It’s a Queen song from 1982, a Heidi Montag track circa 2009 and a Kylie Minogue album from 2003. But as Matt Young discovered in 2008, the phrase “Body Language” was not in use as a band name. “I wanted the name so bad,” Young says. Though a couple of artists had released tracks as Body Language on iTunes, these artists’ inactive MySpace accounts led Young to consider the title up for grabs.
“I was like, ‘Yes! He hasn’t logged on for like three months. He’s done!’” Body Language is the electro-dance music project of Young, 28, Grant Wheeler, 27, Angelica Bess, 24, and Ian Chang, 22. The band is now Brooklyn-based, but it all began in Hartford, Conn., in 2001. Young and Wheeler met as music students at the University of Hartford. They began living together as sophomores in 2002 and still share an apartment to this day. “I was 14 when you guys started rooming together,” Chang interjects. “Don’t say that,” Wheeler says between bites of a sandwich at Papa Lima on Bedford Avenue. “It makes me feel old.”
Young and Wheeler’s shared appreciation for electronic music and computer-based recording software sparked their musical collaboration. Their first projects revolved around one main goal: “To figure out how to make the weirdest music we possibly could,” Wheeler says. But that guiding principle changed once the duo started hosting a weekly party at a Hartford dive bar called Vegas Boulevard. The guys began writing more dance-oriented music because they needed something to play at the Vegas sets. Young and Wheeler also started thinking about adding vocals to their songs. For that, they turned to Bess, a past collaborator and fellow Hartford student whom they met in 2006.
Bess, Young and Wheeler moved to Brooklyn in 2008 and released their first EP, Speaks, in 2009 on the Ghostly International offshoot Moodgadget Records. That same year, they enlisted Chang, a jazz performance major at New York University, to energize their show with live drumming.
Body Language finished its latest EP, Social Studies, in March 2010. But when the band members went to shop it around, they didn’t have any takers. “Labels didn’t know what to do with it,” Wheeler says. “We just write way too many genres of music.” Electronic music comprises the core of Body Language’s sound, but the band’s influences range from soul to garage rock and everything in between. Though the group settled on self-releasing the EP for free online in October 2010, it still views the label-shopping experience as helpful. “After getting all those comments, we went back and narrowed our scope a bit,” Young says.
But one thing the band won’t be cutting during any revisions is its incorporation of a pop music style, something they learned from their friend Michael Angelakos of Passion Pit. Young and Wheeler met Passion Pit in Hartford. “We went to a show of theirs,” Wheeler says. “It was probably their fourth show. They played for about 20 kids at a VFW.” At the time, Young and Wheeler had just produced an album with one of Angelakos’ friends. Angelakos liked what he heard and decided to move into the guys’ Brooklyn apartment for a month in 2008 to work on some tracks for his own band’s Manners LP. The shared housing gave Young and Wheeler the chance to watch Angelakos in action. “Working with him was pretty influential,” Young says. “That was when the element of pop was really introduced into our stuff.”
It was also around this time that Angelakos started getting courted by labels and lawyers, as well as phone calls from Rick Rubin. “It was a very intense month,” Young says. “We were like ‘Man, is New York always going to be like this?’”
>> Body Language Dec. 20, Brooklyn Bowl, 61 Wythe Ave. (at N. 11th St.), Brooklyn, 718-963-3369; 8, $5.