by Kurt B. Reighley

The Vexers

w/the Divorce, the Lashes, Crosstide

Thurs Nov 27, Chop Suey, 9 pm, $5.

Jennifer Taylor, singer for the Vexers, asks if she can switch phones before our interview begins. A minute or two later, she picks up another extension. Surprised that her journey took so long, I joke that she resides in a palatial mansion. "Oh yes," she says, laughing. "And I have more roommates than you can shake a stick at."

The Vexers are masters of economy. Their recent EP, Gangland Ballads & the Death Sex Set (Ace Fu), clocks in under 20 minutes. Since the release of their eponymous debut earlier this year, the Philadelphia art-punk quartet have pared back their instrumentation, too, from two guitars to one. In turn, they've opened their sound to better highlight its core components: the prickly melodies of guitarist Tres Warren (since replaced by Jim Vail); bassist Michael Hammel and drummer Jesse Van Anglen's dynamic interplay; and Taylor's whisper-to-a-scream versatility. While some pundits have been quick to compare the Vexers' bristling, dance-floor-friendly tracks to the work of '80s post-punk pioneers like Delta 5, Taylor stresses that the sonic progression between records occurred naturally: "It's not like we said, 'Hey, we need to mix it up and do this!'"

"A lot of bands add," says Taylor. The Vexers favor the opposite approach. "We will continue to subtract until [a song] is completely pure. No filler. When you're writing a song, any musician will hear dozens of different elements they can add to it. The hard part is getting past all that, and only putting in what you really need."

Gangland Ballads... was recorded by indie legend Wharton Tiers (Pussy Galore, Sonic Youth). To communicate exactly what sounds the band wanted, Taylor found it useful to minimize something else: technical terms. Apparently, Tiers responded better to visual imagery and other cues. "So instead of saying, 'Can you turn up the reverb?,' I would say, 'Can you make this more distant?'"

The Vexers don't waste time, either. They hope to have another album out in early 2004. "It just comes down to getting everything organized, making sure we have the funds to record it," concludes Taylor. Judging from the way they budget everything else, that shouldn't be a problem.