Thursday, October 16, 2008

Music is often referred to as the universal language, but the meaning of song lyrics can easily be lost in translation. There must be a strong image to further represent the music and the musicians behind the instruments. Orange jumpsuits and a new wave soundtrack may just be the visual that is needed to lodge the name Polysics in the heads of modern-day American music listeners. The Japanese band is comprised of Hiro on vocals, guitar, and programming, Kayo on synthesizer and vocals, Fumi on bass, Yano on drums, and the energy of the audience.
With a wide foundation of musical influences ranging from, as Hiro offers, “not only a techno, hard rock, punk, and other music” Polysics primary influence is the new wave of the early eighties. Those bands that are most integral to the Polysics are Devo and Kraftwerk. The varied influences have “become one and then we have Polysics.” The band’s knowledge of the current music scene is fairly limited, not only by geographical and language barriers, but the lack of inspiration from modern day music. They hope to add a new dimension to music: “real new wave music that you can actually feel…evolutionized from past to present.” Not only have they brought an original and fortified new wave genre to America, but they have also “brought a lot of seaweed.”
A favorite track among the band members, aside from “every song” is “Moog is Love”, a track that brings the newly matured sound of Polysics to those listening. “If ‘Moog Is Love’ can break through, it would trigger people to know about Polysics,” Fumi interjects. The songs are started by Hiro, who comes up with a “rough idea on his guitar and computer”. After about a quarter of the song is completed, the skeleton of the song is taken to the rest of the band in the studio. The other members then put in the remaining music and sounds to the “core” that Hiro has created. The key component to the process is figuring out at which moment there is to be audience participation: when to jump, when to sing along, and various other physical personifications of the music. They “always have the audience in mind when writing [their] music.”
Music is the focal point in the lives of these four individuals. Fumi’s father was a guitarist, so the music was also around her in some form or another. When Hiro was ten, his father presented him with a guitar and “that is how [he] met music.” That guitar and a fondness for “animation songs” bred his love of music. Hiro says that “Polysics is who we are. There is never a time when we are not being Polysics.” Such dedication to the music and to their words is the dazzling facet that will not allow Polysics to be lost in the muddle of translation.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

the secret handshake

Led up the stairs to the backstage of the El Corazon in Seattle by the Secret Handshake’s tour manager, Mike Henry, I am surprised to find Luis Dubuc, the Secret Handshake in the flesh, huddled in the corner of his dressing room watching Family Matters on his laptop: a fitting introduction to this electronic, lap-top rocking MySpace-buzz sensation. It’s hard to hear Luis’ answers over the opening band’s sound check. According to Luis, this has been a normal occurrence throughout the tour and is certainly not out of the ordinary. So the self-standing air conditioning unit in the green room is turned off and the door shut which helps quiet things and the interview goes on.

A creative and self-sufficient entity, Luis’ musical project The Secret Handshake, was named after a story written in the musician’s youth. The storyline of the juvenile comic book has since been forgotten and convoluted, but it lives on as the namesake of this Triple Crown records artist. The pronunciation being difficult for some, it was a simple way to avoid calling the band Luis or something similar. The music stems from a collection of influences, most being the music of the eighties and nineties. As Luis says “any artist from that time period was awesome and influenced me.” Fair enough, as long as the Secret Handshake doesn’t become a one-hit wonder lost in the re-runs of VH1.

The set of a Secret Handshake show varies from tour to tour: sometimes there’s a full band, sometimes it’s just Luis and his laptop, and sometimes other musicians sit in and add larger elements to the songs. “There’s not too much of a difference [sound-wise] but it’s more fun to do a full band set…the full band rocks a little more and the audience gets more into it.” But in actuality, the audience is into the set no matter the line-up. When Luis says to throw their hands up, their hands go up. When Luis asks the audience to sing along to a new song, they do their best to sing along with as much gusto as they can muster.

The current music scene has been overwhelmed by the use and creation of MySpace – whether that’s a good or bad development is left up to individual interpretation. The buzz factor that it creates must be acknowledged, as it allows bands a somewhat instantaneous popularity that doesn’t last long. Luis realizes this and admits that he relied on MySpace to connect and reach out to those that might be interested in his music, but “with just MySpace popularity you can’t really do anything…you have to get out there and tour.” And that is just what Luis has done, even when the turnouts weren’t quite as big as he would have liked because “the bands that work hard will be noticed.” Because touring is such an odd routine, a band never quite knows what to expect, but playing a good show “makes you giddy” and it can really improve the general morale of the crew while on tour. So while Luis is heading from town to town make sure you make every show the best it can be “just like a midnight movie.”

Monday, October 13, 2008

mornings in seattle

rachel insists that listening to your heart is a choice.
that it's a choice to toss out the logical or the routine ways of over thinking everything.
but even then it's easier said than done.
as is everything.
it's easier to hide behind a decent vocabulary and the songs of others
it's easier to not let anyone in and to rebuild and reinforce the walls around you.

but it's certainly the lonely route.
because minus a few there is no one that truly knows you.
or who you will truly allow to know you.
so swallow your pride and your unspoken fears.
accept it for what it is.
and let yourself get carried up in the moment.