NewVHS chooses to champion the distinct vibe of analog awesomeness: “The physical nature of it is great. We've lost something tangible in the digital age. There is nothing better than the hands on feel of being able to stick my hand in an old VCR, jerk the tape at just the right moment and get a glitch or pop, or sometimes not! There is a serendipitous or accidental nature to it… we got sick of everything being so perfect and sterile in our friends' projects. You can easily make a film look great these days, professional cameras are cheaper than ever. VHS gives you something unexpected; it takes a little control away, which is thrilling.

Uhhh... say what now? Oh, okay. I got it. An example of the kind of aesthetic NewVHS (and all Videovores!) adore. Created by Royal Smith AKA Jamopi

Some of my favorite segments from the NewVHS videos are promo reels for the company which harken back to those wonderful video label intros such as Lightning, Vestron and Magnetic Video. These 3-5 second promos evince the affection these guys have for the video era as they just ooze with early analog authenticity.

A still from a promo featuring the amazingly analog logo for NewVHS! Tracking jumps a'plenty in this promo reel!

I asked Starnes about the process of creating and editing NewVHS projects: “We actually have a mostly HD work flow, shooting everything in 1080p, editing to the highest quality possible, then cropping to 4:3, exporting to VHS, recapturing, re-export, etc.” NewVHS doesn’t intend on quitting anytime soon, either; in fact, they’re just getting started, expanding across the country and spreading the love for bad tracking and fuzzy focus, finding their groove and then reinventing it in stride. Wright explains, “We're having a lot of fun with the mockumentary approach. Educational tapes are hilarious and we're having a blast mimicking them; but of course, whenever we start repeating ourselves, we tend to move on to something new… A few of us will living in LA shortly, so we're looking forward to having an East and West coast vibe to the videos. I feel like we are distinctly east coast to this point, but I'd have to imagine LA will have it's own weird VHS world to explore and have fun with.” And if you dig the NewVHS style, be sure to check out their sister channels: LowResGlitch, which is self-described as a weirder, more bizarre approach to the VHS format, and P+K Productions, which Starnes defines as, “a more traditional approach to sketch comedy.” It's so rad to find some peeps in the Philly area that are spreading the love and appreciation for the VHS format and all of the wonderful visual stimulation it has to offer. Big ups to the NewVHS crew for keeping it analog in a digital jungle. And for those of you around the Philadelphia area, NewVHS will present a screening of their latest tape Unbearable: The Last Urban Kodiak on June 27th at 7PM at The Ritz East as a part of the 24-Hour Film Fest. Check out their Facebook for more info on the event! Josh Schafer

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