By Drew Ailes
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By Kyra Scrimgeour
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By Tom Murphy
The Dead Science writes pop music. Just ask guitarist/vocalist Sam Mickens. Despite any appearances to the contrary — the lo-fi recordings, the lilted, nervous-boy falsetto vocals or the elementary disregard for verse-chorus-verse structure — the act's music is pure pop, Mickens insists. Sure, the Seattle-based trio's sound is kindred to minimalist electro-rock made by its close friends in Xiu Xiu and the Parenthetical Girls. But Mickens contends that Dead Science has just as many connections with Prince, Timbaland and the Wu-Tang Clan. We asked him to connect the dots for us.
Westword:When people think of pop, they usually think of mainstream, teenybopper type of stuff. But really, pop music is just modern music. Is that what you mean when you describe the Dead Science that way?
Sam Mickens: Not necessarily. The way I would define pop music has more to do with the emotional and cultural connection that it's seeking than anything specific about the elements of the music itself. I feel that it's more in the intention and the sensibility of the creator. Which, I think, most of the music that I like the most — say, Prince or whoever — is also along those lines. If you broke down all the elements in the song, the parts would be very strange, but the way they are arranged and put together make them feel very natural and really good.
And I think that it's also true that mainstream pop music now is absorbing a lot of weird, experimental elements. Like Timbaland's productions: I know that he is definitely absorbing a lot of experimental music, and some of that is coming out — in more refined ways than our band — but I feel that there is still an exciting push toward it, from low-level indie-pop stuff to the most huge mainstream records.
There definitely seems to be an overlap of the indie-music scene with the experimental-arts scene, specifically citing the stuff that's been coming out of the Northwest. Has that been a goal for you guys, to intermingle the two?
More than that, we are part of the music community in the Northwest, and we are also a part of the arts and theater community. It's more that we — and also, some of our really close friends, like the people in Implied Violence — all feel sort of that we are not a part of the mainstream indie-rock community in Seattle. There are a lot of support systems in Seattle for stuff that is not that exciting to me, so we've all forged this really intense, really, really tight-knit and close multimedia community. And there are always groups within circles of friends, but we've been trying to make our avenues and find our own lanes for doing the stuff that we want to do. We've produced our own situations and spaces.
In a way, you could say that the Wu-Tang Clan could be really strong role models for that kind of mentality, because they are a large group of dudes that are all really intense and have their own identities and their own egos and their own radness. But they built this very personal thing together and did it very much on their own and made this really amazing dynasty.