Paul Banker, aka electronic-music producer Real Cosby, is a homeowner. Not because his occasional live show and handful of EPs have made him any real money, but because he has a full-time job and a family and all the responsibilities associated with those things. While that same litany has been the downfall of so many emerging musicians, it's made Banker love music even more.
"I used to worry about shows a lot.... Now I have real problems, and shows are just fun," he says.
Live shows also proved to be a driving factor in his most recent EP, titled Gold Braid. A Littleton native who returned to Denver from Chicago several years ago to be closer to family, Banker first emerged locally as the epitome of a bedroom producer: disconnected from any scene, making warm, ethereal electronic beats that were more contemplative than crowd-moving -- perfect headphone music. But the more he began connecting with other local artists (including DJ Babyshoe, with whom he co-founded Shoeboxx Records last year) and playing live, the more he realized he wanted to push himself further.
"I was playing out a lot more and wanting to make people move," says Banker. "It's a challenge to be more intentionally dance-y. I wanted to make an album that was ready for the live setting.... When I get to that part of the set, I can see the difference. It's still not where I would like it to be, but it's good."
And where would he like it to be?
"Just crazy." The songs on Gold Braid are "definitely not" trap, says Banker, but there are 808 cameos, crisp claps and other contemporary dance-music elements. The sum of those parts under Banker's control differs from the norm, however. On songs like "Always," harder kick drums, footwork-influenced sequencing, bouncing bass and higher tempo don't explode into the senseless abandonment of contemporary hard-house idioms, but instead maintain a chill intelligence -- danceable, but with an organic wit and charm. During a recent Real Cosby set at the Meadowlark, people wandered in as the nearby Higher Ground Festival wrapped up and instinctively gravitated toward the small, packed dance floor. Banker drew cheers and applause during segues.
His recent emergence is more than just stylistic; the new EP also reflects a more collaborative approach -- including working with a live vocalist (Marilyn Baker, of Cceruleann) rather than relying more heavily on sampling, and an album cover designed by local artist Mario Zoots. The combination of all of these elements is the origin of the album's title. "'Gold Braid' is like braiding all those elements together -- Marilyn's voice, Mario's art, as well as samples and synths -- making everything coalesce in a way that hits you," Banker says.
The development of the more experimental side of Denver's electronic-music scene over the past few years has resulted in a greater range of collaborators and influences.
"[Denver's] scene has been evolving for this type of music," says Banker. "When I first moved back here, I didn't see as much of that. It's become a bigger part of the scene, which is hugely diverse and awesome. All these producers coming together, that's part of it, in a feel-good way. All these guys are doing this, and people are starting to take notice."