Soviet founder/ringleader/ singer Keith Ruggiero yearns wistfully for the music from the early Eighties. Never mind the fact that he was all of five years old in 1983 when idols Talk Talk and Yaz were at the peak of their popularity. While all of his peers at Syracuse University, where he first formed Soviet in the late Nineties, were studying Nirvana's Nevermind, he was programming sequencers and listening to New Order.
Luckily the rest of the country has since come around to Soviet's style of music. But Ruggiero, who bears an uncanny resemblance to Jason Schwartzman (star of the cult film Rushmore and member of Phantom Planet), is quick to point out that Soviet www.sovietmusic.net is an electronic band, not an "electroclash" band.
"I don't want to be stuck in a bubble of rehashing the Eighties," he says outside a trendy Silverlake café before a recent show in Los Angeles. "What Soviet is doing is taking keyboards and other electronic elements and taking them to another level." He bristles at the suggestion that his band is driven by nostalgia. "When I started the band, no one knew what I was doing. Everyone was into trip-hop or Nirvana at the time, but I was listening to pop music and Brit-pop. I feel like Soviet is very much an amalgam of the bands I love like Talk Talk, the Smiths ... whatever," he responds defensively.
Soviet performs with guest DJ Carlos D from Interpol
Revolver/Soho Lounge, 175-193 NE 36th St., Miami
Friday, September 5, at 11:00 p.m. Tickets cost $10. Call 305-576-1988.
Soviet's sound may be Eighties-inspired but the music is definitely contemporary, and it manages to breathe new life into the electro-pop format with crisp production values and sparkling synth sounds. Live, the quintet aspires to reclaim electronic music from the DJs and electroclash artists who simply plug in a DAT or a laptop for a show. Soviet is currently crisscrossing the country on a 30-city tour entitled Stargazing, performing with an unnamed drummer in addition to band members Chris Otchy (programmer), Kenan Guduz (guitar), and Amanda Lynn and Greg Kochan (synthesizers). "I think it is important that electronic music evolves because it has been tied to dance culture for so long," says Ruggiero. "I think being in an electronic band is tough ... it takes a lot of balls to pick up a synth and play it like a guitar." Fans need not worry that Soviet slacks: The band brings all the energy of a punk concert to the stage when it plays rock venues and dance clubs alike.
While the road between rock and dance music has been trod upon many times before by everyone from New Order to the Faint, Soviet seems to truly exude the spirit of New Wave. One listen to its 2001 debut, We are Eyes, We are Builders, which Ruggiero released on his own Head Records after it was first released on Plastiqmusiq in 2001, immediately transports the listener back to a time when bands like Ultravox, the Thompson Twins, and Depeche Mode ruled. Unlike many of Soviet's electroclash peers, there is no trace of irony in its music. Despite Ruggiero's fake Brit-pop accent, songs like "Candy Girl" simply shimmer with synthetic pop grace. "We're just in love with what we do and I think it shows through in our music," he says.
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People who grew up loving the same brand of music, in addition to a few younger fans who simply like Soviet's sound, have been responding in large numbers. Major labels have also noticed the band. But Soviet isn't jumping at the record deals on the table just yet. "I want people to share our vision rather than tell us what our vision is" is all Ruggiero will say about his recent courting by sundry major-label A&R executives. The people are with you, comrade. The fight for decent electronic pop music is being fought in the trenches, and bands like Soviet are winning the battle one live show at a time.