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LA-based dance-pop duo Walter Meego don’t watch TV, even though their music is always on it
“It just popped into our minds,” says Walter Meego’s Colin Yarck of their chosen moniker, a spin on “alter ego.” “It poked fun at coming up with a band name.” Walter Meego is the electronic pop outfit Yarck shares with Justin Sconza, and the music they make together—with Sconza singing and Yarck handling beats and synths—is every bit as cheeky and unusual as the name they’ve given it.
Following a string of buzz-building singles over the past few years, Walter Meego are in mid-breakout thanks to Voyager, a proper album that revisits the earlier tracks “Wanna Be a Star” and “Keyhold,” but also finds the duo at a new level in the quest to fuse pop and dance music into a shiny, soulful entity all its own—behold the album opener “Forever” and the difficulty of deciding whether to shake your backside or sing along. (Hint: You’ll do both.)
“Really, it was just the natural evolution of how it was going to sound with Justin and me,” explains Yarck. “We were both heavily into pop and dance music at the time, too. I think most people understand that if you strip [the music] down, you can play it on piano.” He adds that, while he mostly handles production and Sconza songwriting, “We both go back and forth and bleed into each other’s specialties.”
Yarck repeatedly emphasizes the duo’s pop core. “In most cases, there’s a song before there’s any kind of sound or rhythm to it,” he says. “Chords and melodies first.” Likewise, though Yarck says Voyager is “definitely where we are at the moment,” he sees the band closing in on pop in the future. “It’s definitely moving in that direction: song, song, song.”
Between Sconza’s fun, somewhat effeminate singing and Yarck’s throbbing beats and sparkling melodies, Walter Meego’s tunes are more infectious than most pop and zippier than most dance music. Everything is huge and fuzzy and colorful, like a thousand giant champagne bottles erupting at once. And if Voyager doesn’t sound quite like anything else out there today, there’s something in it for fans of MGMT (the slow glow of “Your Love”), Scissor Sisters (the disco-brightened “Baby Please”), Hot Chip (the sultry thump of “Tomorrowland”) and Ratatat (the bristling hook of “Girls”).
And, of course, there’s Daft Punk, another duo who knew that memorable vocal refrains were just as important as fizzy synths and a rubbery beat. “I think they’re great,” says Yarck of the influential Frenchmen. “They definitely do what they do impeccably well. We’re trying to do it our own way. We’re a lot more focused on the songs underneath the other stuff.”
Walter Meego also nod toward classical music with the defining sample of “Keyhole,” and Yarck admits they’re classical fans. “Definitely. I would give most of that credit to Justin. He was trained on piano as a kid.”
Now based in LA, Walter Meego formed in the somewhat-cerebral music scene of Chicago, where the band’s members were born and raised. “We definitely occupied a space of our own. I wouldn’t necessarily say we stylistically fit in,” Yarck observes. “LA is a totally different animal. We’ve only been there eight months, so we’re still exploring.” Part of that exploring, he adds, means taking advantage of free drinks at the city’s countless music-industry events.
Yarck and Sconza are now part of that industry, thanks to Voyager’s release on the New York City label Startime International—former home of the Walkmen, French Kicks and the Futureheads, among others—and the repeated use of their songs on television, from the Discovery Channel to the Olympics to ABC’s Ugly Betty. “It’s kind of surreal,” says Yarck. “The Ugly Betty thing happened, and we found out right before the show aired. It seemed to be an okay show. We don’t watch a lot of TV. It’s definitely a little strange, but as soon as it happens, you sort of get used to it.”
Now in the midst of a cross-country tour, Walter Meego should capitalize nicely on the momentum of those TV snippets and Voyager’s strong reviews with a high-impact live show that’s augmented by touring member Andrew Bernhardt on keyboards and guitar.
“It’s another person onstage,” Yarck explains. “More options, more layers, more guitar work, more showmanship. It’s as physical as it is engaging mentally. As far as electronics are concerned, we’re manipulating everything live as much as possible. We bring out the sampler and leave the computer at home.”