Live in Chicago, Day 2: Pretty Good Dance Moves

photos by Jeremy Farmer
review and interview by Sheryl Witlen

It is easy to see why Chicago loves Pretty Good Dance Moves. The threesome recently won a place among the Top 10 on FameCast, an online artist discovery site that tallies votes from its viewers, allowing them to voice their affection for their favorite performances which in turn garnered the band placement in Billboard magazine. The band is the baby of both Jimmy Giannopoulos and Aaron Allietta who spent many afternoons experimenting with different synthetic sounds and complicated electronic melodies all the while searching for that something special in the form of a female presence for their collaborations. Enter Genevieve Schatz, chanteuse extraordinaire. Jimmy and Genevieve  (also of Chicago’s Company of Thieves) are the voices of PGDM, flirting and playing off one another in a constant male/female contest of skill and strength. Where Genevieve sounds wispy and alluring Jimmy tosses his game right back with moody and mellow undertones keeping their atmospheric affects grounded.  Theirs is music that makes you gently sway and groove to the minimalistic sounds of the violin, xylophone and keyboard beats. Genevieve invites her audience to “come and dance with me… we’ll shed our demons dancing” with such sensuality and innocence one cannot help but want to join her for the journey. Aaron might seem like he is in the background since he is the only member of the band who does not have a vocal presence but without his adept performance on keyboard Pretty Good Dance Moves would be stranded on a stark dance floor searching for a beat to call their own. Here is a sound technician and musician in one, proudly boasting of discovering his talents with the help of a “closet of keyboards.” Most of their songs center around the age old traditional chase between males and females discovering and losing love. The circular repetition of this ritual translates into looping rhythms and repetitive lyrical passages. On their single that bears the same name as the band Genevieve confesses her frustrations and illusions calling out to the unknown, “I will never understand…” Taking advantage of residing in both Chicago and Brooklyn (Jimmy recently moved to Williamsburg), the band has been soaking up the best of both music communities and hopes to give back to woo their eagerly awaiting audiences with stellar, passionate performances. Their first EP, PGDM was released back in January and recently David Wolf (who has worked with the likes of Canada’s Crystal Castles) took their track, “Demons Dancing” for spiced up-remixed version which you can check out on the band’s MySpace page. As they’re planning to release a full album soon, Pretty Good Dance Moves are sure to be one of the most touted bands of 2008. 

Sheryl: So you just released your EP in January and you’ve been touring a lot in Chicago. Do you have plans for a national tour?

Aaron: Well actually, like I said [on the air], this was the first live show that we did. Originally it was a studio project that Jimmy and I started, and then once we met Genevieve the chemistry with all three of us clicked really well, and that kind of became the core trio, and, literally, like we were saying during our interview with John, we literally finished the album last night, five hours ago, so I think the plan is now to try and do some CMJ shows and then from there, just kind of get our name out and hopefully support another group, maybe, if there was a tour. We haven’t even talked about it, but we’d probably be talking about next spring.

Jimmy: We’d be opening for a band called Company of Thieves.

Sheryl: How convenient. (laughter) How did you all meet? You were with Company of Thieves (to Genevieve). Were you two with another band, or…

Jimmy: Yeah, it’s actually kind of interesting. We’ve known each other for a while. I recorded here in his studio years ago… when was that thing?

Genevieve: Maybe four years ago, I was seventeen at the time…

Jimmy: Like four years ago, yeah. So we were working with somebody that was working with her as well, in her old band, so we kind of, you know…

Aaron: Discovered this incestuousness in Chicago music community. Just to give you an example, the other day when I was talking to Genevieve, she said, “Oh, yeah, I was at a party at your house like three years ago.” It’s like we all know kind of each other and we hear each other’s bands and we heard her sing and then we both agreed we’d love to have her do some stuff on our album. That was the original idea, to just get some nice female vocals, and it just kind of clicked, and we thought we should just do this all the time.

Jimmy: We looked at a bunch of different female vocalists and, we just thought, “Nah.” At first we were like, oh, we don’t need one, but then it was like, yes we need someone-we definitely need it. I mean, it’s a HUGE part.

