Words by Sarah Frazier
Another band to add their flair to Saturday's Sound Proof Showcase is Champagne Dynasty. A trio that incorporates wonderful sounding male and female duets with high pop infusion sprinkled with a little rock and electronics, they are definitely high energy. Listening to some of their tracks off of their website, one in particular, "Slash the Speakers," stands as a clear message of the group’s dynamic energy and ass shaking tunes. Champagne Dynasty does something any pop band should do: they make you want to dance.
When Champagne Dynasty got together last summer, they knew that had something special. When speaking with Johnny Morris, Producer/DJ for the band, he said it happened from simple circumstance, “[When] I had recorded a track with vocalist Alexis Hurley the winter before I was also working with Knayte Lander (guitar, bass and keys) producing instrumental tracks. One night, in the early part of that summer, all three of us wound up in the studio together. We made a song up on the spot and recorded it. We all had so much fun and enjoyed the track quite a bit. It was obvious to us that we had chemistry and needed to turn it into a more substantial project.” This meeting of creative minds is definitely a formula that has proven well so far for the band.
I think what makes Champagne Dynasty unique is their sound. The male and female voice mashup has a power that is often overlooked in the industry. Noah and the Whale, Stars, The Weepies; they all have a compelling sound due to the variety of vocals that a male and female voice can provide. When I spoke to Johnny about this he said, “Having them both singing creates an interesting dynamic and allows for more possibilities with lyrics. With the nature of our music it allows us to create, at times, a tension between the two sexes that most people can relate to in some form.” Creating their own unique sounds, Champagne Dynasty members find their influences in Jay-Z, the Talking Heads, and The Kills, and stylizations of these impressions can be seen in their own music.
With all of their music written on the spot in the studio, I found this an interesting concept in speaking on the creative process. We often like to think the artists’ processes are a complex narrative, but as Johnny explains, “I’ll have a drum sample or a beat that I create, and usually have Knayte check it out to see what he hears in it. Sometimes he'll just go over to the synthesizer and automatically have something, other times we move bass and guitar in, then start taking them out as new samples or key lines come in, to the point where the song is completely different than how it was in the beginning, like with our song "Sparklers."” This experimentation in the studio is what often culminates in creating different and varying sounds for the band to work with. Lyrically, a lot of the writing comes from Alexi and Knayte. Having different lyrical approaches, both gather material from their experiences. However Johnny also puts in his two cents, “Sometimes we are so excited with songs while they come together that we are dancing around the studio and yelling while we mix it. Other times we can get stuck early on in a song and be totally locked in and serious, going over tiny details to get the sound that we hear in our heads.” It is that attention to detail that gives the band not only a great sound, but a chorus of lyrics from which they can shine through.
Transitioning from that, I was wondering how the band actually felt about their sound. I brought up the fact that there are a lot of high energy songs, to which they responded, “We do have a lot of high energy tracks. That's our whole mission. Diehard fans will drink champagne straight from the bottle, and pass it between friends. That's how our music is best experienced; we want you to be sweating and smiling.” Being partial to breaking out in a few dance moves almost daily when I can, there is something I can deeply appreciate in this sentiment. Fans go to these performances expecting a show, and Champagne Dynasty is more than happy to oblige.
When asking about their plans in the future as a band, excitement abounds. “Right now we’re so focused on finishing our album that we haven’t been doing a ton of experimenting lately,” Johnny states, “[however] I could see there being more room to explore the punk side of our sound.” For Champagne Dynasty hard work is their song. Working on an album and developing a sound all their own is quite a daunting task, but, as it shows, a pleasurable one. That is where innovation stems isn’t it? From those willing to go beyond the current fray and narrative and reach out and tell a whole new story.
“I know we're not blazing new trails in music, but I'm surprised in 2011 that we can come up with great music that doesn't sound like much we've heard. That feels good.” Raise your glass to that.