Friday night at the Charleston Pour House kicked off a weekend chock-full of great music. I got to meet the opening duo, Dean Spaniol and Luke Sipka, better known as Bells and Robes, and chatted with them briefly about their roots and musical pursuits. Graduates of UF in Gainesville, FL and signed to the UF student label, Swamp Records, in 2012, these guys kicked off the night right and took us on a musical journey through time with their rich sampling and layering with live keys. Since releasing their first EP, One Should See Sound, in September 2014, the two have played at countless festivals and venues all over the country and have shared the stage with names such as Beats Antique, Papadosio, Break Science, The Heavy Pets, and Sounduo.
I sat down with Luke and Dean to learn more about how they got started in music and to hear about how their electronic sound has evolved over the years. Dean, who graduated UF with a double major in business administration and sport management, originally picked up the sax but realized soon after that his true passion was percussion. Luke, who graduated with a degree in video production, explained that he was classically trained in piano, but once he downloaded music software, it all just took off from there. They said that they started just like anyone else, taking drum/piano lessons and playing in middle/high school band. Pulling from their diverse experiences, their sound is original and catchy, and it all comes together with the use of mixing and trigger samples through the Ableton Live software and a Roland Octapad digital percussion pad.
Sipka and Spaniol were not only entertaining to talk to, but they were also informative, teaching me about something they utilize to enhance their creative process called Palo Santo. Burned like incense, Palo Santo is the wood from a tree native to Central and South America, which, when burned, is similar to incense in that it is supposed to fend off “bad energy.” When burned, the essential oils and properties of the wood are released. “It’s holy wood,” explained Dean, who said the two use it as a ritual by burning it before shows. “It triggers something psychologically. If you do something every time you’re about to make music, you get in that mindset when you do it, whatever it is, and it kind of puts you in that state of mind to where you know what’s coming next.” Luke mentioned that people research the uses and effects of Palo Santo, including intense spiritual experiences, cosmetics, and medicine. New to the concept of Palo Santo, I was intrigued to hear more and will certainly be doing more research on the topic.
To digress, I also wanted to hear about the local music scene in Gainesville because I’ve never had the pleasure of visiting that part of Florida, and also to compare it with the local Charleston scene. “I think it’s a great place for bands or acts to start because it’s really central, you can hit a lot of markets, it’s really cheap, and I think the scene is growing, too. There’s a lot of really amazing bands coming out of Gainesville,” noted Dean, mentioning a band they’re linked up with called Flat Land. Luke chimed in, continuing to explain that its mainly a small city where the college kids “hibernate” in college bars, which reminded me of the atmosphere around the bars that line King Street in downtown Charleston. He expressed his annoyance with the fact that people are continually so drawn to these venues, referring to it as a “bubble” that’s difficult to break out of. He smiled, saying, “I was in that bubble. I was a student. I know about it—it’s easy to get stuck.” I agreed with him completely, myself being all too familiar with that bubble and the routine of going out and drinking as a 20-something in a college town. It seems that crowd would rather spend their money on a bar tab than on a few bucks to support an artist. So, you must now be thinking, when can I see Bells and Robes?
B&R will be hitting the stage soon at Purple Hatter’s Ball , May 8–10 at the Spirit of the Suwannee Music Park in Live Oak, FL, and they will be doing a ticket giveaway through Facebook, so keep a look out! The two also spoke of tentative plans to attend Disc Jam Music Festival in Barre, MA, June 12–14. They will be having an upcoming EP release show in Gainesville on the April 4 for One Should See Sound Part II, released exclusively on Grooveshark on March 31 and all other mediums on April 4. They are super excited about this project and what’s to come. I really enjoyed meeting these two, and their set was awesome, with everything from hip-hop to rock to electronic-based tracks and some remixes of popular songs. They are gaining support by playing a wide variety of music and performing it with great energy, and I can’t wait to hear what these guys create in the future! They certainly set the stage nicely for the second act, DYNOHUNTER.
Formed in 2010, DYNOHUNTER is a trio from Boulder, CO consisting of Clark Smith (sax/keys/deejay), Justin Ehmer (drums/percussion), and Fred Reisen (bass/synth). Their style, described as “electro-soul,” meshes aspects of both the conventional DJ and the live band performance. Combining soulful sax, live drumming, and heavy electric bass, they created a high-energy live experience that was appreciated by members of both the jam and electronic crowds. The vibe got jazzy, rave-y, and even house-y at different times, and we can all appreciate a little bit of that. It reminded me a bit of Griz, but with a live band. Their incorporation of hip-hop and soulful jams like Jill Scott’s “Hate On Me” was impressively smooth and entertaining. I enjoyed their layered and multifaceted sound and anticipate their imminent growth and evolution. As the night progressed, the crowd grew. They were audibly ready for the headliner to come on: Archnemesis.
Archnemesis, whose fans are known as the “Nemesis Army,” claims the genre “electro hip-hop soul” and produces an edgy sound that captures it all. An avid leader in the EDM community, Archnemesis is known to encourage the exploration of different artists and genres to expand musical taste. With a background in classical music, his sound is not limited to any genre, encompassing countless styles. He has released many well-received albums, such as People's Radio and the Every Man For Himself EP. Through mixing songs like “Hands Up” by Lloyd Banks featuring 50 Cent and using samples ranging from early 20s blues and jazz to modern hip-hop and soul, he was all over the map in the best way possible. Until recently, he donned his recognizable afro, but on Friday, he was sporting a mohawk, a look he recently revealed at his show at Zydeco in Birmingham, AL. With a captivating infusion of different rhythms and instruments, combined with a unique light show built out of checkered blocks of light, Archnemesis is a full sensory experience, and I would recommend seeing him throw down any day.
Photography/Videography by Big Funk Photography