2) "I'm bored."
3) "What's in a name?"
You won't hear the first, because, as a fast-rising pop duo promoting a charming new album, The Tight Connection, Geller and Dykes not only share a house, they spend large chunks of the year touring together. Side by side in a car for long stretches between cities, negotiating the multiple facets of their relationship as lovers, business partners and creative collaborators. Side by side on stage for an exhilarating hour or two, bringing a much-needed dose of irony-free enthusiasm and danceing-foolery to the indie-rock set. And when they finally return from a grueling road trip, they drop their bags in the same bedroom.
The two wouldn't have much reason to spend a moment apart, perhaps, if it weren't for their other lives -- the ones that prevent them from ever uttering that second statement. When she's not on the road, Dykes is a full-time UGA grad student pursuing a degree in fabric design and consulting in feng shui. Geller, meanwhile, co-owns Athens' best-known record label, Kindercore, which, over the past six years, has put out some of the town's best acts, including Of Montreal and the Sunshine Fix. It's also the label behind Kincaid and The Agenda, Geller's former and current other bands, both featuring his Kindercore partner, Ryan Lewis. Oh, and when he's not on tour with Dykes or helping run his label, Geller puts his advanced chemical engineering degree to use doing research on alternative fuels at a UGA lab.
If you know the name of Geller and Dykes' group, then you can probably guess about statement No. 3. But let's recap anyway.
At first, the name was just the coolest thing Dan Geller could think up. There he was, still in his 20s, already the veteran of one modestly successful rock act, and with a label whose success had grown beyond its Georgia college town and led him to New York City, where he and Lewis moved Kindercore in 1999. With Kincaid dissolving, Geller had begun investigating the possibilities of making music on his computer. Soon he considered turning those experiments into a one-man group -- taking the stage with only his laptop.
He needed a name for the act. For inspiration, he mined the excitement he felt being in New York and, perhaps, his drive for a moniker even more audacious and eccentric (and larger) than the other Brooklyn band with a sentence for a name, They Might Be Giants.
"I was thinking of Kindercore bands like Vermont and Of Montreal," Geller says. "I always liked their names because they were locations. So I started naming off all the landmarks in New York and I got to the World Trade Center. And I said, 'Yeah, I can go up on stage and say, "I am the World Trade Center."' And when those words came out of my mouth, it was like, 'Oh my God, I Am the World Trade Center -- that's the best name!'"
But before Geller ever made it on stage as a solo act, Dykes -- by then, his girlfriend of two years -- came to New York to join him, and the two moved into a tiny duplex together. "We lived next door to a 24-hour car service, and they had a Ms. Pac-Man machine against the wall," Geller says. "So all night you'd hear people yelling and playing Ms. Pac-Man. We got used to sleeping through anything. When she would go to bed, I would sit in the corner and work on music."
Dykes initially took a job fetching coffee for the execs at girls' clothing designer Delia's, but she soon joined Geller and Lewis on the staff of Kindercore. At night, Geller continued to shape his beginner's electronica. One day, he hit a dead end while working on a track, and Dykes happened to be awake at the time.
"I was thinking I needed a new instrument on this song," he says. "I didn't have anything else to play, and I was getting sick of all the samples. So I said [to Amy], 'Hey, can you sing on this for me?'"
Though Dykes had never sung before and had no particular interest in starting, she obliged her boyfriend. Her vocal for the song "Holland Tunnel" turned Geller's novice IDM looping into what sounded like catchy electro-pop. It worked well enough that her initial take -- essentially her first lead vocal ever -- ended up on I Am the World Trade Center's debut album, Out of the Loop.
"I'd play that song for people and they'd freak out," Geller says. "Everyone had heard my stuff, and they were not too into it until the vocals hit. I think that really made a difference."
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