Greenville-based trio Stereo Reform calls their music "dance-a-funk-a-rock-a-tronic." It's a mix that falls closer to the Red Hot Chili Peppers and Average White Band than today's teeny-bopper divas.
Incorporating electronic elements into the recording process, Stereo Reform recently added synth and digital samples on stage by prerecording keyboards and beats that sync with the live songs.
"The electronic element has crept into our music in a good way," says bassist Neil Turner. "It's not like we've sold out into a Katy Perry tribute band or anything, but electronic music is an influence, and we like it."
Despite being featured in Relix, a magazine founded by Grateful Dead fans, Turner is quick to clarify that Stereo Reform is not a jam band.
"If you think about a group like Jamiroquai, you would never put those guys in that category, but they do jam out their songs at the end," Turner says. "You'd never think of Led Zeppelin or Jimi Hendrix as jam bands either, but an occasional 'jam' was OK and even expected."
Longtime fans might hear a few more changes in Stereo Reform's latest work. Rather than relying on distortion to rock out harder and harder, singer/guitarist Will Evans says he's been focusing on working clean melodies over the top of the dance-funk grooves they establish.
"Will is the captain guitar aficionado dude," praises his bandmate Turner. "His playing has definitely grown and involved into something very textured."
Turner met Evans via a Craigslist ad back in 2007, when both were living in Charleston. They hooked up with drummer Cre Moore and started jamming in a West Ashley storage unit. Within a year, they packed up and headed to Los Angeles to record their debut album, Robots of Evolution. After nine months, with a 10-song album and two EPs under their belts, they returned home via a nationwide tour from Austin to New York.
"L.A. was a great experience, and we'd love to go back some day, but we love it here," Evans says. "Our main reason to go out there was to record, and we accomplished that. But we also learned a lot about what not to do, and we got poor real quick."
Shortly after relocating to Greenville, Moore quit the band. Evans and Turner auditioned several drummers who didn't fit their high-energy style. Then they stumbled across Vince Seabrook. The musical chemistry between them immediately developed.
"It's great having a drummer who can hold a beat with a click track and still be able to improvise so that it's not robotic," says Evans. "A lot of times on the choruses, we'll have an electronic hand clap, so the margin for error is pretty slim."
Over the last two years, Stereo Reform has toured the Southeast and headlined several shows at the Pour House and the Windjammer. The music video for the tune "Exotical Pants" has accumulated over 10,000 hits on YouTube, while their song "10 Miles Out of New York City" was featured on Relix's April 2011 sampler CD.
This fall, Stereo Reform parlayed that buzz into a Kickstarter campaign that successfully met its goal of $10,000 toward the recording of a new studio album. They'll start recording in February, honing at least 30 songs down to a dozen once they get into the studio.
After their rushed studio experiences in L.A., both Evans and Turner say they're looking forward to stretching out the process over six weeks. "We had a really good meeting with a producer in Nashville who said, 'I'll give you as much of my time and energy as I can,'" Evans says. "We want to devote ourselves to making the best album possible, and not be looking over our shoulder wondering where the money is going."