PEPE LE GANGSTAIR
Brendan Britton, over-caffeinated astronomy professor, sat at a handmade bar in his cavernous loft on Washington Street one recent afternoon talking about his adventures in rap.
The Smithfield native, who teaches at Community College of Rhode Island, was a graduate student at Boston University in the early part of the decade when he would appear in Olneyville as over-sexed French hip-hopper Pepe Le Gangstair.
There were saucy French tarts, flaming baguettes, a mock Eiffel Tower, and a bunch of projectors. Too much, in the end. “The mise-en-scène got so complicated,” he said.
So after a brief turn as blind rapper B-Lite — wheeled about by naughty nurses, of course — Britton joined with his brother Benjamin, a drummer, and Brown University student Alexandra Kleeman on keytar to form electronic act Triangle Forest.
“I thought people were just seeing the slide shows and the naughty nurses, so Triangle Forest was about ‘Let’s have a fucking band,’ ” he said.
The band, one part Gary Numan (the synth pioneer behind the 1979 hit “Cars”) and one part ’80s pop, won WBRU’s Rock Hunt in 2007 — claiming air time and shows at Lupo’s, among other venues.
And a more recent shoutout on Kanye West’s blog brought an unexpected digital deluge for the group, now composed of the Britton brothers and Martin O’Connor of Llove (pronounced yuv).
“I woke up one day and my inbox had 50 MySpace friend requests,” said Britton. “No one told us. We couldn’t figure out what happened.”
But Triangle Forest’s dalliance with West was brief. There was no record deal. No tour with hip-hop royalty. And no surprise: the city’s electronic artists, if concerned with commercial viability, are just as interested in the sort of performance art that has long fueled the Providence underground.
Acts like Area C and Pleasurehorse tend toward avant-garde soundscape. Voknine’s coming collection of music — due out sometime in the fall — is one installment in a three-part, multi-media project that will also include paintings and a graphic novel.
The Awesome Brothers — couple Luke Boggia and Ashleigh Carraway, both 30 — are known as much for their goofy videos (Boggia vomiting a pile of undigested spaghetti onto Carraway’s head) as their goofy songs (the “Awesome Bros Theme Song” promises the band will give not 110 percent, like “your favorite athletes,” but 300 percent — 300 percent!).
And Anthony Ferreira, frontman for Spanish Dancer, is a sort of Renaissance City stab at Prince. Born to a Dominican father and Italian mother, he started out with post-punk outfit A Trillion Barnacle Lapse, which caught the attention of the Pitchfork web site, among other arbiters of cool.
Then it was on to the short-lived, but promising Honeyhander, described in these pages as a “dizzy brew of psychedelia and indie shoegazer,” before Ferreira re-emerged as Spanish Dancer — a greasy, flamboyant stage presence at his most outlandish in the early going.
Early Spanish Dancer was really kind of gaudy,” he said, in a recent telephone interview, a day after performing at the Spazzatorium, an underground club in Greenville, North Carolina. “I wore 60 gold chains and giant diamond earrings.”
But Ferreira, who was touring with drummer Eric Hastings, guitarist Matt Vaughan, and saxophone and electronics whiz Nick Caito, said Spanish Dancer has toned down the act a touch since then.