There's something weird about watching a local electronica band rehearse. Electronica's dark and cold and dystopic. It's about nighttime and technology and the future. Rehearsal's hot and sweaty and loud. It's about daytime and someone's mom's living room and, in the case of the Speaker Junkies, a cute little horrible beast of a dog named Sam.
"Oh, by the way, he bites, so don't pet him," says the duo's manager as you arrive and sweet, evil Sam comes running over to wreak his special kind of canine terror all over your leg. Careful not to move too fast for fear that Sam will think it's a game, or that he'll smell your fear, or that he'll smell some other dog on you, or that he'll smell your crotch, or do any of those other quaint things people think dogs are always doing (except for the crotch-sniffing thing; dogs are always doing that), you gingerly inch away from Sam and into the plush-green-carpeted living room where the Speaker Junkies are standing behind their keyboards, getting ready to rehearse.
"We don't usually wear the masks when we rehearse," says Vota, as partner Will U? pulls on a gas mask. "Yeah, we're not that weird," adds Will U?, who has a question mark in his name. But today, because someone is filming the rehearsal for a video, they are that weird. They're fully weird in matching jump suits, lit-up headband things that look like a cross between sunglasses and miners' helmets, and the aforementioned gas masks. When they perform in clubs, they typically attach glowsticks to their arms and legs, but today, they are without glowsticks, perhaps because Sam might eat one and get sick from glowstick poisoning, although they never explicitly say this or even imply it.
Do you know how hard it is to rock out to pulsing club music performed live in a really nice living room while you're sitting in an easy chair trying to keep tabs on a small dog with the smell of human on its breath? But Vota and Will U? do a good job of pretending they aren't in a living room. They dance around in a vaguely robotic fashion and hit the keys in an overexaggerated way and tweak knobs and twiddle knobs and do all sorts of things involving tweaking and twiddling and knobs.
Speaker Junkies sound like an exploding video game set to a throbbing house soundtrack, so when you hear a combination of effects and beeps and buzzes and then you hear something repetitive that sounds like "WheezeezeezeeUSH, WheezeezeezeeUSH" (if you could write it out) and then another repeating thing that sounds like "whizza-whizza-whizza-whizza" and all of this is going on at the same time and speeding up and you're watching two guys in gas masks do things with knobs and keyboards, it's hard to tell exactly who's doing what and how it's all being created.
"Do they ever fuck up?" you ask their manager.
"Actually, I kind of wish they would mess up more because club promoters say they sound exactly like their CD," he tells you. "But they're really talented musicians, so they hardly ever mess up."
It's a weird thing to watch, this human manipulation of computer-generated sounds. "Whoa, this sounds sharp," Vota says at one point, cocking his head and listening intently to figure out whether the metallic pinging noise he's making is in tune.
Above Will U?'s keyboard is an effects board that has a D Beam—an invisible beam of ultra-red light connected to a sound or effect so that when you wave your hand over it the pitch changes, something like a theremin. It's cool, but you wonder why that's better than a knob or lever or some other form of sound manipulation.
"Why is that better?" you ask the manager. "Is it just because it's cool?"
"Yeah, because it's cool," he says. "It's technology, you know?"