HOW IT’S DONE: The Awesome Brothers’ schematic.
The first time I caught an Awesome Brothers show, back in April when they opened the WBRU Rock Hunt Finals at the Living Room, there was a noticeable “WTF?” look around the room. I overheard a pair of blonde Someday Providence groupies snicker, “These two must be from RISD,” which I took that as a shot toward Luke Boggia and Ashleigh Carraway. But minutes later, the entire room was full of smiles and spontaneously spazzing out to “Mascara,” one of the electro-fueled rock numbers from the duo’s 2007 debut, 300%. Awesome Brothers finished a close second to the big arena-ready hooks of "It Was the Best of Times," but left a lasting impression with one of the most unique live sets I’ve seen lately — including the use of a video projection screen to supply the rhythm section, and some whimsical skits that bolstered the performance.
Yes, Boggia and Carraway are RISD alumni, having met while studying in the Film/Animation/Video department. Boggia played in a few indie bands while Carraway joined a band soon after graduation, but it wasn’t until a few years later that the pair decided to join forces and put that degree to work, making bizarre and often hilarious imagery to coincide with their self-proclaimed “visual/emotronic/rock music,” as headlined at their myspace.com/awesomebrothers page.
“I think our ultimate goal was just to have fun making music and videos while drawing in some new fans along the way,” Boggia recently told me. The end result was the thoroughly entertaining 300% (available at cdbaby.com); if the devil hosted a sock hop on mushrooms, this would be the quintessential soundtrack. Boggia’s falsetto often hovers around the Barry Gibb level; imagine Tiny Tim doing the Robot and you’re almost there. The opening “Awesome Bros. Theme Song” launches the call-and-response fun. Boggia goes into high gear while breaking down the album title: “We want to do better than your favorite athletes, to say that they give to you 110%/But we don’t give 110, or 115, or 200 or 299/But we will give you — 300%!” The number is repeated over and over by Carraway, playing the part of a demented cheerleader. Tracks such as “Secret Messages” and “Hotter and Higher” bring a rockabilly-meets-’80s New Wave approach, while the playful discourse on “This Is How We Bite” is similar to vintage Kim and Thurston. “I Like My Ladies Shy” kicks off with a revved-up riff and Boggia breathlessly croons, “Take a finger out and suck-suck-suck it in the corner of your mouth.”
On stage, the soundtrack accompanying the visuals on the projection screen often provides the beats, layered with Carraway’s synth and keys and Boggia’s drum pad. A test pattern and TV static converge to form a vicious rhythm. It’s unique without being overly experimental or abstract.
“We do write songs and can play instruments just like any other band,” Boggia said. “The only difference is that we use a video instead of a drummer. The only thing that might be hard to get across is that we don’t immediately appear to be a ‘band,’ since there are only two of us, and sometimes we don’t play traditional instruments,” Boggia continued. “But after the first few minutes people seem to get what we’re doing, and ultimately they like it.”