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Rob Fusari
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Cary Nokey

/karēˈnōkē/ noun

- a variation on karaoke, a form of interactive entertainment
- modification of phrase “carry no key”; one should not need a key, or worry of losing one
- high school crush
- gender-bending moniker assumed to be creator, producer, ringleader 8bit
- your new favorite musical collective

It’s difficult to describe Cary Nokey with the language of contemporary music. Cary Nokey isn’t so much a band as a musical collective, a rave-esque rotation wherein the only constant is the electricity each member sparks. On stage, Cary Nokey doesn’t so much play shows as transport listeners, freeing audiences of the restrictions of time and geography. Born out of late nights in karaoke bars, Cary Nokey is the space where high intensity electronic dance music intersects with emotionally-charged rock, a hybrid of grit and glam. Cary Nokey is the text after last call; it is the shredded designer dress; it is the dirt in the nail polish. “I think of it as if Kurt Cobain had been a DJ,” says the man at the center of the collective, the multi-hyphenate musical ringleader 8bit.

The idea to restructure the musical experience came to 8bit (named for a type of distortion, a production effect that warms a sound by lowering its fidelity) a short time into Cary Nokey’s musical life. Begun as a duo, 8bit and his original collaborator parted ways, at which point he had a realization: making music shouldn’t have a format. “I knew I wasn’t going to find anybody that held this the way I held this,” says 8bit. Instead, why not reimagine Cary Nokey as a platform, featuring carefully curated acts rotating for however long, governed only by what makes sense for the music. “Imagine an Andy Warhol party, and different artists come up and perform,” says 8bit, citing one of his muses. “With Cary Nokey, you’re never going to get one thing.” What began out of necessity has since turned into a movement.

That’s not to say there isn’t a core to Cary Nokey, which encompasses 8bit along with DJ ValNtino. 8bit’s collaboration with ValNtino bloomed out of a years-long feedback loop the two had created. Introduced at a screening for Twilight years ago, the two made an immediate connection, each recognizing a musically-minded twin in the other. ValNtino became a fixture at Cary Nokey shows, offering up his perspective as an audience member, and subtly helping to shape the direction Cary Nokey would eventually go. “He always made interesting points that I weighed heavily,” says 8bit. “Whether I liked what he was saying or not.” Burnished by the EDM scene, ValNtino introduced that ethos into 8bit’s production, and from there, the Cary Nokey set began to evolve. “Now we do a set that’s so high energy, it’s a whole other world. It never comes down.”

The crackle and pulse of these sets starts with what 8bit terms a musical bed. “Once I hear a musical bed, I’ll sing some words that occasionally become the lyrics,” says 8bit. The process of a song isn’t so much writing as it is searching for the marriage between lyric and melody. At times this search takes several iterations of ValeNtino and 8bit trading tracks back and forth, and at times it comes together immediately, as was the case with “Burn the House”, a track that’s equal parts floor-stomper and dirge, what Bootsy Collins fronting the Cure might sound like. Of the tracks that will comprise Cary Nokey’s forthcoming album, 8bit can’t help but absorb his surroundings. Scenes that unfurl on a walk down the street inspire a suite of songs, while bar menus offer up titles that would make Prince proud (“Whiskey Diamond”).

Above all, 8bit feels the current musical landscape is suffering from a condition, and Cary Nokey can treat it. It’s not so much that Cary Nokey is anti-radio, but pro-experience, and what’s on offer for audiences today pales in comparison to the exploration and creativity present in the ‘70s and ‘80s. To truly move someone, be it bodily or emotionally, is Cary Nokey’s only goal. “You’re going to want to do something to it,” says 8bit. “You might want to do a line. You’re going to want to dance. You might want to fall in love.”

Entries by Rob Fusari

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(3) Comments | Posted November 18, 2013 | 4:03 PM

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