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KOPPS musicians share their music-making magic


Music that possesses an electronic component can still be organic; it's just rooted on the receiving end as opposed to the launch site. Let's simplify: Though it has some synthetic root, electronic music still gets human (organic) asses in motion. KOPPS is one of those groups that create within this hard to classify hybrid. Call it dance music. Just call it music. Better yet, call the KOPPS.

KOPPS formed in 2010 in Rochester as a dance project between vocalist Patricia Patrón and bassist Kyle O'Hara. Once the twosome nailed down a sound, they approached Joywave front man Dan Armbruster for guidance and perhaps some studio help. The resulting sound is a powerhouse throb that transcends its collision of electronic and non-electric instruments. The next step was getting a band together to recreate the sound in a live setting. With a little requisite coming and going, KOPPS solidified its lineup to include drummer Andy York and guitarist Travis Johansen, along with Patron and O'Hara.

The band just wrapped up a 12-city tour supporting Joywave and was still giddy about it like school kids on a candy jag when they popped into City Newspaper for a little Q & A. Here's an edited version of what went down.

CITY: So how about that Joywave tour?

Patrón: It was a-mazing.

O'Hara: We didn't want it to stop.

What cities were highlights?

Patrón: Detroit was awesome. Detroit loved us.

So what got the band started?

Patrón: We were listening to a lot of 90's dance, La Bouche-type of stuff. It was like "no one's doing this, and it feels like it could come around." So we started writing.

Pro tools?

O'Hara: Back then I was using Reason.

Patrón: He would send me a background clip, and we finally got a couple songs together we felt excited about and we brought them to Dan Armbruster, who produces all of our music. We knew he had a home studio but didn't know he was going to take an active role in the project. So we went to him and asked, "Hey, would you like to record a couple of songs for free?" and he was like, "Sure, let's do it." At that point we really didn't have an idea about putting together a live show. We just wanted to write music and record it, put it on MySpace. After we did those two songs, he was like "What are we going to do now?" He became our third, silent member.

When did this go live?

Patrón: We were thinking about doing a show as a duo at the Bug Jar and we brainstormed: "Who can we get to play with us at this show? Who could we open for?" And he was like, "Not us."

So he didn't feel you were ready?

Patrón: It's funny now that we're working with them constantly.

So how did you flesh the band out?

Patrón: The core writing team remained Kyle, myself, and Dan. We needed a revolving cast of characters to help with the live show. Both Travis and Andy were previously in Joywave. They're both multi-instrumentalists. Andy's a tremendous drummer. We thought it would be a good fit.

What did their addition do to the sound?

O'Hara: It definitely changed after that.

Johansen: I sat in on writing after that, and we added live instruments on the recording.

Is there wiggle room at all when playing live, or are the arrangements tight?

O'Hara: I think the live show differs from what you hear on the recordings. It's the core song, but it has a different flavor live. Travis started changing a lot of stuff live. Now there're guitars replacing synths.

Patrón: I think the feedback I've gotten the most with the addition of Travis and Andy is that the live show is so much more full and so much more energetic in every way. I think as a band we feel the music has changed a lot with the addition of live instruments.

Was this on purpose or did it just sorta happen?

O'Hara: I think it was a conscious shift.

Patrón: I think we want it to be as real as it can be. It's whatever suits that particular song. If there are things we can't do or replicate live, that's not going to stop us from putting something synthetic in the track. To do everything we do in the tracks we would need a lot of people. A lot.

O'Hara: A bass can do just so much. A guitar can do just so much.

Johansen: And we're a big advocate of live drums.

O'Hara: I think "Thermometer" was the first song we tried with real drums. It was a huge shift, and we were like, "This is cool."

Your sound comes off brutally original, what are some outside influences?

Patrón: We just have such a mixed bag when it comes to references. Like, "We want this riff to sound Justin Timberlake-y.

Johansen: Bel Biv Devoe.

All: Booty Jams, Chick Chick Chick, or we'll look up old hip-hop jams like Biggie.

What's the easiest thing in your writing process?

Patrón: I think the easiest thing is coming up with things we don't like.