By Andy Cheng

Posted September 29, 2011 in Music

“Originally we wanted to be a band but it felt like a gang. [Bryan and Tim] flipped a coin and settled on Gang Gang Dance.” That is the inspirational story behind the weird yet cheerful name of the experimental electronic band as told by Lizzi Bougatsos, vocalist and frontwoman. 

Gang Gang Dance is a rising group whose newest album Eye Contact has achieved critical success, reaching #150 in the U.K. charts. The band has graced the pages of The Guardian, FILTER Magazine, Paste and Rolling Stone, and even a Florence and The Machine song. Last year the band received royalties when lyrics from its “House Jam” appeared in Florence and the Machine’s “Rabbit Heart (Raise It Up).” This year, Gang Gang Dance was chosen by Animal Collective to perform at All Tomorrow’s Parties and will make an appearance at CMJ Music Marathon next month and a stop at Pappy and Harriet’s next week.

In short, Gang Gang Dance is the bee’s knees when it comes to avant-garde sounds.

Experimental, as they call it, oversteps the boundaries of a certain musical genre, and upon hearing one of Gang Gang Dance’s songs (try “Glass Jar”), you’ll discover a sound that transcends typicality, almost in a psychedelic way. Essentially, that’s what the group’s all about; experimenting and sounding different. “I think it’s important to always experiment. It’s important to keep your mind open and do the best you can,” says Bougatsos.

The group’s nature of experimenting and changing with its music is practically inherent. Founders Brian DeGraw and Tim Dewit originally performed under in the band The Cranium before leaving and starting Gang Gang Dance. The pair met Bougatsos while touring in The Cranium and later recruited guitarist Josh Diamond and vocalist Nathan Maddox rounding out the original band. In 2002, Maddox passed away after being struck by lightning while observing a thunderstorm, Bougatsos took to the mantle of lead vocals.

The group released its fifth studio album Eye Contact in May. Rolling Stone and Pitchfork both gave positive reviews, remarking on Gang Gang Dance’s gradual change from complete whatevers to music-like music. And if that means that songs like “Mindkilla,” which is both upbeat and distinctive, can get masses of listeners at their venue to bob their heads like a swarm of intoxicated zombies, then the album is a success.

“I think that it’s a very complete album in that I’m very proud of it. Every album has to have a different sound; if every album didn’t have a different sound, it wouldn’t be complete,” says Bougatsos. Difference is what’s significant to the group, which makes it stand.

Yet, the interesting facet of Bougatsos and Gang Gang Dance is their attunement to the world around them. “We sort of take in our surroundings. It’s like a vacuum: we echo out what we hear. It’s all about listening and trying things that work with different notes.” says Bougatsos.

That cacophony of different notes combined creates the sounds that have allowed the band to tour internationally and stand out among its peers. “I was really happy to be [at All Tomorrow’s Parties]. The lineup was great. It was run by artists themselves and that’s what was cool,” says Bougatsos.

As for its future, the sky’s the limit. “I’d like to record somewhere tropical or somewhere in the Caribbean. I hope to be more integrated with natural world. I hope to experiment with sounds.” And hey, if it’s the surroundings that influence the band’s music, the tropics can be a wonderful venue for experimentation. For now, Gang Gang Dance is a rising star in a swiftly-growing, musical field. “I want to inspire the youth.”

Gang Gang Dance at Pappy and Harriett’s Pioneertown Palace, 53688 Pioneertown Road, Pioneertown, (760) 365-5956; www.cleanairclearstars.com. Sat, Oct. 8. 7PM. $15.


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