Over the last ten years, Fueled By Ramen has brought the world some of the decade's most exciting and imaginative young rock 'n' roll outfits, from Fall Out Boy and The Academy Is to Paramore and Panic! At The Disco. Now the label has done it again. Meet Powerspace, your next favorite new band
The Illinois-based combo's upcoming full length debut, "THE KICKS OF PASSION," sees Powerspace unleashing its own inimitable sound, a brightly colored mash-up of pure power pop and electronica-inspired invention. Tracks such as "Powerspace Snap Bracelet" and "Right On, Right Now" literally snap and crackle with the just-out-of-their-teens quartet's uncontainable charm and energy.
The Powerspace team came together back in 2005 at Ohio's Miami University. Guitarist Tom Schleiter and bassist Daniel McMahon, both of whom played in bands in their native burbs of Chicago, had long discussed making music together. A year older, Schleiter spent his freshman term at Miami working with drummer Kevin Kane in a local band, an experience the guitarist describes as "unsatisfying." He spent the next summer focusing on writing songs for an as-yet-undetermined new band. When he told McMahon what he'd been up to, the bassist suggested the two form a new combo upon Dan's arrival at school in the fall.
"I had always wanted to play with Tom," McMahon says, "because he's such a great guitar player. He's really good at these interesting instrumental things, where I'm from more of a pop/rock background. We wanted to combine his instrumental strengths with what I'd been learning about arrangements and all those things that make a good pop song."
Once they began collaborating, the three musicians embarked on a search for a lead singer. While they were excited about this new musical outlet, they admit to treating their initial quest with a grain of salt.
"We weren't taking it that seriously," McMahon laughs. "We'd run into people and say, 'Hey, do you want to try out for our band?'"
They worked briefly with an avant-garde poet "He was into atonal music," Schleiter recalls, "which was kind of interesting theoretically, but didn't sound that good." and a girl singer who was plagued by shyness, not a particularly helpful quality in a frontperson. Their personnel problem was solved on a car trip home from Miami, when Schleiter's mom suggested that their high school friend and fellow Miami U. student Alec Cyganowski might want to give singing a shot.
"We had Alec sing over this demo we'd been working on," McMahon recalls. "We looked at each other and said, 'Yeah. This could work.'"
With Cyganowski behind the mic, Powerspace was complete. The band started playing shows around Miami University and Cincinnati and by the summer, felt ready to do some recording. Rather than simply cutting a standard issue demo, they decided to enlist producer Mark McClusky (Hit The Lights, Ludo, Scenes From A Movie), who McMahon worked with in one of his previous bands. They laid down five songs in five days, resulting in the "HOUSTON, WE HAVE A PARTY" EP.
"Looking back, there's no clear reason why we decided to do that," McMahon laughs. "But we did and it ended up working out pretty well."
The EP quickly brought Powerspace to the attention of major label bigwigs and weasels, all of whom began waving contracts under the band's noses. In the end, Powerspace inked with the label that most reflected their own aesthetic views and artistic goals Fueled By Ramen.
"Of all the people we talked to, John Janick was the most straight up with us," Schleiter says. "We all really liked the label's attitude about how to get our music out there."
Rather than splitting their focus between the band and their studies, Powerspace chose to take an indefinite breather from Miami University. They played a number of local gigs, sharing stages with such bands as June, Quietdrive, and 2*Sweet. More significantly, they spent endless time in their practice space, concentrating on their chosen craft.
"We took writing songs very seriously," McMahon says. "We played some shows but writing was our main focus."
By December 2006, they were ready to record, again opting to work with McClusky. But first, the producer needed the band to give him a hand setting up his new digs in Lincoln Park, dubbed "Dorisland," after McClusky's beloved pooch.
"We helped him move out of his old studio," Schleiter says, "then helped put in the floors in this one."
"Mark's a big part of the team," McMahon notes. "As much as he's our producer, he's also our friend."
Powerspace spent much of the winter in the studio, carefully crafting what would be dubbed for reasons the band prefers to keep close to the vest "THE KICKS OF PASSION." Taking off from such diverse influences as INXS, The Darkness, The Wrens, and Squarepusher, the album is bracingly creative, displaying Powerspace's multi-layered pop stance, a glamtastic sonic approach kissed with electro textures and metallic virtuosity.
"When we started the record, we were really focused on bringing a dance element to it," McMahon says. "But as we worked on it, it turned into more of a rock 'n' roll record. Some of those initial ideas are still present, but they've become part of the overall sound."
"THE KICKS OF PASSION" is alive with ingenious vigor, with soaring tracks like "It Smells Like Electricity In Here" evincing the band's artistic ambition. The skyscraping melodies and overall exuberance are counterpointed by deeply personal lyricism, often touched with a melancholy and reflection that the band attributes to its time at Miami U.
"A lot of the songs are about being homesick," Schleiter says. "I like our school as an institution, but the location leaves a lot to be desired."
"It's funny, because we started out writing a concept record about this dream I'd had about the end of the world," McMahon says. "But we quickly lost track of that idea and started writing about our everyday lives, being the age we're at, all the good and bad things about being 20 years old."
With "THE KICKS OF PASSION" ready to go, Powerspace is turning its attention to playing out. Having spent much of the last year honing their craft, the band is full-on fired up about at last hitting the road and getting down with the kids.
"We spent a lot of time getting the record right," McMahon says. "Now we just want to get out there and have some fun."