A few months back, I wrote a blog (or rather, a sermon) preaching the importance of experiencing music live. Living in an overly-saturated, underly-differentiated era of mass music production, I have started to get more and more concerned about the distractions: auto-tuned vocals, laptop-manufactured basslines and piles upon piles of remixes. I wonder if one day the world could get caught up amidst all of the shiny new beats constructed by the DJs and producers of the world, and forget how impressive it is to watch a performer shred a guitar to pieces on a completely original jam.
I was reassured that not all was lost the night I witnessed Art vs. Science rock a packed-out show earlier this year at Mercury Lounge - a space equipped with a revealing soundsystem, fully capable of pointing out the best musical talents and the artists who should just pack up their equipment and head back to their open-mic gigs.
I had heard raves about the Aussie-bred trio after they turned crowds upside down at SXSW this year, so I went into the experience with high expectations and low alcohol levels -- which based on past experiences, is an inevitable recipe for letdown. Not only was I completely blown away by the quality of the sound, the infectious energy of the group and their ability to pull off these songs (which at first sounded a bit bizarre to me through headphones), I was most fascinated by the sheer talent of all three musicians on a live level.
Three songs into the show, the group went into my favorite Art vs. Science original, "Parlez-Vous Francais." Dan Mac, who had been relatively lowkey on the keyboard prior to this song, hopped onto an amp, downed a cup full of beer and dove head first into a guitar solo. It was clear to me from this moment that these guys were nothing less than rock stars, the kind who know just how to make their songs come alive and their fans go bonkers. Their live performance wasn't just "art" and it wasn't just technical "science." It was a well-balanced combination of the two qualities that made the band unique and impressive at a time when so many artists can only master one of the two, if either.
But how the guys got to this level so effortlessly is probably the most impressive detail I have grown to learn about them.
"We had jammed for a little, but didn't really know what we were doing," said Dan W., who plays the drums for the group. Dan met the other two members of the band - Dan Mac (vocals, guitar, keyboard) and Jim Finn (vocals, keyboard) - in high school. However it wasn't until after one successful gig that the guys decided to take their talents from playful jamming to legitimate music-making.
"A friend of ours offered us a gig at a nightclub and we didn't really have any songs ready, so we got together and finished like seven songs in a day or something stupid," Dan W. continued. "Then we did the gig and people actually liked it - as in, they stayed in the room. We had played gigs in bands before where people sort of left the room, so that was really nice. After that we were like 'oh, maybe we're on to something' and it all kind of went from there."
In the past three years the boys have been on a successful streak building their name and a solid following across Australia. Just before venturing to the States early this past spring, the guys were playing for thousands upon thousands of people at the Future Music Festival in Adelaide alongside notable international pop stars like MGMT and Ke$ha. But embarking on a journey to win over the hearts of rock-romanced Americans is a fairly recent endeavor, one which requires basically starting from scratch for Art vs. Science.
"When we got into the first venue at SXSW this year we had to use our keyboard cases to make the stage big enough to fit everybody on it," said Dan W. There were like 15 people in the room. It was like playing Sydney again on our first gig. Like starting all over."
Their commitment to achieving success in the U.S. after already making a name for themselves in Australia has proven to be moving along nicely. Their attitude towards the mission, which for others may seem too daunting to be worth the trouble, is optimistic and laid back, in perfect Aussie fashion.
"I think Mercury Lounge was probably one of the best times overseas. Getting to be an Australian band and come and play your own show in New York was a pretty big deal," said Jim. "It's also more exciting when you're overseas trying to win over a new audience who hasn't heard you before," added Dan Mac.
Although they have earned quite an awesome following from many music appreciators here in the US (myself included), the journey hasn't been all rainbows and butterflies for the group. As standard with most over-the-edge music with a "love it or hate it" certainty about its sound, the guys have gotten a few harsh reviews from the critics.
"We don't really read reviews that much. It's too upsetting when someone says something bad about us," said Dan Mac. "But my mom cuts out all the good ones for us from the paper," Dan W. chimed in. "Yeah, we have the family filter on," Jim added.
There is definitely something to be said about the way the trio has handled the haters. By focusing on the loyal fans they have earned with their extremely wild sound thus far, they don't seem to be too phased by the negativity. "We get to see the people enjoying themselves at the show," said Jim. "I think that's enough to let us know that we're doing something right."
The mentality that the guys of Art vs. Science have embraced as they set out to conquer the U.S. is a healthy reminder that not only are these three ready for rock in the States on a technical level, but on a mental level as well. Before beginning each show, still uncertain about whether the crowd will stick around or dismiss their sound, become instant fans or dis the band, the guys huddle up and vow that no matter what, they will "bring the party."
"A drummer from Michigan by the name of Calvin Welch (who used to play for Earth, Wind and Fire) said something to us once before we went on stage at one of our bigger festivals. He was like 'hey man, just bring the party. Just bring the party, man," said Jim. "Now whenever we stand together we look at each other and say, 'Hey! Just bring the party. Let's just make the party."
Art vs. Science is kicking off their second 2011 U.S. tour this Thursday. If you missed them the first time around, you do not want to sleep on this round. Dates below!
08/11 Miami, FL - Electric Pickle
08/12 New York, NY - Bowery Ballroom
08/13 Chicago, IL - North Halsted Market Days
08/14 Chicago, IL - Empty Bottle
08/18 Tucson, AZ - Club Congress
08/19 Phoenix, AZ - Brick
08/20 Mexico City, Mexico - Voila Acoustique
08/21 Vancouver, BC - Fortune Sound Club
08/23 Portland, OR - Doug Fir
08/24 San Francisco, CA - Bottom Of The Hill
08/25 Sonoma, CA - Ampitheatre
08/26 San Diego, CA - Casbah
08/27 Los Angeles, CA - Sunset Junction
08/28 Tacoma, WA - Grit City Fest
Click here to download AC Slater's remix of Art vs. Science's "Higher."