THE FIVE MEMBERS of Brooklyn’s ArpLine stand onstage at the Mercury Lounge on a cold Wednesday night in January. They look guarded and skeptical tucked behind their instruments, until bassist Nathan Lithgow steps forward. “So thanks to everyone for skipping the State of the Union Address to come hear us,” he says.The comment momentarily lightens the mood before the group plunges back into the music’s frantic pulses and dark, synthbased melodies, created by keyboardist and saxophonist Oliver Edsforth, guitarist Adam De Rosa, drummer Michael Chap Resnick and vocalist, second guitarist and synthesizer captain Sam Tyndall. With such entrancing tracks pumping through the room, ArpLine’s set makes you wonder: Isn’t the second band playing in a lineup of four supposed to suck?
The pleasant surprise that is ArpLine officially formed in 2007, but the band was already in the works back in 2006 when De Rosa met Tyndall in New York through a mutual friend. De Rosa, Edsforth and Lithgow had been playing together without a singer for around six months before meeting Tyndall, the only band member not to attend New York University. From there, Tyndall tells me later, “We met up and we played some music and it was cool.”
“Can you sense the passion?” Resnick quips.
The lineup became permanent after Resnick moved in on drums, but the band didn’t rush into figuring out its sound right away. For a while, the group played “paint-by-numbers New York rock,” Edsforth says, wearing its musical influences on its sleeve instead of trying to craft something original.
Tyndall became the group’s primary songwriter, and his computer-based work—along with his bandmates’ tendency to play furiously—dictated the band’s sound as frenetic and synthesizer-centric. “I never really learned to play an instrument,” he says, “but I’ve been a computer user since I was a child.” He paired this electronic music with conceptual and abstract lyrics, which appealed to him because he says he isn’t particularly “good at writing confessional, story-type songs.”
When their sound started coming together as something more unique to the band, the guys began playing shows around New York City as The Kiss Off. None of them liked the name, and they agreed to change it before they ever made an LP, which seemed likely at the end of 2008.Tyndall says they “had a six-month argument about what to change the name to,” eventually settling on ArpLine.
The name came from a title Tyndall gave to a song saved on his computer, which he chose based on a synth line in the track.The band members all think the name is better than The Kiss Off, but none of them seem too thrilled to be called ArpLine either.
“I don’t think anybody really likes it,” Resnick says. After hearing the band name, “No one ever goes, ‘Awesome.’” “My mom’s always still asking me, ‘How’s that band Alpine doing?’”Lithgow says.
The name stuck despite the mixed reviews, and in January 2009,Tyndall went to work emailing “pie-in-the-sky producers” to help with the band’s debut LP. Chris Coady, the Lower East Side-based producer who has worked with Yeah Yeah Yeahs,TV on the Radio and others, wrote back.The band loved working with Coady and finalized four songs with him before running out of money at the beginning of last summer. ArpLine finished the rest of the album itself, releasing the debut LP, Travel Book, as a name-yourown-price deal online this February. And though the album was released just recently, ArpLine already has plans to put out an EP this summer, sharing more of its driving, jittery rhythms and skittering synth lines with the masses. “If [a listener] is into a ‘How did they make that sound’ kind of music,”Tyndall says, “then this is the band for them.”
Mar. 8, Glasslands, 289 Kent Ave. (at S. 2nd St.), Brooklyn, 718-599-1450; 7:30, $8.
ArpLine live at its Brooklyn Bowl album release show.