Audio Frenzy bursts on the scene

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Equally at home in a folk music setting or on a rock stage, Daisy Morgan, Stas Edel and Ryen Laphan of Audio Frenzy have invented a new term to describe what they do: terra metal.

“We have a very earthy sound,” explains Lapham. “The wooden flutes, the kalimba, the hand drums give our music a very earthy tribal feel, but at the same time it’s driven by electric guitar.”

They can vary their sound just by varying the percussion. For a louder sound — and a completely different energy — Lapham will play a full drum kit.

It’s a dynamic act, and at the same time very fluid, and very hard to describe.

One of the first things that strikes you is Morgan’s voice, both its unusual timbre and the carefully modulated way she uses it. It’s not so much a vehicle for getting the lyrics across as it is an instrument that only she can play.

Edel, who plays guitar, sings back-up, in a sometimes gravelly voice that blends well with Morgan’s. As versatile as Morgan, who plays wooden flute and kalimba, Edel also sings lead occasionally. A crowd favorite is a song from his native Ukraine, called “Ja Ne Toi” — “I’m Not the One.” You don’t have to understand the lyrics to laugh along with it — you can tell it’s funny from the way Edel sings it.

Unlike a lot of bands in Socorro, Audio Frenzy plays very few covers. Apart from the Ukrainian number and a few songs by The Black Keys, almost all of their music is entirely original, and their lyrics tend not to be about specific events or experiences. One, called “Linda,” is about something that happened to a friend’s mother, but most are somewhat intangible.

“The lyrics are there to push the feeling of the song further,” Edel says.

Which is not to say their songs are about nothing.

“To me, they’re usually very somber,” Lapham says. “The imagery brought to mind is about overcoming obstacles, getting through the day. The lyrics just bring extra emotional content.”

Underneath it all is Lapham’s percussion, steady as a heartbeat, pulling at the listener like a strong current in deep water.

“Some of the longer pieces are definitely kind of thoughtful,” Edel says. “The point of the length is definitely to listen into the music, immerse yourself.”

Possibly their longest song at 15 minutes, and one of Lapham’s favorites, is called “Fall in New Mexico.” It’s a song in three movements — September, October and November, with spoken word poetry at the end. It’s a song that inspired one of the band’s posters — another thing that sets them apart from other bands in Socorro.

Wild Art

For every gig, Edel comes up with wild, new art in a colorful sci-fi comic style, often featuring a one-eyed, many-tentacled octopus-like creature.

“We like octopuses in general,” Morgan says. “They have very big brains and can turn all kinds of colors.”

At one point in his life, Edel spent a good deal of time doing astrophotography, which involves a lot of image processing and gave him the chance to learn Photoshop really well. He says it’s fun to be able to take that skill and apply it toward something completely different and creative.

Edel is now a grad student in astrophysics, as is Lapham. Morgan is a grad student in geochemistry, with a background in conservation biology. Lapham came to New Mexico Tech from Johnson City, Tenn. Morgan, the first in her family to go to college, came from what she’s refers to as the Chicagoland area in Illinois, and Edel came here from the Ukraine, via West Virginia.

Edel is basically self-taught. Although he came from a musical family — his mother is a pianist and his sister teaches a traditional many-stringed Ukrainian instrument called a bandura, he wasn’t encouraged to play music growing up.

“I view that as a fortunate thing that happened,” he says. “It’s difficult for me to communicate with other musicians sometimes, but it means I do not have as many boundaries. I have more creative freedom in how I express myself.”

Audio Frenzy’s songs usually start a guitar riff or a bass line that might come to Edel anywhere, in class even, that he tries to hold in his memory long enough to capture by recording it on his cellphone.

“Stas gets these waves of creativity and will write five or eight songs at once,” Lapham says. “There’s just no way we can get to all of them right away.”

Sometimes the lyrics come separately from the song, and are pieced together later with new music, but mostly it’s a very collaborative process where everyone writes their own part. Then Edel will sometimes send a work in progress electronically to Clifton Murray, who often sits in with the band, to work out a bass part.

“We trust each other,” Morgan says. “We let each other go creatively where they want to.”

The band hopes to record an album in the future, but for now, grad school is the priority and music is the release.

“It’s impossible to be a machine and doing work all the time,” Edel says. “Music is a way to get away and reset.”

How they find time for studies is a mystery — they have four Socorro gigs lined up in the near future. Friday night they’ll play a three-hour show at Old Town Bistro, and Saturday night they’re holding a benefit concert at the Capitol to help Morgan pay from medical bills from a recent foot surgery. Next Wednesday, they’ll be at Sofia’s, and the weekend before finals they’ll be the midnight show at the all-night Relay for Life event at Clarke Field.

At the benefit concert they’ll be joined on stage by Clifton Murray, Socorro regulars Johnny Dean and Ronna Kalish, Keith Morris, a band called Richard Malcolm and the Unusual Suspects from Albuquerque, and more. Everyone’s welcome, and hand-percussionists are invited to bring a drum and sit in. The band will also be raffling off Audio Frenzy t-shirts and original Audio Frenzy art, including posters and pieces on canvas.

 


-- Email the author at sbarteau@dchieftain.com.