Chalk it up to his sister’s taste in boyfriends. Showing interest in her beater guitar, ten-year-old Randy Bergida was instructed by the paramour to sit in his room and strum until he made a sensible rhythm. “I learned the guitar by writing,” the Skidmore Fountain frontman reveals. “I figured if I could write songs that were harder than I could play, I would get good.”
Skidmore Fountain is an indie rock band that feels simultaneously classic and unconventional, comfortable and disquieting. Five-string electric cello (its fifth string acts as bass), guitar, drums, and vocals make up the Brooklyn-based band. Multi-Grammy award-winning producer Ken Lewis (John Legend, David Byrne, Beastie Boys) produced the band’s 11-track sophomore release, Break (Triple R Records), a complex, textural and certainly modern sound. “A lot of innovative and enjoyable music here,” Music Morsels wrote of the disc. “Brooklyn’s Skidmore Fountain sprays out poppy streams of alt-rock with surprising dexterity,” proclaimed CMJ New Music Report. “The gobs of catchy choruses seem destined for crowd shout-alongs.”
It was in Brooklyn that the original three multicultural multi-instrumentalists—Randy, guitarist Steven Cohen and cellist Topu Lyo—joined with veteran R&B/ska drummer Dylan Wissing (Johnny Socko, Novel). Together, the solid quartet quickly gelled into an advanced, exciting group with unique indie rock orchestration. Avant-garde electronica elements sit atop old-school soul and rock-steady grooves, giving the music a kind of dubby Björk/Massive Attack/Arcade Fire vibe.
Working musicians all, Dylan feels that the group has already “made it,” to some extent. “To be able to do this and sustain makes me happy,” he says. Adds Steven, “The biggest challenge is having four extremely passionate and sensitive musicians fully love every song.” Still, there are landmarks on the horizon, ones Skidmore Fountain is confident they’ll achieve.
“I feel we can jump in whenever the time is right,” says Randy. “Our sound can bend about a bit, appeal to a wide range of listeners yet still appease the indie rockers. After all, we have a five-string cellist who’s looping bass lines and singing melodies with his upper strings.” In fact, Topu’s contributions often feel a bit classical, recalling the avant-garde minimalism from the ’50s and ’60s, and composers like Stockhausen, Steve Reich and Terry Riley.
The four spent the better part of the winter writing new material and will soon head into the studio to record the follow up to Break. Both regional and national touring are planned for 2008, along with aggressive college radio and publicity campaigns.
“It’s all about being creative,” Topu concludes. “Keep inventing. Never stop. Search for new song themes, new textures. Ask new questions, not the same ones over and over.”
Listeners who follow this advice are sure to end up at Skidmore Fountain’s door, ready for refreshment.
Official showcases at the CMJ Music Marathon and PLAY:stl Festival; headlining gigs at Arlene’s Grocery, Knitting Factory, The Bitter End and the legendary CBGB’s
Performed live on the nationally syndicated Joey Reynolds Show; heavy rotation on Radio Crystal Blue, Breakthru Radio and Boston college stations, among others
Topu has taken master classes with great cellists such as Yo Yo Ma
Randy is the NYC Evaluator for Popular Voice genre for YoungARTS, a national program that rewards talented young artists in all realms of creative endeavors