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Ryan Policky is one of the very few Denverites who didn't spend last Sunday watching football. He was too busy getting ready for a gig at the Church.
Policky's band, Pure Drama, which performs only a couple of times a year, recently added two members, bassist David Ferguson and drummer Chris Cardone, so preparations were in order. Besides, Policky is accustomed to going against the majority, especially in his music. The leader of an unabashedly emotional and thoroughly European-feeling combo that emphasizes synths and programming over electric guitars and a disaffected rock-and-roll presentation, he's an anomaly in this town. Stylistically, Pure Drama is too melodic to be grouped with the dark electronic or industrial acts that share its production elements and too dark and inorganic to fall with more straightforward pop groups.
"In the early days, we were really just experimenting with our sound and finding our identity, so we really didn't think about whether there were other bands doing what we were doing or who we sounded like," Policky says. "The way it wound up, we just had a way of putting our emotions into songs that were different from most everyone else."
Policky describes the music as trip-hop, Brit pop and shoegazer, but it also carries a certain nostalgic flavor that harks back to artists who started discovering the joys of keyboards in the '80s. Ten years ago, Policky might have been received as a Martin Gore devotee, in part because he has more than a passing resemblance to the Depeche Mode songwriter and shares his knack for pairing simple pop melodicism with the processed, mechanized sounds of synth.
Pure Drama's lack of a local stylistic peer group has actually been more of a benefit than a detriment. Most of the band's support comes from listeners who discovered its music through Internet sites like MP3.com and garageband.com; later this year, one of Drama's tunes will be included on a Garageband compilation of artists who consistently earn high ratings from visitors to the site. As he talks to a few labels about the release of Pure Drama's new studio album, Policky has also discovered fans in far-flung destinations.
"They played our music during a skateboarding competition in Helsinki," he says, "and we're apparently getting kind of popular in Brazil. We'll get these e-mails from people and I can't even read them, which is very cool. It's sort of like the Internet can give you the feeling of being a national band, even when you haven't been signed to any major labels. People stop thinking about you as just some band from Denver."