Bending The Barriers

By Andrew Gilhooley / 411

Ex-Salinas girl Kelli Scarr is back in town this weekend as vocalist with livetronica band Moonraker, who will be bringing their laid-back, moody music to Doc Ricketts’ Lab in Monterey on Thursday evening.  Formed in Boston, MA, in 1999 and now based in Brooklyn, NY, Moonraker is a band that is causing quite a stir with its genre-bending blend of musical styles and Scarr’s soulful, jazzy vocals.

Modern musical styles are in a constant state of flux and division, with sub-genres constantly emerging.  Techno music, with its use of synthesizers, drum machines and sound loops as opposed to traditional rock / pop instruments gave birth in its turn to house, drum n’ bass and trip hop.  It was perhaps inevitable that the “Livetronica” movement would eventually appear, with bands such as Portishead reproducing techno sounds live on stage using traditional instruments.  Five-piece band Moonraker is a first-class addition to the livetronica genre with a growing following on the East Coast.  Witness the fact that the band’s self-produced 2001 debut album “Nada Brahma” sold 3,000 copies at live shows around the Northeast.

Moonraker was conceived in the dormitories of Boston University, where bassist Kody Akhavi, guitarist David Moltz and drummer Dan Mintzer were all studying.   The three musicians began jamming together and eventually moved on to playing live shows, first at college events then at Boston area clubs.  They decided that they needed a singer to complete their line-up, so placed flyers around town in an attempt to recruit someone.

The ad was answered by Kelli Scarr, who was in Boston on a Berklee College of Music scholarship.  An accomplished jazz singer, prior to attending college Scarr had toured the US and Europe with her high school jazz choir.  “They put up a sign of what music they were heading toward,” said Scarr, “Portishead, Radiohead, Bjork, Aphex Twin, Squarepusher.  It was weird too because the whole time I was at Berklee, I was just singing jazz.  I had never seen that much electronic stuff.”  Nevertheless, her voice proved to be a perfect fit for the band’s music.  Scarr also introduced two other members to the band, keyboard player Dan “Shaolun” Chen and turntablist Nate Greenberg. Greenberg has since left Moonraker but still works with the band in the studio as producer.

Since the band’s formation, Moonraker has played on the same bill as Joan Osbourne, Ice T and the Disco Biscuits among others.  The band won Boston radio station WBOS’s Best New Band award in 2001, and was a finalist in the Discmakers’ Independent Music World Series. Two CDs are available in addition to “Nada Brahma,” a 5-track EP and “Breathe… Live 2002,” a recording of Moonraker’s live shows.   The band is looking to release a new CD entitled “Connected” in spring 2003, which will contain a mixture of new and old material. 

First published in “411”, The Salinas Californian, March 20, 2003

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