New York City outfit Paris Monster is what happens when you take two well-traveled session musicians — both of then afflicted with a rogue appreciation for electronica, their chosen axes notwithstanding — and allow them free rein to satisfy their collective creative jones. The result is a little bit pop, a little bit experimental, and a whole lot different from anything either member does on their regular live and studio gigs around town.
“We’re into anything that’s a little bit different,” singer/keyboardist/drummer Josh Dion says of the project. “We’re always looking to add something to make the song unique. The music tends to be less commercial that way, although there are times where it can have a commercial appeal.”
Paris Monster is a collaboration between Dion and fellow New York pro bassist/keboardist Geoff Kraly. “We knew each other pretty well from the New York scene,” Dion says. “We’ve both done jazz and rock gigs, some studio work, some production work. So with this band, we decided we wanted to keep it to a duo, so each of us would have room to explore. We wanted it to be very open. And we had certain aspects we knew we wanted in the music. We knew we wanted some improvisation, and we knew we wanted elements of pop. Other than that, we didn’t have a specific sound in mind.”
But that account omits one important element that figured heavily into the birthing of Paris Monster’s sound, that being the fact that both Kraly and Dion, independent of one another, had developed a fondness for tinkering with keyboards, pedals, and other electronics.
“I got into playing keyboards because I wanted to do something a little bit different, and it evolved from there,” Dion says. “At the same time, Geoff was exploring different pedals, and using modular synths with his bass — he’s bass player who likes to approach the instrument like a guitar. So yeah, our interests were aligning there.”
The resulting collaboration makes for a sound that resembles conventional synth pop in many respects; yet it’s a brand of synth pop that’s been shrewdly corrupted by the renegade experimentalism of both principals. The tracks Dion and Kraly lay down in the studio are often cold, mechanistic; they serve as launching points for the two men to explore new realms of tonal and textural possibility with their various pedals and keyboards. Dion’s voice — a warm, emotive tenor, tinged with a hint of white soul — grounds it all, providing a powerful human element to tether PM’s electronic explorations.
Kraly says Paris Monster differs from other synth-pop outfits in one other key respect; rather than allowing their busy stage set-ups and myriad onstage responsibilities to subsume considerations like showmanship and audience rapport, he and Dion approach live performance with a rock ‘n’ roll mindset, with a view toward giving audiences something above and beyond what they hear in PM’s recorded music.
“It’s way more energetic and emotional live,” Kraly says. “People usually walk away saying, ‘That was something else.’ We don’t fuck around. At the end of a set, we’re both usually surrounded by pools of sweat, and our clothes are ruined.”
Paris Monster will play Preservation Pub Saturday, June 16 at 10 p.m.