Oceanographer’s five members spanned the Bowery Poetry Club stage after Julia Easterlin’s singular turn. The band’s music occupied an artistic realm charted by Easterlin, it’s set wrapped in a dreamy atmosphere and the songs sewn together with barely a pause between them by Berklee alumnus and Berkleemusic.com student Kevin Plessner’s beautiful, shimmering lead guitar lines. Oceanographer’s music is a mix of shoegaze, indie pop, ambient, minimalist, and post-rock, representative of the current Brooklyn scene, where it is based. The band will release a 12-song disc in 2011.
Sitting in the Bowery Poetry Club’s front room, Kevin Plessner and Jeremy Yocum, singer and guitar player, talk about their high hopes for CMJ to connect them to a wider New York scene and beyond.
It takes the crowd at the Bowery Poetry Club some moments to figure out just what Julia Easterlin is up to on stage. She stands alone, in front of a looping machine, humming into the microphone, then plays back the sound. She adds another vocal tone, and then some others, harmonizing with herself. She snaps her fingers and claps her hands into the machine, all the while playing back the progress that starts to sound like she’s surrounded by backing vocalists and a rhythm section. But, still there is only Julia and her looping machine. The audience is mesmerized. Julia sings her original songs to the tracks she creates, sometimes playing guitar. Her sound ranges from jazz to roots to pop. Her cover of Britney Spears’ “Toxic” toward the end of the set is fun, but the real magic is watching her unwrap her songs, layer by layer, on the looping machine and discovering what she has in store with each of her own songs, like “Whiskey,” about her grandmother.
As a soundcheck was underway, Julia Easterlin spoke about the freedom of having a looping machine as a bandmate, and how she markets her music.
Following Liptease’s electro-pop and disco sound at the Berklee CMJ Showcase, was a blast of rock and roll from highly energized the Honors. The four-piece Boston-based band is riding high on its debut disc, xoxo, and a growing reputation for crunching live shows. Lead guitarist Andrew Bayardi, a Berklee alumnus, riffed, soloed, and sustained feedback that pierced the band’s driving rhythm section. He looked like Jimmy Page, though a grungy version in his flannel shirt, when he leaned over and to the side of his guitar as he played. In front of the stage, women gathered as the band handed out free CDs at the end of the set.
Outside of the club, Andrew Bayardi discusses a big break given to the Honors earlier in its career, and how that coveted opportunity helped the band to develop.
Liptease performs a highly-dancable brand of r&b influenced electro-pop. Vocalist John Engle urged everybody at the Bowery Poetry Club to dance from the first notes Michel Heyaca played on his laptop over Tom Manning’s funky drumming. The band counts house and Latin music, Mozart, and classic soul among its influences. Liptease is a dedicated trio; alumni Engle and Heyaca are based in New York while Manning is in Boston studying at Berklee. Working a new CD and touring keep them connected to each other and with a growing fanbase.
Before the set, in the front room of the Bowery Poetry Club, I asked Heyaca and Manning how they managed being one band in two cities, and, in the spirit of the business and networking side of CMJ, what promotional techniques have worked for them.