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The Switch: Provocative Pop Served With A Classical Twist

by kristina weise

In the spring of 1951 Jack Kerouac wrote On The Road, where he magnificently professed, "The only people for me are the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time, the ones who never yawn or say a commonplace thing, but burn, burn, burn like fabulous roman candles exploding like spiders across the stars and in the middle you see the blue center light pop and everybody goes Awww." After hearing the Brooklyn-based band The Switch, one couldn't help but wonder if the musical equivalent to Kerouac's written word triumphantly stands before us.

The Switch consists of Kai Altair, Joe Pepitone, Alexander Horwitz, Dan Onori and Chris Loh. Kai and Joe, the cofounders, met at college and quickly embraced the cohesive energy swirling between them. Kai's ticket into New York City was through opera. Kai was accepted into one of the premier private music conservatories in the nation, Manhattan School Of Music. There she studied opera for one year before transferring and obtaining a degree in Composition. Kai is classically educated in singing, ear training and music theory.

Dan was asked to join the band after meeting Kai a few years prior on her daily commute to New York City from Bucks County, Pennsylvania. Dan integrates acoustic and electronic drum kits bleeding together the tribalism of ancient music with a postmodern electro beat.

Joe is the musical mastermind and lead programmer of The Switch. He began his melodic montage by studying piano at an early age. By age twelve he found his calling when he picked up the pen and discovered his father's guitar. "That was the end of that. From then on, I was completely hooked." Joe is an amalgamator that takes a frantic friction of past and present genres and turns them into mesmerizing songs that are addictive, urgent and brilliant.

Alexander, a synthesizer, piano and harpsichord prodigy contacted the band from a Craigslist.com posting. Yet if you ask Kai and Joe they will tell you that, "He did not exist until we materialized him. He was materialized from memories, with people whom we have missed." Like Kai, Alexander is also classically trained. Alexander began playing the piano at age four and quickly became enamored with Baroque music. "Baroque provides a certain set of rules that presents an open platform to experiment with. It offers a foundation in which you are free to move, leap and turn. That is what attracts me to older music rather than the newest, popular music." He adds, "I couldn't play anything like I do with out the dexterity and twenty years of experience with classical music. I feel everyone needs that foundation as a musician."

Chris is the bassist who plays with a universal intoxication. He was born and raised in Hong Kong before attending Harvard and receiving his Doctorate of Jurisprudence from Yale University. Always staying committed to creating numinous beats, Chris jumped at the chance to be a member of The Switch through an online ad.

The name for the band came after Kai glanced at a light switch, but there is a deeper undercurrent of duality. As their website states, "It is another dimension where sound shapes existence." Joe explains, "Playing gives you a way to disconnect from your body while you are performing or on stage. The best moments are the ones you don't remember. There are two states of mind, much like an on or off switch. It is when you are totally not there and not thinking about anything that you become a bodiless soul." Alexander concurs, "That is the most exhilarating, heroin-like experience you can ever get as a performer." Kai adds, "Performing is definitely the moment when you can get up and be real. More real than any other time."

Being an unsigned band, one might presume The Switch would be vulnerable to the music conglomerates and their monetary motivations, but rest easy in knowing that they refuse to sacrifice their musical integrity. Alexander states, "It's when musicians become business people or professional famous people that you have the sell out." He continues, "What we have today is an underestimation of the audience. Don't blame the listeners for buying horrific music; we should hold the artist at fault for doing the feeding. The entire popular culture has vastly underestimated our generation's potential to appreciate beautiful things. They put out this easy listening, easy feeding bullshit and expect us to swallow it down and we do happily. It's not necessary to listen to that crap. We are smarter than that. All of us are. This generation is unique in that."

Kai tranquilly nods at Alexander and says, "We simply refuse to compromise. Something I always try to strive for in our tone is that what we are presenting is universal. I believe this music is music for the whole planet. We always hear how our music reaches people and helps to transport them to another dimension. Our music is for everyone. I think everybody's ears are ready for it and I don't think it is too electronic. The song writing rivals any song writing that has existed. The music is ready. It is ready for mass consumption by the world."

The Switch's inspiration ranges from artists such as Edith Pilaf, Zap Mama, Bjork, Aphex Twin, John Lennon, Paul McCartney, Squarepusher and Nine Inch Nails (The Downward Spiral). The Switch is a band of alchemists who meticulously synthesize their individual talents into one thriving nucleus. The result is an exciting, refreshingly new sound that has yet to be heard.

The Switch play pop songs without pretension. They create art in the air and their unique blend of intellect and passion, discipline and spontaneity, mysticism and sex appeal saturates the soul. The Switch represent what possibilities are out there for making a difference in a world where the individual listener is feeling increasingly powerless. They are the breath to the suffocating shallowness & artistic emptiness polluting our airwaves. The Switch bring an original sound without losing sight of their primordial past and with that comes a renewed sense of hope and respect. It is time to turn them on.

The Switch's website is: www.switchedmusic.com. On February 5th, 2005, 9:30 p.m., they will be playing at Pianos, 158 Ludlow Street at Stanton, NYC, $8.


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