It’s official. The 80’s – so hot right now.
This is actually not news. This is a trend that has been building over the last decade and is now in full swing. For proof see Daft Punk’s 2013 Grammy Album of the Year, R.A.M. (hint: the secret ingredient is disco). Dozens of bands have been taking part in this trend, but one of the latest is Nashville’s Myzica. After forming in early 2014, Isaaca Byrd and Micah Tawlks produced a slick self-titled synth-pop EP that is quite easy to love. The band manages to do what many others operating in this space can’t (see: the new 1975 song). They take the best parts of 80’s synth pop and fuse it with everything that has come since. It’s a style that acknowledges that there is a reason 80’s music is going through its resurgence, but there’s also a reason some things got left in the 80’s.
The first song off the EP is the first Myzica song ever, “Ready or Not.” It’s also pretty damn groovy. What separates this from other synth-pop songs of the 80’s and today is that it’s not overblown. They knew when to stop- when there were too many things going on. This is a trend that drives not only this song, but much of Myzcia’s music. The bouncy pocket of the verse in this song comes from the scarcity of the drums, bass and guitar. Each instrument is playing something reserved, yet interesting. The parts work together to build a tasty bed of greens for the Isaaca’s Raspberry-vinaigrette voice (sweet, with a bit of bite; adds significant color).
Friday the band opened for COIN at 3rd and Lindsley in Nashville. Their promising EP seeded high expectations that the band followed through on. Isaaca and Micah were joined on stage by Garreth Spinn on guitar and Dabney Morris on drums. The pair fit in nicely, playing the syncopated parts with energy and flare, but without overstepping their bounds. Morris did a nice job integrating the various electronic drum noises without losing the feel of the song, and Spinn impressed not only with his complex-yet-reserved rhythm guitar, but also with his spry dance moves.
A highlight of the set came with a performance of Myzica’s newest release, a cover of “I Was Made For Lovin You” by KISS. This is a perfect cover for them. The original is from the time period that the genre references, but not exactly from the genre itself. Their version is fresh and dancy, different from the original, but still fueled by its nostalgia. While this seemed to be missed by the significant portion of the crowd that was there for COIN (aka: in high school), it did release a blast of energy into the room.
The stellar performance was hindered by only a few things, and keep in mind, this is being pretty nit-picky. Firstly, the band would benefit from more dynamic lighting. You can’t blame them here too much, as they were not the headlining act and therefore didn’t get the full treatment. But the groovy, exciting music calls for a groovy, exciting stage atmosphere to match. Myzica could also benefit from having a higher quality sound maintenance. While the sound was by no means bad, it seemed like it was not the ideal mix for them. Again, the venue had to leave room for the headline to come on after and sound better/louder, but the issue was more the mix than the volume. Isaaca’s voice was clear, but the synth sounds didn’t quite match up with the acoustic ones. In particular, the electric drum sounds lacked the body and presence they needed to fill out the songs.
Finally, the band needs a pinch more stage presence. When the music is super active, this is not a problem. For instance, when Isaaca was singing, she was captivating. She carried an energy and excitement that was contagious. But when she stepped back from the mic, that energy melted away. While she shouldn’t be in the forefront for the whole show, the group could find a way to carry that intensity throughout the more “low-energy” parts of the set.
These “issues” might seem trivial to some, but they stood out because everything else about the group was so polished. They are great musicians with great songs. They have a cool look and a cool sound. With a few tweaks, their live performance could go from “a lot of fun” to “absolutely bonkers.”
I’ll be keeping my fingers crossed.