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Von Iva finds film experience 'surreal'
By Rege Behe
Wednesday, February 4, 2009

When the San Francisco band Von Iva was selected to take part in the Jim Carrey film "Yes Man," the trio wasn't sure what to expect. Chosen to be the backing band, Munchausen by Proxy, for one of the film's actors, it's natural to assume that set off alarms -- the number of actors who think they can sing only exceeded by the number of athletes who think they can act.

So when Zooey Deschanel casually said, "Oh, I have a record coming out," they nodded politely and kept any reservations to themselves.

"That was before 'She and Him' came out," keyboardist Becky Kupersmith recalls of Deschanel's superb collaboration with guitarist M. Ward. "We didn't know what to expect."

Von Iva, performing Thursday at the Hard Rock Cafe, Station Square, found Deschanel to be a "great musician, a really good collaborator and fun to work with," Kupersmith says. And Von Iva, which had been part of the San Francisco music scene since 2003, finally got an invaluable break.

All the publicity in the world, however, means nothing if a band can't deliver the music. Von Iva does, and part of their appeal is how the trio fuses seemingly disparate genres into a unique sound. Kupersmith's keyboards echo the '80s synth-pop sound of artists such as New Order, the Human League, Gary Numan and early Duran Duran. But what sets the trio apart is how they filter this music by way of the tribal drumming of Kelly Harris and the soul-drenched vocals of singer Jillian Iva.

"We also have a lot of classic-rock influences," Kupersmith says.

The band has come a long way since its first gig at Mission Records in San Francisco, a now-defunct store where a back room served as a performance space. Kupersmith calls it "the dingiest, smallest place you can imagine," and it would take a while for the band to get the type of recognition it long sought.

Flash forward five years to the set of "Yes Man." Suddenly, everything was first class, and a bit surreal, for three women who had to sublet their apartments and take leave from their jobs to do the movie.

"It was surreal," Kupersmith says. "I've just never seen anything like it. It was not just big budget, but bigger budget, a huge Warner Bros. production, top of the line everywhere and everything that you would imagine it to be. They had people whose job it was to move the director's chair around, and there we were."

A new release, "Girls on Film," is a nod to the Duran Duran song of the same name and their own cinematic experiences. Kupersmith says it's the album that is most representative of Von Iva's sound while also paying homage to the new Hollywood aspect of their career.

"We just wanted to capture the feeling of being fashionable and glamorous," she says. "But it's also street glam and trashy and edgy and fun and aggressive. That's who we are, and that's what we were going for."