Skates. The name says it all, really. Skates propel you forward while everyone else is taking clunky steps and falling over. Skates work best in pairs. Skates can cut like a cold blade, or roll smoothly like a car at night. Skates make you think of the days when roller rinks, polyester, and passionate music still ruled the earth. Skates mixes elements of hip-hop and electronica with decade-spanning vocal styles. Well, okay. Maybe the name doesn't say that last one. But it should, dammit. And Todd Drootin and Melissa Dungan, the masterminds behind Skates, will do their darndest to change it.
Todd Drootin has been doing salchows and tight spins around 'serious' electronic music for years as Books on Tape. Racking up high marks in both technical and artistic presentation, he has been dominating North America's DIY electronics scene. He recently shared the spotlight in a CMJ showcase with Tigerbeat6's Stars As Eyes in 2003. His most recent album, Books on Tape Sings the Blues, took the college world (and the heart of the Russian judge) by storm. He has appeared with acts ranging from Cursive and TV on the Radio to Restiform Bodies and Daedelus. He is known for his energetic live shows and left-side-of-the-rink style. When he's not holding a bouquet of roses and waiting for his score, he spends his time in his recliner with his cat, Nasty, and tries with all his strength to think rationally over the beats that pound in his head. He rarely succeeds, but his love of Italian food, electronic gear, political debate, board games, free jazz, and tight sequined open-shirt costumes help him through the tough days.
Meanwhile, Melissa Dungan executes verbal flips and lutzes with high degrees of difficulty. She draws on diverse influences all over beat literature, modern day comedy and social commentary, vocalists both real and imagined, and (of course) Brian Boitano. She has a funny habit of going completely nuts on stage, prompting audience reactions that range from staring dumbfounded to dancing spastically to holding up cards with numbers on them and cheering. Putting on her solo electronica alter-ego MQ Musik, she has performed with high flyers like David Cross to Nina Hagen. As the singing half of Skates, she has fun throwing her art through the fan at musical genres that are too concerned with borders and themselves. She gathers money... I mean, lyrical inspiration from her job of catering parties for pets of wealthy celebrities in Southern California. When she's not practicing the footwork for her 'Lord of the Dance on Ice' routine, she watches old movies, drinks coffee, listens to a lot of music, and teaches her ridiculously smart dog Akira tricks that the President himself couldn't figure out.
Together, Todd and Melissa form Skates, a duo that's guaranteed to win any pairs competition worldwide. By fusing Todd's crunchy beats and ambience with Melissa's smooth croon and quirky raps, Skates goes beyond easy categorization, frustrating the Genre Nazis and forcing people to argue with a lot of hyphens. ("It's lounge-hop-punk-illbient-industrial!" "No, it's hip-jazz-folk-funk-tronica!") Whatever it is, it sure makes even the most corrupt judge cheer, and the most jaded fans leap for joy and throw their hats onto the ice. Skates will be touring the Midwest, East Coast, and Southeast during October/November, so be sure to look for them at a rink near you.
(Note: References to ice skating may not reflect actual artists.)