Party hardy with Telephoned!
- Soul spinning duo beats up Calgarian club-goers.
The nebulous coalition of two of the brightest lights on the Brooklyn dance scene, Telephoned is a pulsating DJ-meets-soul vocalist entity dedicated to carving out the choicest pop music cuts and serving them up fresh to order.
The power and the passion behind Telephoned’s collage of fantastical cover tunes and off-the-wall sound collages, DJ/production wizard Sammy Bananas and dancehall queen Maggie Horn effectively cross-patch genres and eras as she sings (and dances) over his adept sampling. The duo’s hypnotic skewering of hit-makers T-Pain, DJ Webstar, The-Dream, Shake Aletti and the like has placed them amongst the industry’s most celebrated pop-chart plunderers. No longer content with simply wrangling mainstream rhythms and absconded auto-tunes, Telephoned has recently made the leap to generating original music just two years into staging their mesmerizing switchboard cabarets.
“I’m looking forward to coming back to Calgary,” says Bananas. “DJing at the HiFi is always a blast. Compared to my solo disc-spinning days, things have gradually changed to the point where I have pretty much phased that aspect of performing out of my work with Telephoned. Now we’re to the point where I don’t DJ in our set anymore. Of course, our live show retains all of those mixtape and cover-song influences that come out of our mashed-up style, but now I’m playing drum pads and a bunch of electronic doo-dads as well.”
Dubbed “the most fun thing at SXSW” by Pitchfork, the uptempo Telephoned are motivated to continue in their nascent songwriting efforts. Master manipulators, the duo immediately recognized the benefits of drawing from an enhanced palate of twisted electronic hues. Whether packing venues with their “Off the Hook” street rap graffiti or jumping on Chromeo’s “Business Casual” tour, Bananas and Horn “Keep Their Heads Ringin’” by artfully “recontextualizing” the commonplace and spoiling audiences with their multi-layered spectacle.
“We’ve altered our setup drastically. We can legitimately call ourselves a band now,” Horn says. “For my end of it, I’ve been finding my voice. I dance a lot less and sing more. I’m known for my dancing and entertaining and I love that sense of movement, but it has been nice to slow down and catch my breath. Given the choice I prefer to sing and not to have all that extra space to fill with sheer physical activity.”
Sourcing New York, the mecca of club culture, for inspiration, Telephoned is dialed into the edgy DFA Records tropes that put disco-nerds squarely at the centre of it all. Falling somewhere between indie house and melted funk, the pair introduced their galvanizing retro reverb and hip-rolling bass lines with their self-titled EP on Fool’s Gold in 2010. A Polaroid snapshot of the cavernous echoes and reverberating drums, the debut laid the foundation of their instrumental architecture.
“We’re still really versatile in that we can make sense when we perform in a lot of different environments,” Bananas says. “As a ‘proper’ band, we possess a lot more interesting depth within our dynamic. A good example of this change is the moments that are created when Maggie’s singing becomes the centre of attention onstage. Her lyrical melodies give us a much broader appeal than the DJ sets. I think it’s a really cool format to work with, I love seeing people interpreting and absorbing as they’re dancing and responding to her directly. There’s something about being present in the music.”
Taking their name from a schoolyard pastime that leaves plenty of room for personal interpretation of the facts, Telephoned has no intention of quitting the cover ’n’ remix game. Sought-after producers in their own right, the globe-trotting team intends to keep the party-line going with fans online by dropping digital singles and churning out those coveted mixtapes.
“Our songwriting style has definitely been informed by changes in the way we perform onstage and vice versa,” Horn explains. “We had to present ourselves differently according to a set that has more words. I feel like it’s a continuum of constant surprises. Even when we’re doing our covers, the original instrumentation finds a voice and shines through. I get really excited to hear what Sam will do next — a MIDI track with a wicked sax solo at the end, a reimagining of “Castles in the Snow,” or Frank Ocean’s “Swim.” I enjoy standing back and watching him go. When we’re at festivals and I see people in the crowd dancing and singing along to these cool hooky tracks, I know they’re connecting with the music and being inspired by the dream.”
Author: Christine Leonard-Cripps
Originally published: FFWD Magazine May/12