A year ago, I sat down with Travis Acker and Trace Barfield, two lifelong musicians with years of experience playing in bands and busking on the street. They'd recently warmed to the wonders of electronic production and rededicated themselves to merging the best of IRL and URL into a cohesive, next-level performance.
The project was Bedside, and at the time, it was just Acker on turntables with Barfield accompanying on live horns. Improvisational trumpet layered over seductive house beats was dope in its own right, but Bedside had a much grander vision. They would talk about vocals, keys, percussion, and horns performing half-improv, fully original compositions in sync with Acker's electronic DJ setup.
It sounded lofty, especially from a couple of guys with one song beneath their belt, but this year, at III Points, they pulled it off to great critical acclaim.
“It was surreal to go up there and get such a great reaction from an audience on the first original set,” Barfield says. “It exceeded our expectations.”
“We're setting goals, and we're working our ass off,” Acker says. “It might take a year to achieve, but we are making claims, we have a vision, and then we're executing – and we're going to continue to do this.”
Bedside is following up the high of III Points with its debut EP, One Night With You.
“It's a weight lifted off our shoulders,” Acker says. “A lot of the stylistic things and vibe we wanted, we achieved with this, so that just feels amazing.”
The title track is a beat-forward lead single meant to appeal to DJs with plenty of room for mixing in and out, but the rest of its four tunes play to different aspects of the band's sensibilities. A couple of the jams are horn-heavy, some have catchy vocals, but all of them do a brilliant job of capturing that live aesthetic in an electronic vein.
“This is our freshman EP, and we're very proud of it,” Barfield says. “We really tried to get all of those elements [we strive for] and make the tracks as diverse as possible while staying consistent to a type of sound.”
One Night With You was, for the most part, composed in the studio by Acker and Barfield using electronic programs, though many of the sounds and samples at their disposal were collected by recording live singers and musicians.
“Live instruments is like somebody talking to you,” Barfield says. “The [player] is emoting to you through their instrument, which is something a little more difficult with electronic sounds.”
In a process they call “cherry picking,” they sit and listen to the recordings, grab the best parts, loop them, pitch them, tweak them, and otherwise move them around, thereby constructing textures, hooks, grooves, and all the jazzy stuff that gives Bedside its dynamic, synthetic-meets-analog identity.
That idea shines more than ever in the live setting when Acker and Barfield are joined by the full-on band. They rework their tracks, leaving room for live manipulation and space for instrumental and percussive solos. The songs blend together into a seamless and massive musical moment. It's all pretty breathtaking, and it's all coming to Bardot carpet for a triumphant performance in honor of the EP's release.
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“It's not a listening party for the tracks,” Acker says. “It's a celebration.”
You'll hear all four tracks from One Night With You at Bardot on Saturday night but not in any particular order and packed between tons of other unreleased material saved only for those special live performances. It's hard to fit a six-person band in such a small space, especially with all the goodies these guys bring, but that just means it's going to be an extra-special, extra-intimate affair – or, as Acker laughingly says, “a serious fun time.”
Bedside Album Release Party, Saturday, November 28, at Bardot, 3456 N. Miami Ave., Miami. Ages 21 and up. The show starts at 10 p.m., and tickets cost $8 plus fees via showclix.com. Call 305-576-5570, or visit bardotmiami.com.