Judging by promo pictures and flyers, Soviet seemed to be just another boring “electroclash” group: crisp and polished on the outside, but lacking substance musically or intellectually. In person, the group delivers just the opposite: a live rock show driven by keyboards and ’80s pop melodies. Lounging on the couches at the M-80 boutique downtown, the band offered an insight to their music and their proletarian politics.
The group’s name has its roots in a chance meeting between keyboardist Chris Otchy and guitarist/vocalist Keith Ruggiero while attending film school at Syracuse. They discovered a shared fascination with early films by Soviet producers and the name is a nod to the those filmmakers’ widely used technique of montage-i.e., the juxtaposition of two contrasting ideas in order to create a third, unconnected idea. Their songwriting process attempts to re-create this method in order to bring forth a novel sound within the genre.
More interestingly, their name was also chosen for its association with the image of workers banding together a political ideal that all the members agree upon (a bit of Marxism, anyone?). The music strives to convey the idea that the attention belongs to the common man and not to the “rock star” archetype that so many similar groups fall into. Soviet feels this so strongly, in fact, that plans are being made for the next tour to play two shows on every day: one regular nighttime show in a club atmosphere and one daytime show in an unconventional setting like a factory or a storage space.
Keyboardist Amanda comments, “We want to make our music available to people who wouldn’t otherwise come to a setting like Revolver” (the club where they performed last Friday).
When asked how they felt about being termed as “electroclash,” a genre that focuses on such sexually-driven artists as Peaches and Avenue-D, Keith elaborates:
“Electroclash doesn’t exist in our vocabulary. I feel like it’s a scene we’ve been lumped into where we don’t really fit. We’re a completely live band, which is something people don’t really know how to react to when they see us perform. For that reason, I understand comparisons to groups like Ladytron, but we are not an electroclash group. I’m not saying the scene isn’t valid in its own right, but it’s not a genre that describes us. I think it ends up being more than a marketing thing than anything else.”
This brings us to the prerequisite discussion about the evils of marketing, but the group has a surprisingly sober outlook: “If the marketing is done right,” Keith says, “when you’re being shown to people who understand what you’re doing, it feels right. But when you’re being pushed on people who get it, but you don’t really sound like anything they are listening to, that just doesn’t work. People want to compare us to groups like The Faint, but the influences are so different.
Because the style is so young, people have a hard time putting their finger on it, really knowing what to call it. As soon as people get to see it live, though, they start to understand it. Touring so much has really helped us because people don’t know what we look like. They see pictures and assume we are from Europe or L.A., but then when they get to see us, it starts to make sense.”
More than 500 people packed into downtown’s Soho Lounge to see Soviet perform along with a DJ set by Carlos D. of Interpol. After a brief delay, the band took the stage and kept the crowd entertained with their blend of modern synthesizer pop and 80’s rock. All in all, they followed through on their allusions to conveying the importance of their music and blue-collar ideals through their live show in a way that a CD never could.
Soviet’s new album, We Are Eyes, We Are Builders, is out on Plastiqmusiq. Stay alert for a performance in a housing complex rec room near you.
James Hush can be reached at email@example.com.