The typical perception of house shows involves earnest singer-songwriters playing heartfelt acoustic songs, for an attentive audience, in an intimate setting of shared camaraderie. And that perception, as often as not, is also the reality.
Sound of Ceres don't really do that. The Fort Collins-based musicians, led by Karen and Ryan Hover, prefer to play their shimmery dream-pop in the misty haze of two fog machines and a pair of synchronized projectors. All of which they brought along to a Colorado Springs house show last year.
"We've noticed, during the house shows we've done, that when the lights are all off and we have this thick misty fog with the projections going, it makes the house look like a stadium arena," says Karen of the band's non-musical accouterments.
Granted, the Pepsi Center has the edge when it comes to 50-foot-high projections of exhibitionist onstage performers, but Sound of Ceres have more modest intentions.
"We just want to create something really atmospheric to go with the sound we make," says Karen. "We basically just film nature, and lights, then cut it apart and set it in time to the music. One of the projections is of our dog's face, but no one knows that it's there because of all the fog."
While the Hovers started out as an electronic duo, releasing three albums under the name Candy Claws, Sound of Ceres is a more expansive and collaborative undertaking. Their newly released Nostalgia for Infinity album finds the two musicians working with Rob Schneider, John Ferguson and Ben Phelan, all of whom are members of Denver psych-rock stalwarts Apples in Stereo.
The new songs are already garnering national attention. NPR recently featured "Dagger Only Run" among its All Songs Considered selections, while the band's "Bryn Marina" video was chosen as a Vimeo staff pick. The band is celebrating with a 22-date tour that includes three SXSW performances and a March 13 show at Ivywild School.
"For our show in Colorado Springs," says Karen, "we'll be a trio with myself on keyboards and vocals, Ryan on vocals and drums and Derrick [Bozich] on guitar, We'll also have projectors going with some thick mist fog." Their Apples in Stereo cohorts, most likely, won't be along for the ride. "They play shows with us occasionally, but they won't be at the Colorado shows. Unless they're gonna surprise us, which I really hope that they do."
In either case, this tour is an ambitious step for artists who never expected to think of themselves as a live band. "Basically, we loved Candy Claws just being a recording project where we got to make music in our bedroom and have fun playing with sounds and all that," says the singer. "But I think that, with this new record, we kind of realized that if we really want to make a life out of being a musician, that we would have to tour around it. We've actually grown to love touring over the last year, although we weren't too fond of it back when we were Candy Claws."
Along the way, the band's music has also become less cloistered and more ethereal, with Karen and Ryan's hushed vocals floating above layers of synthesizers reminiscent of early 4AD acts like This Mortal Coil and the Cocteau Twins.
"Now that you bring that up, we also took some inspiration from Boards of Canada," says Karen. "We definitely take our influence from bands all around the world, rather than just specifically focusing on what's happening in Colorado music right now."
There's also a more cerebral side to Sound of Ceres' lyrics, as befits musicians who've collaborated with Chicago poet Jenn Morea and composer Bryan Senti. For the new songs, they drew inspiration from Marcel Proust's Remembrance of Things Past, in which the author maintains that the path to discovery is a largely inward journey.
Or, as Karen puts it, "We look at art as more a form of making your own meaning, rather than going out in search of truth."