Genuis plays with words and sounds
The Davis-born electronica act tackles the dictionary and song structures alike
The duo is called Genuis, and no, that’s not a typo. It’s pronounced like genius. Or genuous. Or take a softer, more French-sounding approach: “zhahn-wah.”
Genuis does not have anything particular in mind.
“We admire geniuses but we couldn’t spell it right,” says Anthony Leedom, half of Genuis.
Ha ha, very funny. But that doesn’t explain why Genuis released an album in December called Vtruea. Or why some of its song titles almost resemble real words, like “Wprds” or “Orphilian.”
“You know how some people have synesthesia, when they hear a sound they see a color? I have that with word patterns,” says Lien Do, the second half of Genuis.
Ever since she was young, Do would make up words based on a visual pattern or a feeling, rather than a definition. She carried this over to Genuis.
“It fits the music too, because you can’t really describe it in words,” Leedom says. “You just kind of make up stuff for how it sounds.”
True. Here’s an attempt: Genuis creates rich electronica that’s ethereal and experimental. Its older songs veer toward dark, ambient soundscapes drenched in reverb, while newer stuff feels more clean, textured and precise.
Do and Leedom met in 2009, down in the basement offices of UC Davis’ free-form radio station KDVS. They clicked immediately as friends: two shy, sort of dorky music lovers, working separately on bedroom electronic projects. Eventually, they merged efforts, with Leedom taking on most of the technical songwriting and Do contributing her classical background and lush vocals that seem to stretch on forever.
Within a couple of years, Genuis grew to become a favorite underground act in Davis. The Davis love continues today, even though neither Do nor Leedom live in the college town. Do resides in San Francisco while Leedom calls Sacramento home, though he’s planning a move to Austin, Texas, this summer.
It won’t impede their music-making too much, though, as Vtruea was primarily a result of digital collaboration. Already, Genuis is thinking ahead to its next record. Do hopes it’ll be truly representative of the sound Genuis wants to create, with just the right blend of samples and synthesizer. Less reverb and delay than its debut .//WAV, yet more gritty than Vtruea.
“I feel like [Vtruea] was the growing pains album—almost there, but not quite,” she says.
If you look up Genuis online—after telling Google that you were, indeed, searching for “Genuis” and not “Genius”—you’ll probably find alternative identities for Do and Leemon: elfboi and &nthony, respectively. For Do, the nickname is an act of reclamation. When she was 12, kids made fun of her for looking like a boy. One day, a mosquito bit her ear, and “elf” got thrown into the taunting mix.
At live shows, she doesn’t necessarily introduce herself as elfboi, but she does take on a different persona.
“Music and real life are separate,” she says. “If I bring my anxiety and neuroticism to the stage, I’ll never be able to perform.”
For Leedom, &nthony doesn’t hold as significant a meaning. It’s just for fun—another distinction that adds to the unique world of Genuis. As he says: “If you pick a word in the dictionary, it’s been done before.”