Meet Savoy, a dance act with the soul of a rock band.
"We did always want to play dance music, but we're also fascinated with the big-time stadium-rock feel, too," explains Ben Eberdt. "All of our music is dance-y, but a lot of it is very hard-edged and rock-y. We take a lot of rock influences. The massive production of stadium rock is something we've always thought is cool."
The band showed it had the chops to rock a stadium at last summer's Monolith festival. Due to the last-minute cancellation of MSTRKRFT, the band got shifted to the SoCo stage, a much more visible slot for them. There, in front of an audience that had come to see someone else and had no idea who they were, Savoy showed that it was ready for the big time, not only keeping the capacity crowd throughout their entire set, but rocking it so effectively that everyone was asking, "Who is this?" It's a safe bet that few who were there forgot once they found out.
Savoy, with Designer Drugs and Animals at Risk, 8 p.m. Friday, April 23, Gothic Theatre, 3263 South Broadway, $18-$20, 303-830-8497.
"It was a great break for us," Eberdt notes. "We weren't supposed to play that stage, so to play in front of those people was great. Since then, our shows have done excellent in Colorado. We've sold out every single show we've played. We can attribute a good amount to Monolith. We had a bit of momentum going into it, and that's why we got the nod, but playing that high-profile gig put us on the map a little bit."
Eberdt is joined in the group by co-producer Gray Smith and drummer Mike Kelly. The three met in the dorms at the University of Colorado in 2004, and before long started playing together. The first couple of years were a markedly different configuration, albeit with the same aims.
"From the start, we wanted to make dance music, and that's what we were trying to do," recalls Kelly. "We were doing it with the bass, guitar and drums, but it came to the point where we were listening to all these other electronic groups, going to clubs and stuff. They were just using a completely different approach."
Before long, those influences convinced Savoy to go electronic to better realize the kind of music they all felt compelled to make. "We were trying to get heavier and dirty with it, and also more original," Kelly points out. "With the electronic production, you really have infinite possibilities with manipulating and creating your sound. That's what we were going for."
Even after Eberdt and Smith traded in guitars for computers, synthesizers and mixers, Kelly stuck with the drums. He did incorporate some electronic triggers into the kit, but when the group plays, he's up there banging out beats and percussion live.
"The live drummer just adds that whole [rock] dynamic to it; we can bring that stage presence of the live drummer," Eberdt explains. "Not to mention, it's great for improvisation. Mike can play the drums differently every show. It just adds a live feel to it."
The injection of live drums into the mix has helped Savoy cross over and broaden its potential audience. The group feels just as comfortable playing to rock audiences on a stage as it does working the dance floor at a club.
"We always say that we try to take rock to the dance floor and dance music to the main stage," Kelly states. "We're really trying to bring both of the worlds together and kind of push the boundaries a little bit, or take them down."
The results of all that boundary pushing isn't far removed from the hot sounds of acts such as Justice or MSTRKRFT. Savoy's base is pure, fist-pumping, anthemic electro, but there are layers there — subtle touches and more dynamic range than you might suspect from the comparison to those two acts. That's the result of an omnivorous approach to musical influences. Kelly says the band tries to pull from every corner of dance music, including hip-hop, funk, disco and, yes, rock. (Remember that rock and roll used to be the dance music of youth.)
"We all grew up with parents who were shoving Zeppelin and the Rolling Stones and Dire Straits down our throats from the get-go," says Kelly. "Those are just ingrained in us. If you just sit there listening to other electro producers all day, it's going to be hard to make your own sound. I think it's important to incorporate everything you love from when you were a kid and make it special to you and unique to yourself."
"We like to listen to a lot of pop music that's coming out, see how they push lyrical ideas and stuff like that, maybe try to sample something to reach a wider audience," Eberdt adds. "Some days we only listen to only old-school disco; the next day we'll go on Beatport and listen to the top ten downloaded electro tracks for the week."
Savoy's tracks are studded with chopped-up, looped and recontextualized vocal samples that always seem familiar, if not always easy to place. That's a conscious decision to surprise listeners while tweaking their memories with once-familiar hooks.
"Typically the samples we use are mostly just vocals. Our philosophy is, we want to choose something everyone knows but they forgot about," Eberdt explains. "You're going to hear it and relate to it, but at the same time, you haven't listened to it in ten years. It hits you by surprise and draws this nostalgic feeling — anthem-esque things everyone can sing along to, something that's old-school epic."
A similar philosophy drives the band's ambitions. Citing acts such as David Guetta and Daft Punk, who've risen from the underground to achieve mainstream success, Savoy has a blueprint for the future that recognizes no limits.
"The most exciting thing to us," says Eberdt, "is seeing what has been the underground dance culture really emerging and fusing with absolute pop culture in its purest form, like Daft Punk working with Disney. Those sounds converging is the most exciting for us, because it opens up so many more avenues for us to create music and create our art."
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For now, that means working on additional remixes, writing some new material aimed toward DJs rather than live performance, and releasing another EP this summer — which will be another free download from www.savoyband.com, like its past releases. The band just licensed a track to an Xbox game, and the summer schedule is filling up quickly. Long-term, the guys are working toward building a full-blown stage show to rival Daft Punk's.
"Once we have the money and time to build it up, the stage persona is not going to be three individual guys, but a big multimedia conglomeration of technology," Eberdt explains. "They've got the gimmick with the robot suits and everything. I think it draws a massive audience that may not even be initially drawn to them.
"Who knows what we're going to come up with?" he concludes. "Some sort of installment that's extremely unique and incorporates the audiovisual thing is something you'll see from us in the future."