Thank you, good night!
“Three men, two bass players, one drummer, three laptops and a weirdo” is how Xtevion, the enigmatic and theatrical vocalist/drummer of the band Schizopolitans, describes the group’s current line-up, “version 8.0.”
“It makes it sound like a lot more people than it actually is,” says Xtevion. He means his description, but the same could be said for the band’s music, which sounds like it’s made by more than just three people.
Schizopolitans has been holding down the far-left spot of the Reno music scene since ’04, through various line-ups, but the current all-rhythm-section configuration, which features Xtevion and bassists Andy Jorgensen and Hector Urtubia, might be the best yet.
The band still creates the same mix of arty, polyrhythmic post-punk, old-timey vaudevillian theater, and ear-popping electronica, but all the elements are better integrated now than ever before. The absence of a guitar seems to have liberated the musicians. Jorgensen and Urtubia interweave elastic basslines that alternate low and high, rhythm and melody.
“It’s like magic,” says Urtubia, when describing the bassists’ seemingly telepathic communication.
Xtevion moves back and forth from playing behind a full drum kit to standing up and playing his “Big Black Stick,” a 6-feet-5-inches piece of plastic pipe loaded with electronic drum triggers. His drum parts follow the neat trick of beginning in a way that almost seems off-time before moving into the pocket. The absence of guitar also gives his vocals a lot of harmonic space in which to move, and he ranges from a David Byrne top to a Tom Waits bottom.
All three musicians play with open MacBooks in front of them, and they use a variety of loops and special effects. Jorgensen and Urtubia also double on occasional keyboards. The various electronic sounds contribute to the sonic impression of a 12-person avant garde mini-orchestra.
But fundamentally all Schizopolitans music is about rhythm, so no matter how dense and abstract the music might get, or how theatrical Xtevion’s vocals might be, there’s always a babymaking groove that holds everything together.
The group writes its songs through collective improvisation. They record their improvisational jams, and afterward go back though the recordings to discover the seeds of verses and choruses. This writing process lends itself to the group’s polyrhythmic music.
The band’s next show is Friday, July 22, with Merkin, at Studio on 4th, 432 E. Fourth St.
“It’s an Artown thing, so we’ll play up the art part of art rock,” says Xtevion. “I like to think it’s more art than rock anyway.”
One of the Schizopolitans’ mottos is “Most bands play music …” and fans can fill in the rest of the sentence, or not, however they see fit.
“I’m supposed to be doing Shakespeare,” says Xtevion, a classically trained actor. He had an acclaimed turn as Othello in a Brüka Theatre production back in’01. The Shakespearean sensibility is present in the Schizopolitans’ songs.
“They’re all huge epics,” says Xtevion. “They’re all closers. We have a hard time figuring out how to open sets. … Every song is like, ‘Thank you, good night!’ and everybody’s dead at the end.”