11/11/2011 05:33 pm ET | Updated Jan 11, 2012

The Playful Sophistication of Genghis Hans

I recently sat down with Hans Hsu, creator of the talented duo known as Genghis Hans. The two-person band includes Wesleyan graduate Hans and his counterpart Stryker Matthews, who is also an up and coming DJ in NYC. Created in the bedroom on a computer and mixed at Serious Business Music in SoHo, their music is an impressive mixture of indie rock, pop, and electro. Hans started Genghis Hans about a year and a half ago after leaving behind his band, The Beehive Spirit, in San Francisco to move to Brooklyn, NY. Currently, Hans works at Serious Business Music where he plays his own music and meets with and records the music of a variety of different artists. Not to be missed, Genghis Hans is playing a concert on Saturday, November 12th at Union Hall in Brooklyn.

Genghis Hans' music is catchy and playful, yet also sophisticated and multi-dimensional. This may have something to do with Hans' rich and multi-dimensional background in music, which seems to have shaped their sound rather profoundly. Although only 26, Hans has a long history in an unusually wide range of musical genres. He started playing the classical violin at the age of 3, picked up the piano a few years after and later on took years of private cello lessons. Hans attended Wesleyan University where he learned to play the Javanese gamelan, and also took various classes in experimental music and African drumming. Hans explained to me how this in-depth exposure to experimental and world music heavily influenced his music. Hans is able to weave together keen and thought-provoking musical lines and patterns in his music for Genghis Hans by partially relying on the motifs, melodic cycles, rhythms, and patterns that he learned from African drumming. One can also detect his exposure to and fascination with experimental music in the reverbed sounds and textures that infiltrate the music of Genghis Hans.

Besides his classical background and his education in different genres of music, Hans lists his greatest musical influences as LCD Soundsystem, Arcade Fire, Big Boi, the Black Keys, Animal Collective, The Good, the Bad, & the Queen, and The Clash, to name a few. One can certainly detect these influences in Genghis Hans' music. For example, their song Little Pinner is melancholy and thoughtful like an Arcade Fire song, yet harder driving like a Big Boi song, containing a bit more of a hip-hop edge. Little Pinner is also a bit reminiscent of the Clash song Midnight to Stevens, with an electronic beat.

Hans loves what he does, which is why his music is so successful. He is not attempting to create a new genre of music or breach the status quo, he just wants to make good music, which is what he does. He is mainly interested in taking various musical lines, harmonies, rhythms that sound good to him and putting them together to make songs that people want to listen to. He describes his initial relationship to composition as a teenager as very emotional - he was only able to compose when in the mood. His initial approach was in fact fairly non-intellectual. However, he now seems to be taking a more theory/idea-based approach to his music. Using his computer, Hans is able to construct a variety of different combinations of sounds largely drawing from his diverse musical education and background.

Although much more deliberate than his music used to be, his current compositions for Genghis Hans still hold an enormous amount of emotional impact and intensity. In fact what Hans would like to do most with his music, what his main intent seems to be is to share and connect with others, striving towards a greater feeling of universality. This is why he loves recording the music of others almost as much as he loves writing his own music -- to help them achieve their own visions and goals. This devotion to music is infectious and infiltrates the music he writes for Genghis Hans.

Facebook link for Saturday's event:

twitter: @Genghis_Hans