Photo: Clayton Elder
Electronic bands face an uphill climb in the Sooner State, which boasts a proud musical heritage long defined by the obvious (country), the unassuming (folk rock) and, more recently, the brash (garage and punk).
Oklahomans like their guitars — for good reason — and the instrument’s reign atop the state is unlikely to be relinquished anytime soon.
But there’s been a recent influx of electronic sounds in the broader musical landscape, and with the rise of synthesizer-driven outfits like Colin Nance and Chrome Pony, the local scene is starting to follow suit.
Jumpship Astronaut — a five-man, Oklahoma City-based electronic collective — is yet another emerging force behind this tectonic shift, although its role remains somewhat ambiguous among concertgoers.
“Nobody knows what we do until they see us,” said Chris Bourland, the band’s primary synth player. “I think they expect us to be a jam band, but we’re not.”
Another impedance, often faced by Jumpship Astronaut, is the expectation of a pre-recorded show devoid of live instrumentation. It’s a stigma that plagues most within the genre, but drummer Austin Sims thinks his band is starting to shirk that stereotype.
“I hate saying we’re a rock band, because we’re not. We’re pretty far from that,” Sims said. “When people come out and see us, a lot are like, ‘Wow, you guys are actually playing everything!’ The fact that we’re playing everything live works to our advantage; it impresses people.”
Scott Dunn, bassist and synth assistant, sees an opportunity as well.
“There are tons of people that like a lot of the bands we’re influenced by,” Dunn said. “But I don’t know if they even know who to look for in the local scene. That’s been a major challenge.”
The act itself has its fair share of influences: from Passion Pit to Bonnie Raitt and everything in between. Singer Ryan Bryant has what he described as a “weird, encyclopedic knowledge of metal bands.”
Inevitably, their amalgam of tastes oozes into their music in the form of high-energy, celebratory tunes with a baroque sense of pop melody.
Jumpship Astronaut steadily has unearthed its voice in only one year of existence — a period in which most bands struggle to find theirs.
“Recently we were going back and listening to old demos,” Bryant said. “They’re completely different songs [now] — much more realized and so much better.”
As the group preps for next month’s release of its first EP — recorded in its own modest space and mixed at Norman’s Bell Labs studio — its ultimate goal of winning over fans and ascertaining a role in the city’s changing dynamics is seemingly within reach.
“We’re finally coming into our sound as a band — going from that vision that we had to realizing something a little different, but still ours,” said Bryant. “We’re finding our niche.”
Hey! Read This:
• Chrome Pony interview
• Colin Nance interview