The electric infused music duo Stereo Telescope hail from the Boston area of Massachusetts and consist of Nikki Dessingue(Lead Vocalist), and Kurt Schneider(backround vocals and music coordinator). Both play instruments that range from the tambourine to synth, to the Theremin, yes, THE THEREMIN. Both were a member of different music conglomerates before pairing together in late 2009. Ironically enough, this whole thing just started out as a one song collaboration and ended up being a successful and still blossoming musical marriage. Nikki sites that the main difference this time around is that Stereo Telescope is a ‘culmination of everything I ever wanted to do musically’ and is adamant that her partner Kurt is the main reason for that. Kurt serves, not only as an instrumentalist but an organizer and song arranger for the group. Nikki alludes to his writing as a huge inspiration in her own contributions to the band. Though collaborating for the first time in the winter of 2009 they quickly gained recognition and recieved the award for Best Electronic Band in Boston in 2010. They just recently released the full length project ‘On and Running’ after giving their fans a couple of samplers to keep them held over. Though it may seem like a long time, the duo has been very busy touring while working on the record. This year will be their 4th time performing at the indie power house SXSW. Leading up to the show they will be on a east coast tour which will land them right in SXSW for the finale.
As most duo’s are, Nikki, on lead vocals, was a little more outspoken than Kurt. After expression her admiration for their work relationship and the things they have done together, Kurts response to how it was to play with her It’s fun’. Just as genuine, a little less ‘’guts’’ as Nikki said.
This was after after she expressed, in a much more wordy way, how much fun she had with Kurt on stage, and off as music partners. The ying yang relationship plays in real life and is also noticeable in their live show. Nikki, with her spunky make up and energetic personality made it extremely easy for admirers to come up to her, and she played the post-performance crowd like a pro. I was even fortunate enough to have a brief conversation with them both before my departure, and as cool as they are, they first thing I noticed is how much they loved the music.
So I must admit, prior to going to the concert I had not heard any of the groups music. Needless to say I was a bit skeptical and just hoped it wouldn’t be a disaster I had to report on. After the band puts their equitment together, Nikki announces that she had a broken leg but would be performing without her cast because of the lack of comfort. How bad ass is that? At this point I’m thinking this will be extremely good or extremely bad. Then, in a twist of events, she starts testing out the Theremin prior to the set. Me and another gentlemen, who was actually in another band who performed, just looked at each other in shock. At this point someone playing a Theremin live is damn near a myth, so I was already impressed. The band proceeded to play a couple of cuts off of the full length project and, I must say, both were very good instrumentalist. Nikki juggled the vocals perfectly while Kurt did the same, while adding in guitar and even a little Djing. Both members also executed the synths as well, and the transitions from one song to another were extremely smooth. So smooth that you has to pay attention to even notice the song switch. To me, as a fan of transitions, it was more impressive than anything, and after listening to the album I realize how much of the album was incorporated into the live show, it all made sense.
By my far my favorite song they performed live was ‘Draw Me A Sky’, one of the duo’s earliest recordings. Ironically enough, that’s probably one of my favorite records on the album. Speaking of the album…
‘On and Running’ was a long time in the making, considering they recorded the first song for it in 2010. Ironically thee very first song they recorded as a duo, is thee very first song on the album ‘Geography’. This is the record Nikki told me Kurt originally just called her to do some background vocals on. Most creative’s make mountains out of mo hills which separates them from everyone else. In this case, that saying that phrase has no negative representation at all.
The album is a 10 track collection which even includes some instrumental segways/interludes. However, though tracked separately, they blend in perfectly with the following records. For example the second record on the album ‘Ah! Dance’ is just an impeccable introduction to one of the groups earliest recordings ‘Draw Me A Sky’, ‘Summer’ leads to ‘Fires’, and you can tell all of this was well thought out and not a coincidence.
A lot of the instrumentation on this album, especially the instrumental driven interludes are extremely futuristic sounding, some would say spacey. The upside of that is that it is a perfect back drop to the stories they are writing about. The sound is also speaker/concert/arena friendly(which, of course I got to experience). ST starts the album by saying ‘Lets tear this city down, and start all over’ which is symbolic of what they’ve done in their careers. Fast forward to the end the album with ‘Lighthouse’ and the last lyric being ‘I’ll be your lighthouse, light out’. I cite that as a way to recognize how complete the album is.
I’d say the best thing about this album is that it displays both members strong points. Kurts arrangements and technical abilities with the electronic sounds is as good as Nikki gushed about. Nikki’s vocal ability is the perfect co star to the soundtrack backdrop that they’ve painted. Undoubtedly ‘On and Running’ will pick up steam as the group hits the road. It’s a great experience live, and will leave people no choice but for listeners to want to have the experience in their pocket. Overall it’s no doubt the album is worth the purchase, and the group is worth every accolade they have received thus far.
Stereo Telescope is a story of hard work, experimentation, seeing what works for you and sticking to it. Let’s not forget having fun and looking good while doing it(Did I mention the standout, Indian vibe-esque like make up Nikki sported during the concert? Well, now you know). Great band, bright future, so eclectic.