Aaron: It’s like a give and take, with his voice and the presence of the female vocals.

Sheryl: I think what you said is key, though. It’s like a community in Chicago. I’m from New York, actually, and Brooklyn is the same way, local bands support local bands, and take each other on tour, and it really helps.

Aaron: That would be ideal. We could do a Company of Thieves and Pretty Good Dance Moves tour thing.

Sheryl: So, Jimmy, you live in Brooklyn now?

Jimmy: Yeah.

Sheryl: How do you split the time?

Jimmy: I just come back a lot. I just got out of here because I needed to get out of here, so I just picked up and started from scratch. Met a bunch of people, i’ve really gotten into the music scene with all of these musicians out there, like you said. It’s a really tight — my friends and all these people and we all know each other, we all hang out, we all work together at bars, and I’ve really just gotten involved in that, which is great. I commute back and forth, and it’s great for us, because we can play out there now, and we’ve actually turned it into demand, because we’ve never played a show so everyone’s, “when are you gonna play, when are you gonna play, where’s the CD?” and now we can actually say we’re going to play, and hopefully they will come, instead of saying, “Hey, you’ve never heard my music, but here’s my CD, listen to it. Like it? Come tomorrow.”

Aaron: I’ve been playing in bands for about ten years, and I think after a while you learn that you can either take the approach of, we’re just going to play show after show after show, and throw the CD around, but I think the approach that we took is good, so many more people know about this band than any other band I’ve created, and now you can play a show. I mean, you can spend your energy in so many better ways, and focus on making the album sound good, and if you waste your time doing three or four shows a week, it just drains you.

Sheryl: There is something to be said about working from the ground up: hitting the streets, getting everybody excited, shooting music videos, and just have a heavy presence on the web, but it has to be refreshing to have the demand already out there, looming. Is that how you were discovered by David Wolf, he is a pretty big deal having worked with Crystal Castles. Due to your presence on the blogs?

Jimmy: He does a couple of songs on their record, he does remixes for them, for Of Montreal, a bunch of bands we loved. I listened to his stuff, I said this guy’s great-shared it with Aaron and Genevieve.

Aaron: We did an opening DJ set for Crystal Castles, probably a month and a half ago. When we did that we were checking them out, and we heard, David’s Wolf remix stuff was great.

Jimmy: Yeah, we said, we have some songs, would you be interested, and he said, absolutely. We sent him the tracks.

Aaron: And he did an amazing job of it.

Sheryl: Which track was that again?

Aaron: The last song we played Demons Dancing, he did a remix of that, it’s this real club beat kind of thing.

Sheryl: So Aaron, you mentioned you have a closet full of keyboards.

Aaron: We have… my friend Tim and I, we co-run a recording studio up in Lincoln Square, at Montrose and Damen, and, like I said… I grew up playing classical piano, and I used to play jazz piano in college, and over the years with the different bands, I accumulated all these keyboards, and when Jimmy and I became friends, we were bartending together, his idea was that he wanted to do songs but not from that singer-songwriter — at least what I bring to the band is different arrangement ideas, using different kinds of instrumentation, and I thought we should do the keyboard-bass kind of thing. Every band I’ve ever played in has been that traditional drums-guitar-bass, and as a keyboardist you’re limited to how you’re structurally fitting that in and texturally to be able to go completely overboard with keyboards is my dream, it’s fun.

Sheryl: A lot of bands are experimenting more and more with not using the traditional instruments. Are there any ones that you guys particularly like, that you’re into now?

Aaron: All sorts of things

Jimmy: A lot of things. Of course, there’s a lot of newer bands that come out, like MGMT, which is pretty cool, and they’ve got a lot of interesting things-they sound like an actual band, but they do electronic. It’s really cool, what they do, and people are noticing them, so that’s fun to have.

Aaron: Keyboard-bass bands, like The Album Leaf, and Sigur Ros, those two bands. How it’s mixed, or volume-wise, I feel like they’re kind of like they are a good inspiration and starting block for us.

Sheryl: Well, thank you, you all sounded great, we were super excited to have you.

Aaron, Jimmy, & Genevieve: Thank you.

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