Violet Sands, Ian Chang, And Body Language Defy What Indie Rock Bands Can Be
Friday nights at Brooklyn Bazaar (150 Greenpoint Ave.) are often surprisingly jam-packed with talent sourced from our own backyard. A simple perusing of upcoming shows ties the seemingly endless web of Brooklyn indie music together. Both Body Language and Violet Sands, who played the Bazaar last Friday, have been deeply immersed in local projects over time, and watching artists’ evolution is what scenes are for. We live in a city with exceptional taste and openness to new sounds, and Friday night that curiosity was piqued when Ian Chang, (drummer of Body Language) treated the audience to experimental oddities, performing solo on a drum kit wired to sensors and truly defying the definition of a band.
While many arrived for the tour-greased floor thumping dance-pop headliner Body Language—whose amphetamine beats have propelled them to tour with the likes of Zero7 and Sia—naked eyes and open ears invitingly welcomed everyone to opener Violet Sands’ immensely rich sound.
If you aren’t familiar with Violet Sands, imagine a five-piece band without a drummer or bassist sounding like Niagra Falls. Rather than being backed by a rhythm section, they were front and center with on-the-go Abelton triggers pumping out club beats, while three-part harmonies soared right over the sweat-inducing bravado of 808 kicks and deep dub bass. Violet Sands do what good bands do, sonically flouting the tried and true while rooting themselves in emotionally evocative writing. The bands of today will never look like the bands of yesterday—which was apparent Friday night— but even still, Violet Sands’ sound had a dash of Stevie Nicks mixed with a bit of 2000’s Brooklyn indie rock. If their passionate lead singer looks familiar, it’s because Deidre Muro was once one of the duo Savoir Adore. Having left the band in 2014, Deidre created a few solo tracks before blossoming into Violet Sands. Songs like “Drive” and “Hello I’m Free” show off the magnitude of Deidre’s songwriting—a touch of yesterday and yearning harmonized with new and creative sound production.
Next up featured a solo set by drummer Ian Chang. Ian can often be found backing bands up on drums at Union Pool (484 Union Ave.) one night and playing his own brand of electronic jazz by himself on another and sometimes (as witnessed here), both. Donning all in white from head-to-toe is sort of a signature for Ian, as seen in his video for Sunhouse, the maker of his really cool setup on the kit. Ian hustled to assemble his ensemble of wires but with the flick of a Macbook spacebar the Sunhouse “machine” is ready to go. Ian then began to air drum portions of his kit, triggering sounds from space, which played well with the crowd who had already got their blood moving. Ian blended a melange of rhythms and trance-inducing sounds, beginning his set with choppy drum loops. Then somewhere around the middle of his set, as the audience fully packed out, he began playing more groove-inspired rhythms, using tonal bells and reverberant chimes layered over steady kick drum patterns that you could almost twist your body along to if you tried. Ian Chang’s set came to an end with riotous applause not long before Body Language stormed on stage, while the DJ kept the crowd riding the high.
Bed-Stuy-based Body Language was originally formed by Matthew Young and Grant Wheeler when they started making dance music and remixes for a weekly party they curated at a bar called Vegas Blvd in Hartford, Connecticut. Soon they began to incorporate vocals from Angelica Bess and they formed their original trio. Subsequently, they moved to Bed-Stuy. Around that time they released their first record on a sister label of Ghostly Records, Moodgadget Records, entitled Speaks. In those first months in Brooklyn, Wheeler and Young worked on Passion Pit‘s second LP Manners. After working with Passion Pit, they started writing their second EP Social Studies late in the summer of 2009. By the fall of 2009, they met and started collaborating with Theophilus London and subsequently became his backing band. Through this connection, they met the aforementioned Ian Chang, who completed the quartet.
When a band really turns it out, you appreciate their music more. Their passion is ingrained into their sound, almost like a tactile sense: from every bass thump, keyboard and guitar solo, drum fill, and belted note sung. That’s the kind of performance Body Language puts on; the audience feeds off the energy forged from their blend of disco, r&b, and dance pop. Angelica Bass’s dance moves got you going as her sparkly cape whips the air, while tracks like “You Can” and “Falling Out” were met with cheers and kept the energy high. If you get a chance to see them, do it before they leave for another tour, or see them after, because either way they’ll whisk you away into the night. The best thing about Friday nights in Brooklyn is knowing you never know who you’ll encounter that hopes to be great at what they do one day—and sometimes you meet an artist that is already there. Luckily for those of us in Greenpoint, we get a taste of the creativity this city has to offer right off the G train.