Bring the noise, start the party

Life can be tough if you’re in a local party band. If your aim is to motivate Asheville’s hipster elite to uncross their arms long enough to shake it on the dance floor, as often as not, your efforts will go to waste. Being seen at a show is cool, but actually cutting loose and getting down could be grounds for whispered mocking by the wall-leaning aristocracy.

What’s a dance-loving band to do?

Party starters: EAR PWR’s Sarah Reynolds and Devin Booze may be the long-south-after antidote to that dance-hall pandemic: wallfloweritis. Photo by Brian Vetter

For some, the choice is clear. You’ve got to start this party, no matter how quickly your indie-rock poise gives way to a silly dance-floor throw down. If you can bring the moves, the logic goes, the crowd can’t help but follow.

And, perhaps not all that surprisingly, it works. At least for Devin Booze and Sarah Reynolds, the electro/dance-loving duo known as EAR PWR. With a relentlessly bubbly energy and charming, if nonsensical, lyrics, the pair of transplanted Winston-Salem natives has built a small, devoted following in the area. In the past year and a half, they’ve released an album, Tre Faux, and a few EP demos, such as I Like Tacos and Beach. They’ve also made their presence felt in the Asheville music scene, earning a relatively high-profile slot at the POPAsheville music festival earlier this year, performing alongside some of the area’s most well-known and respected indie acts.

Given their local success, it’s somewhat fitting that Reynolds and Booze didn’t actually meet in their shared hometown. Instead, the two met after Booze came to Asheville to enroll at UNCA.

“I met Devin when he was in a punk band called Hide and Seek,” explains Reynolds, who still resides in Winston-Salem. “After I saw him on-stage at one of their shows, I just had to meet him.” Soon after that meeting, the two began dating, but EAR PWR was still a ways off.

It wasn’t until Reynolds, furthering her education as a painting student, returned from her post-graduate studies in Florence, Italy, that the couple began dabbling with a musical collaboration.

“We didn’t really start out going for a specific sound,” Booze recalls. “We mainly wanted to do something together. Something fun.”

With a basement full of sound equipment and Booze’s background as a multi-instrumentalist (he’s currently UNCA’s only concert tubaist), the two began tinkering. It wasn’t long before the blips and beats of the Italian discotheques still reverberating in Reynolds’ head won out. With a shared love of the absurd, the two created a techno-meets-party sound that brims with catchy exuberance.

As much fun as their recordings are, it’s during their live shows that EAR PWR truly shines. On-stage, their enthusiasm sparks into a fun-loving barrage of body-moving techno and infectious silliness that’s hard to ignore. From behind dark, oversized sunglasses, Reynolds provides most of the vocals with a sweet delivery and simple melodies that glide easily over the beats to become unshakably ingrained in your psyche for days on end. Booze, donned in similar shades and tiny gym shorts, jumps around (and on and off) the stage like a man possessed, occasionally pausing to tweak some knobs and adjust the synth-pop goodness. He shouts through a megaphone to punctuate Reynolds’ vocal melodies, interacts with the audience and generally rouses the rabble like a be-Afroed pied piper.

“We tried playing with Devin on drums a few times,” Reynolds says of their onstage antics. “But in wasn’t half as much fun without him jumping around.”

Given their party-starting style, it’s fitting that EAR PWR’s lyrics are there to carry the melody, and rarely seem to hold any deeper meaning. They skim the surface of subjects, rarely going deeper than “I like waterslide, wiki wiki, waterslide” and “Sophie is my kitty, and I think she’s pretty.” While few would claim that the band is cutting deeply into the human condition, the bubblegum simplicity makes for a refreshing break from bands that fancy themselves more as revolutionary icons than pop artists. In EAR PWR’s case, they really just want you to have a good time.

As unassuming and naive as their songs may seem, there’s more than a little studio savvy at work here. Playful and absurd, the songs are also undeniably catchy and driven by an infectious beat that builds nicely, changing up before becoming dull, and ending altogether before wearing out their welcome. Their songs leave you satisfied but wanting more.

With new songs appearing regularly on their MySpace page and tons of fan videos of their live performances popping up on YouTube, it seems that the duo might be on the verge of being exposed to a much larger audience. In fact, EAR PWR’s appeal as a dance-inducing opening act has helped them book shows as well, with several performances scheduled in coming months for venues as far away as Washington, D.C., and Baltimore.

So, the next time you hear about an EAR PWR show in town, consider canceling whatever else you had planned that night. Odds are, you’ll have more fun.

[David Cole is a freelance writer based in Asheville.]

who: EAR PWR, Future Islands, Lonnie Walker and Flesh Epic
what: Pop-powered party music
where: Rocket Club
when: Saturday, April 19. 10 p.m. ( or 505-2494)

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