Sat June 4, Rendezvous, $5, 10:30 pm.
"We'd get onstage and the sound guy would be like, 'Okay, where's the guitar player in this band?' I could almost liken it to homophobia for sound guys-if there's no guitar player, it messes with their minds!" says Ben Larson, bass player for Infomatik. In the 18 months since their inception, the unconventionally conﬁgured trio have learned to laugh about the myriad of ways they confound expectations.
Despite the rise of harder-edged, guitar-free entities like Big Business and Death From Above 1979, hitting the stage with only a bass player and drummer remains an oddity that can be challenging-particularly if you're adding unabashedly dramatic, dance-worthy synthesizers to the mix. Literary- minded Larson and preternaturally talented drummer Colin English are joined by passionate analog synth-player Geoff Gardner to create an urgently full-sounding brand of dark pop punk. Lest you mistake them for unfashionably late party crashers to the withering dance-punk scene, rest assured that their tastes lean as much toward Krautrock and the Stooges as they do toward Flock of Seagulls and Romeo Void-and irritating irony isn't anywhere to be found. A conversation over cocktails on the deck of the Fremont Dock on a balmy May evening reveals an ambitious band with diverse tastes and zero intentions to become a parody of the artists who have inﬂuenced them.
English began playing drums at the age of 15. "I mainly learned to play drums by playing along to my favorite albums at the time," he recalls. "That was anything from R.E.M. to Fugazi to Christian Death, Black Sabbath... I was all over the place." He eventually ended up in a band called Tonut while living in Atlanta in the mid-'90s. Though the band signed to the prestigious label Mute Records, their bassist died in a car accident and they soon dissolved. About a year later, English hooked up with Man or Astro-man?, albeit in an unexpected capacity. "I was friends with them at the time and they were looking to form a clone band of themselves, so I ended up as a clone of the drummer." A couple of years in Alternative Tentacle's new-wave punk act Causey Way followed until he moved to the Northwest three years ago and hooked up with Larson and Gardner.
Larson and English initially worked together on a project called Prosthesis, an experiment that ran its course after nine months. "It was maybe too experimental; it was all instrumental and it was just too fringe," recalls Larson. "So [in 2003] we decided to have a 'normal' band with a guitar player and a keyboard player. We tried out a couple of guitar players and didn't like them and just decided to start playing out as a three piece." The band's ﬁrst show ended up being a Joy Division cover night (a billing they've wisely avoided since) and they began pushing ahead with booking shows as an egalitarian trio who are distinctly unashamed of their inspirational wells.
"It's great that people in Seattle are accepting of someone playing [keys] in a band-that wasn't always the case in the heyday of alternative music. I [also] loved all those glam metal bands with the big keyboard parts," admits Gardner. "Need I mention Europe's 'The Final Countdown?'" he laughs. "I was a little embarrassed, but I've come to terms with it. It's great to be in a band where you can get up and do what you love and people are willing to give it a chance."
Local producer and Cops guitarist John Randolph was happy to give them a chance as well, recording the band's debut in his basement studio over the course of two weekends. Entitled Technology and scheduled to be self-released on the band's label Prosthetic Music in early June, the 10 songs show off their obtuse-but-effective fusion of gloomy, bottom-heavy fuzz, bright, incisive melodies, and break-neck, off-kilter rhythms. The recording is perfectly serviceable, but live they're even better. Watching Infomatik at a recent Funhouse show was an impressive sight, particularly the presence of English, a drummer so spastic and hard-hitting he can barely remain on his drum stool. As is true of most young bands with genuine potential, their delight with one another is evident onstage and off. "I've never had this much enjoyment or satisfaction playing in a band as I have with these guys," Gardner tells me. "In the future, I just hope that continues." ■