Data Romance has had quite a year. It started with scoring the soundtrack to Life Cycles, a film about the evolution of the bicycle. By the beginning of the summer, they were releasing their debut EP. The Vancouver duo has since been playing around the continent, showcasing their heavy electronics and blissed-out vocal hybrid sound to an ever-growing audience.
“We obviously keep our aesthetic pretty dark [onstage]; we like black,” laughs Ajay Bhattacharyya, the half of Data Romance responsible for production. “At this point we’re just making sure people have a chance to see who we are as people […] Until recently we were getting comments that people couldn’t really identify us as people.
“So live, right now, is a really great way to do that. It’s really honest and simple.”
They’ve made quite a visual splash on the Internet. With only an EP released the band already has three music videos. With vocalist Amy Kirkpatrick’s background in light design and their mutual love of cinema, it only makes sense for video to be a big part of the project.
“Visuals are definitely important to our music,” said Bhattacharyya. “I’m personally more interested in watching a video along with music, if the band can pull it off.”
Music videos are no longer a must-have for emerging artists, but with the ability to share their love of film with fans around the world, Data Romance get as creative as they want—be it through intense, avant-garde hip-hop choreography or a one-take video that plays with shadow.
“I think the luxury of the Internet is that we can make a video like we did for ‘She’s Been High,’ and if nobody’s into it, that’s cool because we made it and enjoyed it,” said Kirkpatrick. “There’s not so much pressure like MTV or Much Music where you have to stick to almost a guideline of what you can and can’t put in a video, there’s total freedom.”
And with hi-fi video equipment at a fraction of the price it was in the MTV era, there’s nothing stopping the band from keeping it up.
“We’re lucky to be able to do [videos] in such a do-it-yourself way just because of the technology. You can make them look pretty amazing without a ton of money anymore,” said Bhattacharyya.
“Live, sadly, it’s still a bit different. At this point, we’re touring just the two of us, and we don’t have the lighting setup, but we really want to work towards that. It just takes building a fanbase that can support a tour of that proportion.”
It’s all part of the plan however, and the band will be sure to take advantage of the bigger stage and better sound systems they’ll use on tour with German house duo Digitalism.
As for including the monome, a real-time sequencer that has made appearances in their videos and online performances, it’ll still be a while before that becomes part of the live show.
“I want to try and incorporate [the monome] as soon as I can. We haven’t been taking it on tour because it is such new technology and it’s kind of buggy,” said Bhattacharyya. “The software is actually written by users, there’s this open-source mentality behind it.”
The monome is a super-versatile controller with dozens of little square keys, capable of sampling, composing, and layering sound. It’s new technology that’s inspiring for the producer, but for the time being he’ll rely on his Novation Launchpad and MPD32 controllers when it’s live and there’s no room for error.
“Anyone can upload a program to tell the monome what to do, which is a really cool idea in theory, but the reality of it is it actually leads to no real quality control, except the forums on the site,” he said.
It’s technology like the monome that allows the band the tools to keep up with their electronic experimentation. For their forthcoming LP, things are going to get darker. The new record will be in the vein of the latest single “She’s Been High,” according to Kirkpatrick.
The band is in perpetual motion, the full-length surely just one thing on the horizon for the duo.
“I think it’s always good to shoot for your next goal, and always live in the near future. It’s funny, sometimes you reach your goals and you don’t even realize it because you’re too obsessed with the next one,” said Bhattacharyya. “Sometimes you have to remind yourself to live in the moment, but I don’t think, mentally, I can just sit in that moment. I always think about what we’re about to do.”