Allen Taylor (sampler, synth, percussion), Drew Haddon (effects), Chris Daresta (bass, vocals) and David Mansfield (drums, vocals) are the four fresh faces that make up the dance punk outfit, Roman Photos. Last month they began passing around a limited number of hand-made live demo CDs as their introduction to the world. The recordings contained within capture two of their earliest live performances at 529, and document the jump-off point for their spacey, bass and drum-heavy grooves.
Chad Radford: Tell me about the live demo that you just gave me.
David Mansfield: The demo compiles excerpts from a couple of shows that we did at 529. It was Drew's idea to put it together.
These were some of your first shows, correct?
DM: Yeah. Originally we were all part of a similar band that sounded different back in May, but the lineup didn't work out and we reformed as Roman Photos. We went for more of a dance sound, and added Allen to the line-up to do miscellaneous things with the songs. I dropped the guitar and started playing drums and it became something different altogether.
Drew Haddon: We didn't have a name until the week before our first show. Before this we really sounded more like the Rapture or Gang of Four because of the guitar, but Mansfiled is a really solid disco kind of drummer and when he dropped the guitar things started sounding really dancey, really fast.
Roman Photos play 529 tonight (Thurs., Oct. 22) with Thy Mighty Contract and Club Awesome. $3. 9 p.m.
The plays a free show at Vacation Gallery & Boutique on Fri., Oct. 30. 9 p.m.
What do you do in the band, Allen?
I feel like I'm the replacement for what a guitar player should be doing in this band. Most of the time I do the lead high-end using a synthesizer and sampler and I have my floor tom running through all of the equipment and effects -- I also play go go bells and shakers.
You guys have been compared to everyone from Gang of Four to ESG and Liquid Liquid to the Rapture, but none of those are really that accurate when it comes to describing your sound.
Chris Daresta: Well they are influences, but there are some important differences that set us apart. ESG and Liquid Liquid never used keyboards. We put a lot of electronic aspects with a lot of natural aspects and more traditional instruments.
DM: Drew and I talked about this early on and we wanted to make something that sounded as close to house music as possible, and didn't want to get dismissed as just another post-punk band.
DH: This band puts a big premium on a certain kind of atmosphere and production that dance music also puts a premium on; and there's a certain element of dub production to what we do. We counted one time and we had six delay pedals going... That's a lot!
DM: A lot of times the Rapture had these really jerky rhythms and there's nothing really smooth about what they did. I've always wanted to be in a smooth band in the sense that it has soft, bass tones and sound kind of hypnotic -- nothing really abrasive to it.
DH: Heavy on the bass and bass drum, but not heavy on dissonance necessarily. Dance music in and of itself is indebted to a repetition of bass, bass drum and snare.
So after only a couple of shows, the demo turned out to be a pretty raw but intriguing soundboard recording.
DM: Drew spent a day EQing them and I put them in GarageBand to cut it up so there would be tracks.
Tell me about the song "Ribcage" that I saw you practicing tonight.
DM: I really like "Ribcage." It's got all of the elements that I like.
DH: My favorite song on the demo is "Border Country" which has a faux-Theremin sound in it and a really dancey keyboard sound. There's a really punchy drum and bass interplay going on in there that kind of sums up everything we do all in one song.
DM: That song kind of changes every time we play it, mostly because of Allen's part. He comes up with different modulations so it's always kind of different.
Allan Taylor: Is that "Drew's Mamma's House" song?
CD: Um... A lot of the music is instrumental. There are some vocals, which are mainly me and David, and Drew does some backing vocals, but the lyrics can be pretty abstract. Some of it is just Damo Suzuki-style yelps. We didn't really have song titles until we made the demo. So when we made it I thought okay, we have to come up with real song titles so we don't use our code names.'
CD: I like the improv song, which on the demo is called "Improv." I don't think it's better than the other songs, it's just very specific to that show. We gave the audience shakers and cow bells, so no matter what, we could never re-record that song the way it sounds because it was a spur of the moment thing to do an all percussion song like that, and get some of our friends to play with us -- friends that had no idea that they were going to even play. On the recording it sounds cool because it picked up their echos and things like that. It's just really cool, and it has a really cool feel because when we actually do go and record these songs, we can't duplicate that one.
AT: I like "Border Country" on the demo mainly because of Chris' talking at the beginning of the song. It really cracks me up and the recording sounds really good.
So with this kind of music is there a songwriter or is it kind of a Socialist endeavor?
CD: Definitely Socialist. There are times when me and David will come up with a bass and drum part together, but it's all pretty communal.
DM: With the last song, "Ribcage," there's this transition that happens with a keyboard part. The idea went through all of the motions -- through all of us. Chris came up with the idea of the keyboard part, but not the idea itself. Then I recorded it into a sampler and now Allen modifies it. Everything goes through everyone.
So what what do you hope to accomplish with this live demo?
CD: We've been playing shows and people have already been asking us if we have anything recorded, or anything that they can have and take home with them. It's going to take us a few months before we have a full, professional sounding record, whether it be a 12-inch, 7-inch, CD or even another CDR. We just want to have something to give people now, and have something that we can put on Myspace so people can hear what we sound like. Plus it's really cool to have our first shows documented.
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