“Time Out Chicago once referred to us as the poor man’s Cut Copy,” Gemini Club frontman Tom Gavin tells me during a recent chat at the band’s practice space near the West Loop. I’m quick to proclaim my innocence: It wasn’t me! They consider the description a compliment. Whew.
The indie-electronic trio, which also includes sound manipulators Dan Brunelle and Gordon Bramli, does resemble the Aussie outfit to which it is often compared, but there’s also a lot that sets it apart. Both bands’ shows equal a dance party, but Gemini Club looks less like a traditional band onstage. Brunelle and Bramli both man what they call rigs, stands adorned with all manner of controls and computers that take the place of guitars or stacks of keyboards.
I also don’t think Cut Copy is releasing a limited-edition mini sequencer and synth like the Gemini Capsule, which the band is debuting at Lincoln Hall on Saturday 21 for the release party of its latest EP, Here We Sit.
Product development genuinely interests Gemini Club. So do a lot of other savvy marketing techniques. Earlier this year The New York Times did a think piece defining today’s twentysomethings as what it called Generation Sell. Gavin, 28, Bramli and Brunelle, both 25, fit the mold.
“Everybody’s business-minded,” Gavin says. “We look at it that way. Let’s be smart. Let’s make good decisions. The way people find music today, why even have a record label?” Notably, the band doesn’t. Instead it works in tandem with a PR company and a strategic development firm. These three think of Gemini Club as a company (it actually is an LLC), and that sets the band apart. Well, that and the music.
Together since 2009, Gavin and Brunelle first bonded over a shared love of electronic music and by comparing demos while in school at Columbia College. When they decided to get really serious, Brunelle tapped Bramli, then concentrating on being a DJ, to help them take Gemini Club live.
Sitting in the studio, I get a better sense of what “live” means. While Gavin puffs on a cigar and we all sip Stiegl tall boys, Brunelle and Bramli fire up their rigs. “I’m really into lots of MIDI controls and using a laptop as a pretty complex instrument,” Brunelle says while showing off how they can not only trigger a dizzying array of sounds and effects, but do so remotely by pinching, sliding and swiping on a customizable iPad app.
“A lot of the people that go see electronic bands are kind of like, what’s going on? If you watch Gordon, you see that he’s doing it,” Gavin adds. “We like to say we press play, but we press play a thousand times. We want to make it very apparent that we’re going out of our way to make this a difficult process and it’s risky as hell to do.”
Nothing Gemini Club does live is preprogrammed. Working with a drummer at shows, they craft danceable rock music that has also been likened to Phoenix, LCD Soundsystem and, most accurately, Two Door Cinema Club. There’s as much electro, breaks and bass in there as melodies and traditional pop-rock song structure. “It looks weird because we don’t have the traditional guitar, bass, singer, drummer, but we’re a band,” Bramli says. “We were forcefully put into that DJ scene in Chicago, but we’re trying to get away from that.”
“I think we’re on the front end of an enormous wave,” Gavin concludes. “This generation is coming up and they’re saying, we know what you’re doing and this is awesome.” Clearly, marketing strategy isn’t Gemini Club’s only strong suit.
Gemini Club plugs in at Lincoln Hall on Saturday 21.