When I first heard the electronic-pop duo Contrapposto less than a month ago at Mathew’s I had that kind of knee-jerk reaction you have when you just know something is awesome. It’s that feeling that borders on anxiety, knowing a band so good even exists in the first place, and then realizing you can see that very band play in your own town at a local bar for less than five dollars. You know, that kind of music where you think to yourself, ‘yeah, this should be huge.’ But don’t take my word for it; listen to their song ‘Cousinfriends,’ which has been played over 600 times since being uploaded to Soundcloud a month ago, or the fact they’ve already managed to acquire 165 ‘likes’ on Facebook after having played just a few gigs around town. This Friday, you can see the band play at one of my favorite DIY venues in town, Dirigimus, which will sadly be hosting their second to last show ever this weekend with Altered Gee and God. Damn. Chan. Simply put, this is a show you don’t want to miss. Music starts at 9pm. Check out my interview with vocalist Mirabai Iwanko and multi-instrumentalist Jacob Pitcher of Contrapposto below.
Dan Aceto: Your band just formed not too long ago but it seems as if there’s already a fairly big buzz on your Facebook and SoundCloud pages (165 ‘likes’ in just over a month on Facebook and over 600 listens to your song ‘Cousinfriends’ on SoundCloud); what has been the response to the band at the shows you’ve played so far, as well as on social media websites?
Mirabai Iwanko: The response has been very motivating for the short time we have been working together on this project. We are surprised and thankful for everyone who’s been so excited and encouraging about our collaboration. Contrapposto isn’t only a band to us, it’s also performance art. While the music is very important, it also serves as a springboard for other forms of expression.
DA: How did the band first form? Have either of you been involved in any other bands/musical projects in Portland before?
MI: I have been writing song lyrics for about five years now, but was having a hard time finding someone to compose music with that really took the work seriously. Jake was in a similar boat where he was writing music electronically using a reel to reel and synth, but was searching for a vocalist. We met at Bayside Bowl, where we both work as cooks, and by listening to tunes while working on the line- eventually we got to talking about a collaboration. From the very start it just really seemed to flow. Before Contrapposto, Jake played the synth in Awaas for about 9 months.
DA: For a two-piece band you guys have a very impressive sound; what made you decide to take that direction creatively, and who are some of your other musical influences?
MI: We hope the music transports the listener into another state of mind, so not only are they listening, but they’re also experiencing something new with us. We attempt to do this by creating atmospheric layers within the music and by changing our own appearances for shows. We are mostly influenced by the subject matter itself when writing music.
DA: How would you describe the sound of the band to someone who has never heard you before?
MI: An electro-zoomorphic battle parade.
DA: When I saw you perform at Matthews you were wearing some fairly elaborate costumes, complete with floral headpieces and face-paint; what were some of your influences on the visual aspect of the show, and how does that play into the overall experience of seeing the band live?
MI: The ensembles are equally as important as the music. By changing our body proportions we change the experience for the listener as well as our own experience performing. I try and have a new costume for each show so they all stand alone as a one time production which cannot be repeated. We try and combine a theme of Sci-fi and indigenous peoples’ ritualistic attire. I grew up with hindi parents who gave me comic books of the Mahabharata to read as a kid. The colors and images of deities has definitely affected my ascetic as well.
DA: Your song ‘Cousinfriends’ has over 635 listens on SoundCloud since it was posted less than a month ago. How does it feel to have such support in the relatively short period of time you’ve been together, and were you at all surprised by the response?
Jacob Pitcher: Surprised? Yes, it feels great. Our mothers are probably responsible for 200-300 of those plays.
DA: What was the inspiration behind that particular song?
MI: I grew up living with my three cousins, one of which I used to call my “cousinfriend,” because she and I weren’t biologically related. The song is a combination of short phrases or mantras that I felt we might tell ourselves or one another to get by. The song also has a lot to do with being respectful of the land, specifically Maine’s coastlines, and using our environment to bring us back to earth when we feel caught up in life’s dramas.
DA: Lyrically speaking, is there an overall theme or message you’re trying to address in the songs you write?
MI: By comparing human and animal behaviors I try and make statements about the unnatural and natural patterns/habits of human life. My father grew up on a farm in Austria caring for livestock; growing up with a zoologist fanatic dad taught me a lot. The metaphors I use point out moments in life where instincts and impulses really command our actions- the moments when we might find ourselves most primal. I want to ask people to be aware of themselves and the daily decisions we make, the amount of waste we create, the foods we eat, and knowing where they came from.
DA: Speaking of significance of names, how did you arrive at the name for the band ‘Contrapposto’?
MI: Contrapposto is an Italian word that literally means “counterpose,” but in Grecian and Roman art history it is used to describe the way in which a person shifts their weight on to one hip when standing naturally. This artistic realization changed figurative art forever; it’s also ironic that it’s meaning is simply relaxed posture – an idea that might seem so meaningless.
DA: Your songs are extremely well written, produced, catchy, and overall damn awesome. How the hell do you do it all, and what sort of musical background does each of you come from?
MI: My uncles had a band in the late 70′s early 80′s called Human Sexual Response, they performed with bands such as The Ramones and Talking Heads. They have been exceptionally supportive throughout my life and gave me my first piano.
Both Jake and I meditate quite often, and chanting has definitely influenced our music. We work tremendously hard and are both highly critical of what’s put out.
DA: This weekend you’ll be playing with Altered Gee and God.Damn.Chan; have you played with either act before? If so what appeals to you about each? Who are some of your other favorite local artists?
JP: We haven’t played with either but I’ve seen Altered Gee and they’re fearsome. I first saw them at a basement show savage drunk, possessed by some demon gigolo spirit when I heard them play. Respect.
MI: Superorder. We played at Broadturn Farm with them for Space Galley’s production Feastland and they put on a astronomical performance.
JP: I also really enjoy Leif Sherman Curtis’ (guitar in Coalsack and Crux) solo guitar work; I lived with him for a few months this year and loved when he would play guitar in the apartment. Also jaw jems and glass fingers.
DA: How do you feel to be playing one of the last shows at Dirigimus, and what can fans expect at your show this weekend?
JP: We are thrilled to be playing at one of the greatest DIY spaces Portland has seen. Fans should expect nothing short of sheer shenanigans. Imagine your dopamine receptors running a marathon and then eating a purple freeze pop. The kind that cuts the corners of your mouth but reminds you of simpler times.
DA: What are your plans for the future? Can we expect an EP or album release anytime soon? Any other upcoming shows?
JP: We are mastering our EP next week and dropping a music video for Rabbit Habits in the next two weeks or so. Footage for another video has already been shot on Roaring Lion Farm and we plan on releasing that in November.
Listen to Contrapposto here: