Interview: Brooklyn Indie Rockers Stereo Off Go Full Synthpop

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Stereo Off have changed their sound quite a bit since 2012. After going through several iterations of the band, its current incarnation has revitalized itself as a three piece made up of lead singer and synth player Sebastian Marciano, guitarist-turned-bassist Niall Madden, and lead guitarist Bridget Fitzgerald, who was trained in viola at the Juilliard School. The eclectic mix of musicians made a name for themselves through a desire to experiment with their sound to the point that they don't play their main instruments. With a band so open to learning and incorporating new sounds, it's no surprise this Brooklyn indie band has revitalized themselves in a more electronic direction.

The band are prepping to release III this Friday, a Popdust exclusive premiere that will solidify the band's new sound. As of now, the record has been preceded by singles "Sunsetting" and "Venir," both of which draw on the indie sound the band is known for while making the move toward electronic, incorporating a sinewy synth-pop sound, gnashing electronic beats, and an ear-grabbing guitar.

Marciano and Madden spoke to Popdust about III, bringing Fitzgerald into the fold, and their aspirations for upcoming live shows.

What were you listening to when making the record?

Sebastian Marciano: This disc in particular is influenced a bit by various yacht rock, film scores, and 80s/90s pop, as well as more recent California synth-pop.

Niall Madden: Hard to say what I was listening to, because these songs were made at different times. We have a lot of songs overall, and are in fact working on the next LP already. The first two EP's sort of had their own feel, and I this has more electronic and dance influences.

Do you think your sound is more compelling and experimental because most of the time you aren't playing your "go-to" instruments?

NM: I think it has helped create a natural evolution overall, since from the start there's been a lot of switching around, band member changes, and role changes. For example, I had played guitar in all previous bands; bass always came second, but when Sebastian reached out to me, they needed a bass player. It ended up working out well.

SM: Yeah, the flexibility and willingness to get outside our own boundaries definitely helps shape the sound, for sure. Not only to facilitate getting it done, but keeping it intriguing for us as well.

Your sound has been described as indie pop and post punk; throwing classical influences into the mix, how would you classify your sound? Would you even want to put yourselves in a box?

NM: I always like how the reviews and mentions of our band have been so varied. We all have quite different tastes in music overall, so it helps keep things feeling new.

SM: I think we like specific songs and themes to fit in particular 'boxes,' but ironically the more we do that, the more we seem to blur the lines for the band itself.

How did you organize the new record?

SM: III started out the way the first two did, just picking a couple of fave tracks to run with, but by this time we had a lot of demos and ideas in the works and it was a more iterative process around a particular vibe. We saw the threads tying them together, and wanted to build the whole EP as a specific world, probably the first time we've done that thematically with a whole disc.

What kind of sounds do you want to play around with in the future?

NM: The new record after this will have some longer tunes and soundscapes, as an LP tends to be a bit more drawn out. We like a bit of shoegaze as well, and I'm into stuff like Mogwai and The Radio Dept. While we aren't writing a full on pop-gaze album, I think the full-length will allow us to slow things down and explore more soundscapes overall. We're going to soundtrack all parts of the day!

I know Bridget Fitzgerald was a new addition to the band for live shows and can be heard in a few places on the record; what does she bring to the table as far as your trio is concerned?

SM: Bridget has been here since early on, but often does prefer the stage to studio recordings. As our lead guitar player, she rips most of our solos, and is way into experimenting with pedals and EFX on guitars, strings and everything else. It's a good fit for the genres we like, but also for experimenting which is already working more into the writing and recording of the next record.

The band originally started as a five piece. As you dwindled down to your current three and members came in and out, how did you hear your sound changing?

SM: Our previous guitar player and drummer were great, and had their own influences. At the time those included a lot of blues and traditional rock, so when we paired down, Bridget swapped in and Sebastian moved to synths, it helped organically move us closer to post-punk, dark disco and other sounds we weren't exploring before.

What kind of experience do you hope to convey live?

NM: More variety. I don't understand bands that just play their album as it is; I can listen to that at home. We play songs a little different live. Bridget plays more viola on stage. We play tracks from the new release, of course, but also put in songs that are not on any records. If we come off like we're having a good time and not just going through the motions, its appreciated. The vibe (and sound setup) of the venue helps. We like how it sounds at places like Bowery Ballroom and Music Hall of Williamsburg, for instance.

SM: Well said. Oh, and I want more lasers and things to bang on.

Is there a theme that ties the record together?
SM: The themes are influenced a bit more this time by 80s and 90s dance and pop, and post-punk and future Noir film scores. Its also more synth-driven then the first two overall.

Have you guys already started planning a tour?

NM: We're organizing campus and club tours on the East Coast and northeast US now. Small summer tour runs to build a bit further, and then go up into festivals and the like.

Follow Stereo Off on Facebook and Twitter, and listen to "Venir" below.