Philadelphia-based band Sonic Spank will perform at 10 p.m. Sept. 14 at Kimball's Pub, 972 Second St.
The group features Benjamin Karp on guitar, Ian McGuire on keyboards and Scotty Zwang on drums.
Karp chatted with the Sun-Gazette this week via email about the maturation of the band, the creation of its first full-length LP, "Drama," and the group's upcoming performance in Williamsport.
PHOTO By ROBOMOJO
Philadelphia-based band Sonic Spank will perform at 10 p.m. Sept. 14 at Kimball’s Pub, 972 Second St. The group features Benjamin Karp on guitar, Ian McGuire on keyboards and Scotty Zwang on drums.
MATTHEW PARRISH: Sonic Spank is a fun name for a band. Where did it come from?
BENJAMIN KARP: Well, after much deliberation, the absolutely alluring alliteration came to us in a true moment of euphoria. We searched high and low for the perfect description of the beauty that we emote. I mean, a name is tough. What does it really describe? Ted Danson is freaking hilarious, but Ted Bundy was a serial killer.
MP: In your bio, it says that you're pioneering a new genre called "sextronica." Is that exactly what it sounds like?
BK: Well, that was the concept when we conceived Sonic Spank: the sexiest, dirtiest, border-line controversial electronica music you've ever heard. But as we matured, we gravitated towards the grunge music we grew up with. The '90s are back, they're now retro, and we're reintroducing that sound to a new generation who's never experienced it before. Sextronica is dead and Electro-Grunge is born.
MP: Who drew the half-naked woman in bed that appears on the cover of your live album, "Setlists and Sextapes Vol.1 Live in Athens, Ga?"
BK: Our good friend Rachel Pfeffer who we grew up with. She's a very talented artist with a gift of really bringing sexy into her work. She's doing our new album cover, too, and it's even better.
MP: Does the music ever work too much - do people ever start getting too frisky at your shows?
BK: Of course, that's the goal. What better way to have your music appreciated than with a little funny business? Hell, I'm sure Marvin Gaye and Al Green appreciate the baby-making they've inspired.
MP: Some of the titles of your songs are hilarious - "Ass Buffet" being one of them. Care to comment on that? It doesn't seem like you're too worried about being kid friendly.
BK: Well we've grown up a lot since then. As hilarious and eye-catching as "Ass Buffet" may be, our new content is very kid-friendly. With instrumental music, it's difficult for the listener to really understand or appreciate the title of a song. Our new album, "Drama," is more serious. It's the tale of a wounded soul experiencing the roller-coaster ride of a relationship and trying to find his way out of the depths, and into something better. With song titles like "Butterflies" and "Feelin' Lucky" it's totally PG-13.
MP: I love the sound of the vocoder. There are a few other contemporary bands I know like Black Moth Super Rainbow that use it as well. What excites you about playing with the vocoder?
BK: Funny enough, we actually put the vocoder to sleep. As we started writing songs with heavier content, the vocoder actually started getting in the way. Sometimes it can be hard to understand and is better used to accent shorter choruses, like "Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger" by Daft Punk. When you have a couple verses, a chorus and a bridge, the vocoder almost gets annoying. At least that's what we found when we started using it too much. Now we use the human instrument, the actual voice. Singing is something we shied away from forever but we finally came to the realization that it's really the best way to convey the emotions of a song. Our new album only has one vocoder track and the rest is us singing: kind of the changing of the guard of our sound.
MP: You guys have played with some big names - The Disco Biscuits, Crystal Method, Skrillex, etc. - got any cool stories from those shows? Did you meet any of those bands?
BK: The Disco Biscuits are from Philly, and we know those guys pretty well. Marc Brownstein (bass) actually plays bass on our new record. One of the coolest hangs was with Derek of Pretty Lights. It was right before he really blew-up on a national stage and we hung with him at this house party in NYC till like 6 a.m. We were just starting Sonic Spank and really getting into using Ableton which he's a master at. It was great getting to pick his brain about the tricks of that trade.
MP: There's a mash-up song of Daft Punk and 50 Cent on your website, which gives a taste of how diverse your influences are. Any other suprising acts that inspire you?
BK: Michael McDonald, Steve Winwood, Justin Timberlake, Seal, T-Pain, 311 and Boys II Men.
MP: The band's first full-length album, "Drama," is set to come out in September, right? What's different about it from your previous material? Where was it recorded? Who's producing it?
BK: Well, first off, it's a full-length LP opposed to the EPs we've previously released. We put a lot of time into making it flow as a complete listening experience. It's a journey rather than just a mixtape.
We should have it available for free download at SonicSpank.com this week. We recorded in Wyncote, Pa., right around the corner from where we grew up and still reside at Kawari Sound Recording Studios. It's a beautiful studio right across the street from an arboretum and a fantastic atmosphere for inspiration. We've been mixing since December, both at Kawari with Alex Daniels and in our basement at home, and just spent two days post-mixing and mastering with world renowned producer PJ "Starkey" Geissinger.
"Drama" is special to us because it describes a period in our lives when we were trying to rediscover ourselves. Relationships are tough and when you get older, you really appreciate the good and have the experience to understand the bad. The relationship is the concept of this album, from the beginning, to the end, to the beginning of another one. The cycle continues until you find the right one.
MP: How's the Philadelphia music scene? Are there a lot of electronic bands?
BK: I'd stack Philly's scene up against any other in the world. There are so many great musicians here. The electro-jam scene started here with the Disco Biscuits and Lotus. Starkey, who lives here also, has been on the cutting-edge of DJ-bass music for years. There's so much history here. John Coltrane, the Roots. The community here is great. All these different musicians playing different styles inspire and collaborate and create really new and special things all the time.
MP: How'd you find out about Kimball's Pub in Williamsport?
BK: Ironically I was just in Williamsport for a wedding and we had a late-night jam session at the Bullfrog.
I've never been to Kimball's but heard about it from the Williamsporters that I know.
MP: What can music lovers expect from your show?
BK: The energy and emotion we put into our craft is second to none. We live and breathe this music and we try to make the audience feel it with us.
For more information about the band, visit http://www.sonicspank. com.