Musical Notes: Getting the Scoop on Scientific Lifestyle!
I was at this little restaurant + bar down in the South Bay area of So. California hitting a performance of Scientific Lifestyle! I had heard their music on myspace.com/scili and it was really an unusual sound– a bit of funk, rock, pop and lots of bits and pieces blended together in a kick-a$$ musical amalgam that I really got into. They call it soul rockatronica. You can listen and decide if that works for you. I heard an entire set and I think it’s perfect because the electronic element adds a distinctive element to the sound.
The group is based on serious amount of keys, mix in a bit of DJ work which is essential to the unique sound an the killer voice of the female lead singer and you have a *wow* performance that makes you want to hear more on a regular basis.
Nicole Porter: lead vox, superstar
Zach Grace: guitars, production, audio&midi programming
Darius Holbert: keys, backing vox, audio&midi programming
Ric Rocc: drums
Steve Abagon : guitars
DJ Paul Martin: knob tweeker
Ben Kishaba: guitars
Jesse Berent: guitars
Here’s a video from their myspace page: The song is entitled OR
“Or” – ScientificLifestyle
Video of the song OR
Here’s a bit of an interview that tells you about how this group not only morphs their sound but the size of the group
From the lilting, sophisticated jazz-pop tack of “Chinatown Swan” to the vital, melodic keyboard lines that drive “Glee Slipper,” L.A.’s ScientificLifestyle creates an alluring and sensual experience on its new EP The Arrow. The follow-up to its acclaimed 2006 debut album, Modern Sounds for the New Era – which All Music Guide heralded as “breathtaking” in its 4-star review – finds this exotic, groove-based trio taking a great leap forward with a less-is-more approach.
Built on the creative axis of producers/musicians Zach Grace and Darius Holbert – with respective backgrounds in electronic music and gospel/blues – and coupled with the soul and jazz charms of adept chanteuse Nicole Porter, SciLi continues to hone in on its own uniquely cohesive musical brand with The Arrow. After delving into heavier, alt-rock-styled material on the debut, Holbert, who has worked with artists as diverse as Wu-Tang Clan and Sophie B. Hawkins explains, “We really tried to stay closer to the groove-driven influences this time out. That’s not to say we’ve completely relieved ourselves of our rock leanings, but the narrower focus just makes more sense.”
“I think it naturally lends itself to my vocal style, which comes from soul and jazz,” says Porter, who is easy on the eyes, has a lengthy theatrical background and, curiously enough has performed with both Jane’s Addiction and Aerosmith. Yet her fit with Grace and Holbert’s artful, velvety concoctions are nothing short of ideal, pointing The Arrow straight at the hearts at the same cultured music devotees that gave Imogen Heap and Portishead lift off.
Reconstructing the artful, Paula (Dido, Elton John, INXS, New Radicals) Jones-assisted Modern Sounds for the New Era and its brilliantly immediate emphasis track “A Fraud” for The Arrow has again reaped winning results. Re-teaming with Jones in a tracking and mixing role, ScientificLifestyle’s sonic end product is unlike any other outfit in pop.
It’s a notion enforced by the EP’s aforementioned, suggestively charged “Chinatown Swan,” which finds Porter reminding her subject, “She can turn you on.” When the mood shifts to the glistening “Glee Slipper,” Porter asserts, “Thoughts of you fill me up all through the night” as melodic keyboard lines define the song’s urgent but urbane allure.
The arguable standout is “Or,” which reminds us that a quirky, electronic pop number can be airwave ready without being an innocuous, vapid insult to the listener’s intelligence. If given the chance, this contagious, inventive and deserving anthem would be thumping out of a million MP3 players.
Equally distinct is way the trio morphs into a quartet – sans non-touring member Grace – for live performances. “I actually don’t perform live with the band,” Zack concedes, of his untraditional role in the group. “So as songwriters we’re a trio and for live work we become a quartet.” At one point a six-piece, with two guitarists and a bass player for live responsibilities, Grace says SciLi “found that we got better mixes when we stripped down our approach.”
For Zach, who previously worked as an A&R rep, comes from an electronic production background and was responsible for the Billboard chart topping hit “Beautiful Outside, he understands the stigma affixed to many electronic-based acts. “A lot of electronic bands seem to be, um, pretty poor live. You know, ‘Hit the button on the laptop and let the computer do the show’,” he laughs. “The thing that we’ve always done with this band – because we all come from different perspectives – is work with a lot of styles and not emphasize electronic over everything else.”
That philosophy forged this unlikely partnership a few years ago when a mutual friend helped align Grace’s programming talents and guitar lines (bolstered by a master’s degree in music from NYU) with Holbert’s composition background and highly respected session and studio work. Soon after, Porter joined forces. Within a year of its inception SciLi had its first record completed. Boasting Jones – who lent her vision – and players like drummer Frank Ferrer (The Psychedelic Furs), guitarist Ben Kishaba (Jude) and bassist Joe Dunne (Ben Taylor), Scientific Lifestyle was championed for its vast musical scope.
Still the core trio felt challenged to bring cohesion to their sound. When it came time to write for the new EP, the key driver was to unify its sound and ensure its live presence. “Our first record was predominantly a studio project. We played out some, but it wasn’t until we had the first record finalized and worked through it in a live setting that we knew what we could be,” says Darius.
“With this record, we made sure everything was played out live before we recorded it,” says Zach. “Which is tricky when you’re doing electronic stuff. In addition, I’m mainly a guitar player. So I played on the original demo versions and then I handed them off to the band’s live guitarist. Because I know how important it is for the song to take shape and feel as it would live.”
And if Zach and Darius are the musical impetus beneath Scientific Lifestyle, it’s Porter who is given the ultimate veto power on whether a tune lives or dies with the band. “I’m basically the judge,” Nicole admits proudly. “They bring their ideas together and present them to me and then I sort of decide if it flies.”
“Flight 273” – clearly given the green light by Porter – just may be the perfect sonic exhibition of SciLi’s abilities. Beginning with a clever, infectious rhythmic stamp, the track achieves lift off with the singer’s charming, convincing delivery. Escorted into the air with the powerful hybrid of grooves and electronics, it affirms that Scientific Lifestyle are shooting skyward with The Arrow.
Here’s the interview I did of Scientific Lifestyle– my biggest issue is that they kept the doors open to the bar so that the other band is playing so loudly you can barely hear the band speaking but they are definitely worth checking out to see them live!!
Scientific Lifestyle interview
They have videos of them playing on their site and on myspace.com/scili too. So do check it out.