For a band so weird, Eleven & the Falcons are surprisingly listenable. Mayor Prankster, Ali Maladi and Christian B. Church – I don’t think those are their legal names either – comprise the resolutely bizarre trio and their show at Firestorm Café & Books was an unexpected breakthrough of the avant-garde.
Heartthrob Amy White opened up the night with a guitar and her own folk warble. White’s rounded voice was dynamic enough to whisper a hymn or roar to life with enough impassioned singing to energize the café. It was a voice that could send chills down your spine, then turn right around for another tune and have you singing along. Her use of restraint on upper-octave notes resulted in a deceptively adolescent tone reminiscent of Joanna Newsom. It was an appropriate preamble to the decisively indie Eleven & the Falcons.
Describing the sound of Eleven & the Falcons is no easy task: they come across as a band independent of their contemporaries and ahead of their time. Under the guise of infectious pop songs, rich ambience and a collection of found sounds make the band inimitable. Blown-out practice amps and student-level instruments dominate their setup – but their sound is anything but sophomoric. Describing the group thematically isn’t any easier – their lyrics take solace in the arbitrary with adventurously tangential anecdotes. Placing the band into a genre would be a terrifying task.
Thankfully, guitarist and drummer Christian Church helped elucidate any confusion about what the band sounds like as they took to the stage Friday night: “We’re like dubstep meets bluegrass.”
The description was met with a mixture of blank stares and quiet snickering – some got the absurdist sense of humor, others didn’t and the ones who weren’t sure joined in the nervous laughter. Throughout the night, the audience seemed to either be in awe or just plain confused. The band’s music begs to be listened to and not put in the background and ignored.
As a dubstep-bluegrass fusion band, Eleven & the Falcons might be the most ineffective genre bend ever conceived. But as explorers of surrealist pop, they’re pretty successful. Church’s eyes lit up when an accidental surge of feedback arose during a guitar pedal change – the sharp hiss seemed to inspire him. He paused and listened, as if to make a mental note about that sound for later. You could imagine Church as a musical inventor, turning the newly discovered material over in his head and wondering where the sound could be used. It’s excited minds like these that drive experimental music and bands like Eleven & the Falcons that break new ground.