Electronic music is a lot more than just pressing buttons and turning knobs to see what sounds can be created. It’s a lot more abstract with structures, rhythms and tones having a major presence, just in a different form than how a typical rock band would exhibit them. In Rhode Island there’s a community for this musical style that’s prevalent in Providence, Pawtucket and the surrounding areas. Joe-Lou is both a musician involved in and an advocate for electronic music and he has a show coming up on September 23 at 8pm at the News Cafe on 43 Broad Street in Pawtucket. Joining him on the checked floor will be Caloric, D.U.M.E. and Slono for what should be a very interesting evening.
Joe-Lou and I recently had a talk about what got him into electronic music, making his own helmets, liking to make various videos and an event that’s happening in the area next month that he’s excited about.
Rob Duguay: What got you into making electronic based music?
Joe-Lou: I think it’s because of how it’s the most accessible kind of music you can make. When I was in high school I tried starting bands and stuff but it was so hard to wrangle people together. I’m a bit of a control freak and I was worried that I would come off rude while telling people what to do so electronic music is really the only way I can do everything myself all at once. It’s more of an efficiency thing than an aesthetic choice or whatever.
RD: That makes sense. You also have a multimedia aspect to what you do because you have your own Youtube channel. There’s a recent one you did with the Providence arts organization AS220 where you had a virtual performance and one of my personal favorites is where you’re wearing a cat pajama onesie and you’re going off on a tangent about music genres. How are you able to put the video aspect into your creative output? What made you want to combine the two together?
JL: I’ve always been kind of like a theater kid even though I didn’t get to do drama club as a kid because I was working full-time. I’ve always wanted to do that kind of stuff but I want to be interesting to people even if they don’t like the music. Sometimes my music gets a little weird, niche and very specific and I want everyone to have a good time even if they’re not following along with a certain beat or whatever.
RD: When you perform live, you're usually wearing a cardboard helmet of some sort with lights shining off of it. Did you make the helmet yourself? Do you have multiple helmets? Do you feel more comfortable performing in front of people while wearing it?
JL: Yeah, I make all the helmets myself. They’re actually just cardboard and cardboard sculpting is one of my favorite mediums because it’s super accessible and it’s sort of the opposite of everything else that I do. I don’t know if I’m necessarily comfortable in the helmet but it’s more practical in a lot of ways because I always rig them up with lights. I like to perform in venues that are really dark because I don’t have to worry about having enough lighting, on my helmets I always have the perfect amount of light. They’re basically like headlights on a car so I can always see what I’m doing perfectly.
Some of the helmets even have fans in them for air conditioning so a lot of times when it’s really hot in a venue it’s actually cooler when I’m wearing my helmet. I’m guessing that I have between 12 and 15 of them.
JL: Some of them are really junky, they’re ones I’ve trashed but in terms of ones I’ve spent a lot of time on there are five of them I’d say.
RD: The upcoming show at the News Cafe is being presented by your event coordinating, online discovery and networking organization SquarePop. What inspired the creation of SquarePop and what's the organization’s primary mission?
JL: SquarePop actually started a long time ago, probably like 13 years ago, as just an online magazine. Basically what happened was I used to work for a different website and we would cover video games. The website closed down and me and some other friends who were writing about video games wanted to keep it going so for a little while it was an online magazine and then eventually I got so caught up in all of my music stuff that I couldn’t really keep managing that ship. It dissolved and then we kind of kept the name and kept it going so we keep all of the old articles online as kind of an archival thing but we use the name for booking any kind of art that we like. The whole idea is that we wanted to have this online calendar for people to check out and while they’re there there’s an opportunity to kind of click around the site and discover some artist or this or that.
There hasn’t been a lot of writing and one day I’d like to get back to making it more of a magazine. We’ve talked about branching out in other ways, whether that means making an indie record label or something else. All SquarePop is at this point is just anything that me or some of my close friends wanna see happen. We just kind of put it under that name and try to make it happen. In terms of a mission, it’s definitely trying to serve art that we feel is being underserved.
I really love to book artists that have never played a show before or they’re trying to get their feet on the ground. Maybe there’s a specific genre of something that people don’t even know is happening locally so that’s what I want to do. It’s not about making big shows, it’s sort of looking around to see what’s not happening and trying to make a space for it basically.
RD: After this show at the News Cafe, what are your musical plans for the rest of the year?
JL: I’m helping out with this thing called “Dead and Dashing: A Horror Themed Variety Show” that’s happening in Pawtucket on October 9th at TEN31 Productions headquarters on 249 Roosevelt Avenue. My bandmate Maiden X from our synth sci-fi pop project Space Heater is involved and I’m going to provide some backup tunes as one of my silly DJ alter egos. Last time they did it, it was freakin’ amazing. They had some really spooky acts ranging from burlesque to performance art, it’s all Halloween themed and it’s a really cool time so that’s what I’m looking forward to the most.