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The Waterford Landing was voted Best Pop Band in this year's New Times "Best of Miami" issue. In 2005 it was selected as a Personal Best, won the Readers' Choice award, and picked up Best Electronic Group. But Alex Caso, keyboardist and singer, remains somewhat mystified about the acclaim. "I've always been surprised by that," he said. "And the pop thing was funny, because we have pop elements, but I never thought of us as a pop band. I wonder who voted. Why don't they tell us? They should write us letters."
The pop element comes filtered through the sound of seminal New Wave groups like OMD and New Order. But then there are the droning, psychedelic guitar and the strangely low-fi electronics. But the votes couldn't have been for prolific output. The band, formed in 1997, has produced exactly one full-length album, a self-titled debut released late last year on the members' own label, Applied Chaotics. And the nods couldn't have been for frequent live performances. They played a last-minute show at Churchill's this past September, but before that, the last outing was at PS 14 in the early summer.
Yet Waterford Landings' members have been busy during this past near-decade. The other three bandmates bassist Richard Rippe, guitarist Ed Matus, and drummer Neil Rippe are veritable legends of the local scene. Rippe led Swivel Stick throughout the Nineties, and Matus led Subliminal Criminal before veering into experimental electronic music via his project HALO Vessel. Caso's baby was the noise-rock Love 94, jokingly named after the local easy-listening radio station.
Maybe karmic reverberations over copyright infringement contributed to the breakup of the band, but Caso was crushed.
"It was heartbreak. It was like, 'I had the best girlfriend in the world, and now she's gone,'" he said. So there were the other guys' bands. And the members' day jobs. And gigs in exotic locales such as Kankakee, Illinois, where Caso and Matus played IDM to a crowd of ravers in a cornfield.
Although many DJs are music geeks who secretly want to be musicians, after Love 94, Caso fully went in the opposite direction. He had dabbled in spinning records since the early Nineties, but he spent the second half of the decade spinning records at local clubs. He also hosted several shows on WVUM-FM, including specialty shows about Britpop and industrial music, as well as launching Electric Kingdom, a weekly program that still airs (albeit with new DJs). But in 2002 something in the stars aligned; the members decided to take things seriously and record the tracks they had written over the years. The result: Caso's mellifluous voice floating atop shoegaze-style guitar reverb dropped as if from outer space into a digital landscape of keyboards, synthesizers, and computer noises. It is wistful and alienated, telling tales of the suburban monotony that denizens of this county's outer regions know so well.
"Our name was actually taken from a suburban project in Kendall," Caso said. "All the names of the songs are the names of little developments around where we lived. It's this sort of disturbing David Lynch thing." The pull of this distorted vision of suburbia comes on slowly, creeping under the skin and provoking dramatic reactions. Many an accidental audience member has quickly become a rabid follower. The old wives, or whoever made up our cultural aphorisms, were right: The Waterford Landing once again proves that quality always trumps quantity. Arielle Castillo