Though the term “roxymoron” (used to describe pop-headbangers) will be familiar to fans of the Saturday Night Live skit The Roxbury Guys, the members of Taipei-based expat trio Roxymoron were unaware of its existence when they chose their name. They had been toying with the word oxymoron, and “it just kind of clicked,” said drummer John Stephenson. “It’s stupid enough that you might laugh but it sticks in your head,” said guitarist Dan Semo. “All you want is people to remember.”
Stephenson and lead vocalist Ben Smith had already begun jamming together when they noticed Semo’s “really pretty” Martin acoustic guitar at an open mic night. When the trio formed and it became obvious that “Dan was a better guitar player,” Smith switched from guitar to bass, he said.
Semo’s dreamily ambient guitar converses psychedelically with Smith’s bass, a dialogue that the percussion gives structure to. The result is danceable and energetic.
photo: Alita Rickards
The band plays tomorrow with experimental duo The Okay Cars, pop punk group Vampire Watching Television, and rock band Slack Tide, followed by Earworm DJ BB.
“We started off kind of Queens of the Stone Age-y,” said Semo. “But the sound is based around the off beat, the disco beat theme that pops up in every song.” The end product is “collaborative, [and] comes out of the jams,” said Smith.
“Dan will come with a riff, delay, loop, atmospheric stuff,” Stephenson said of guitarist Semo, who creates eccentric and engaging melodies though he also gets down and dirty. “We take the fun bits and work from that.” Stephenson drums with a composed intensity, rehearsing in bare feet to get a feeling for the rhythm.
Smith’s David Byrne-like sense of pacing and occasional punk intensity give the music direction. The band’s songs are not lyrically based but rely on a mix of scat and chat: “At least half are kind of nonsense, sound nice, syllables fit together,” he said. Topics vary — one is about a “randy guy running around” fulfilling his urges, another is about a “random Swedish guy we met last year at Spring Scream.”
Smith has that rock star quality: When not performing he is laid back, but as soon as he opens his mouth there’s a shift, and — to borrow a term used in drama classes — he “drops in.”
Though Roxymoron creates moody instrumental soundscapes, before you get too absorbed the music livens up, increasing the pace with a driven intensity that says the time for thinking is over and now it is time to dance.
“We’re a live band and you want to do what works when you’re playing,” said Semo. “You see people moving and it makes you want to play even more.”
What: Roxymoron, The Okay Cars, Vampire Watching Television (吸血鬼看電視), Slack Tide, DJ BB (Earworm)
When: Tomorrow, doors open at 9pm
Where: APA Lounge 808 (阿帕808), 6F, 152, Zhonghua Rd Sec 1, Taipei City (台北市中華路一段152號6樓), near Ximen MRT Station (西門捷運站) Exit No. 6. Tel: (02) 2381-5378
On the Net: www.indievox.com/iamroxymoron
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