A staple of the New York City indie rock scene throughout the '90s, Versus brought a level of intricate musicianship to their noisy pop songs. Over the course of four records and a bevy of singles, the band developed from dissonant beginnings into a more sophisticated songwriting style on their 2000 album Hurrah. After a decade-long break, the band returned with fifth album On the Ones and Threes in 2010.
Versus evolved from the remnants of Flower, a band led by singer/guitarist Richard Baluyut. In the final months of Flower's existence, the group was joined by vocalist/guitarist Fontaine Toups, who remained with Baluyut in the short-lived Saturnine before the duo formed Versus (borrowing the name from an LP by Mission of Burma) with Baluyut's brother Ed. After playing their first shows with a lineup comprised of three guitars and a drum machine, Ed Baluyut relocated to the Philippines, and Toups switched over to bass; upon Ed's return, he assumed drumming duties, and Versus issued their 1992 debut single, "Insomnia." In 1993, the trio issued the stellar EP Let's Electrify!, a taut, melodic collection spotlighting complex guitar work and odd harmonies. After signing to the Teen Beat label, Versus issued their 1994 full-length debut, The Stars Are Insane (originally titled Meat, Sports and Rock, three subjects the band ardently supported, much to the dismay of the prevailing indie scene mentality of the moment). A collection of singles, compilation tracks, and demos titled Dead Leaves appeared in 1995, followed in early 1996 by the EP Deep Red. Another Baluyut brother, James, signed on for the 1996 LP Secret Swingers; the album was also Ed's last, with new drummer Patrick Ramos enlisting for 1998's Two Cents Plus Tax. The Afterglow EP followed on Merge Records a year later, and in 2000 Versus returned with the EP Shangri-La and the band's fourth studio effort, Hurrah. The group took an extended break for the majority of the 2000s before finally reuniting for 2010's On the Ones and Threes, which featured the return of original drummer Ed Baluyut. The band played sporadically in their newly re-formed state, entering the studio to work on new material every so often as well. In 2019, new songs arrived in the form of the four-track EP Ex Nihilo early in the year and continued with full-length Ex Voto in the summer. ~ Jason Ankeny