New Beginnings

The Skinny caught up with Alias and Tarsier before their first practices as a new band begin.

Feature by Ali Maloney | 15 Jun 2006
Musicians collaborating over the internet is nothing desperately new - the ease of file transfer means that it is quick and saves any of the hassle of booking rehearsal rooms. But all too often this method results in a rather sterile music that conveys the detachment of its production to the listener. This makes the online rapport between Brendon Whitney, Anticon's muted rapper Alias, and Rona Rapadas, vocalist Tarsier of NYC's cinematronic electronics duo Healamonster and Tarsier, all the more spectacular in its epic sound that draws upon trip-hop, experimental electronics, leftfield pop and soundscape jazz.

The pairing came about after Rona emailed Alias asking if he'd like to do a remix for her to sing over, and they ended up bouncing so well off each other that, two years later, they have a full album and are rehearsing a band to tour the material. "She emailed me and I said I'd send four tracks and see how she got on," said Brendon. "She sent them back to me without telling me they were on their way, they just kind of showed up. I put them on and my jaw was just floored."

As one of Anticon's original roster for "the advancement of hip hop", Alias's recent output has been increasingly instrumental, dreamy and sublime. "This project was just what I needed musically," he said. "I emailed her back asking if she'd be interested in doing a full album." The resultant work, 'Brookland/Oaklyn', is a gorgeous concoction of delicate vocal spells woven around Alias's cauldron of chopped-static, proto-EBM, post-trip-hop electronica. "I've never written lyrics like that before, there was so much I wanted to say. I'm not a rapper so it's not like I can sing a 300 word paragraph," said Rona. But where do you take a project that has developed and worked so well without the musicians ever meeting?

Alias said: "I'm going to be pounding away on MPC drums as well as some synths and pads. Rona is singing and playing acoustic guitar and keyboard. Burgess from Healamonster and Tarsier is playing effects pedals and keyboards and then there is another guitarist. I wish we were going to have room for a drummer onstage."

"It'll be a far more epic version of the album," Rona chimed in. "The energy's really good. I feel like the luckiest person to be surrounded by all these amazing musicians and to be a part of this music. This is one of the most exciting times of my life."

For the past three years Alias has been touring and performing onstage by himself, and this is the first time he will be joined by others: "It's going to be cool to tour around and have people to talk to and play with and have more of a full sound. It's been going really good so far and I'm really excited about it."

However, for all of Anticon's progressive nature, the pair are both apprehensive as to what long standing outerlimit hiphop-heads will make of it, worrying that some of the more close minded will wish that the vocals had been supplied by Sole or Pedestrian instead of a female singer. Alias enjoyed the difference it brought: "When I was working with rappers I never had to pay attention to what key they were. With this I liked the challenge of keeping things in a certain key. At this point we're just feeling our way round the songs. As we become more comfortable with what we're playing we start adding more layers and cool noises. The live show will certainly be something special."

"I feel like there are no boundaries to what we can do," Rona said. "I am so psyched to be a part of this."
Alias & Tarsier's Brooklyn/Oaklyn was released May 30 on Anticon, and a European tour is set for this October/November.