Comparing the camaraderie in a band to a marriage is a succinct and accessible way of explaining the joy, closeness and strength both alliances share.
Reva Russell English reached for the analogy readily as a preface to describing the band spirit behind the Lexington electronic music trio Italian Beaches. But she chose to be a touch more specific.
“In some ways, being in a band is like being in one of those Las Vegas weddings where you fall massively in love with each other, you get married and then you’re stuck with each other. You’re left going, ‘OK, is this a good idea or a bad idea?’
“The great thing about this band, though, is that it becomes a marriage that works because we complement each other really well. There is a personal cohesion, but there’s also a complementary nature, which is nice. We have a great working and personal relationship with each other that I’m super grateful for. I love these guys. I can’t believe I get to be in a band with them.”
“These guys,” in this case, are a pair of seasoned Lexington groove: drummer David Farris and keyboardist/bassist Farhad Rezaei. Together with Russell English, they create a brand of electronic music that essentially flips the genre’s design. Instead of having vocals serve as a mere color in a soundscape dominated by beats and synths, Russell English’s vocals belt out of the center of Italian Beaches. In fact, on the trio’s new self-titled, six-song EP disc on the locally operated Desperate Spirits label (the release of which will be celebrated Saturday with a performance at The Burl), the arrangements are often atypically sparse and spacious. That provides Russell English with ample sonic room to roam.
“We’re kind of asking if there is soul in this new digital world we’re making,” she said. “‘Is there soul in this electronic scene?’ Dave and Farhad develop the sound and I get to do as much as I want. We’re kind of inverting that more traditional use of electronic music as well as the voice within electronic music.”
Such modern ambience wasn’t exactly a planned stop on Russell English’s musical journey. A Kansas native, she learned to sing in church. That led to a revelation of sorts when her family moved to California, where her father became a preacher.
“In the church we were in, we were the only white family. It was a tiny little church in Pomona, Calif., a wonderful place to be a young person from Kansas who had only been around white people.
“There was a woman at this church. She would sing, and I had never heard anything like it. In Kansas, all I heard was Top 40 stuff and country music, so this was a gateway to where I realized music could have soul, that music could have history in it.”
Russell English’s life as a self-described “independent musician,” however, began on the other coast — in Boston. She performed and recorded with the folk/Americana band Gretel before moving to Lexington in 2010.
In short order, she found herself immersed in four band projects. She played bass in Ancient Warfare, led her own loosely designed ensemble called The Reva Dawn Salon (which included Farris), continued her Americana fascination with Small Batch, and began her electronic voyage with Italian Beaches. She eventually departed Ancient Warfare after becoming a mother (“I was like, I can’t have four bands and a baby”), placed The Reva Dawn Salon on hold, and shifted her available performance attention to the remaining two projects.
“When Italian Beaches first got together five years ago, Dave was programming these beats and using a drum machine with Farhad playing over them. After a while, he said, ‘Let’s see if Reva wants to be part of this.’ So I hung out for a few hours with him and Farhad. Then I came back the next week. We began meeting in Dave’s garage every Monday night.
“This is the first band I’ve been in where I don’t play an instrument also. But the great thing about that is my voice is like another instrument. I take up that whole middle range. I get to fill up a frequency that is almost mine alone. I get as much space as I want as a vocalist because the other two guys are doing something entirely different from me. I love it.”
Read Walter Tunis’ blog, The Musical Box, at LexGo.com