Unknown pleasures 

Motorik explores the space between Joy Division and Robert Palmer

Motorik does the Abbey Road thing ... sort of.
  • Motorik does the Abbey Road thing ... sort of.

Given frontwoman Sio's hooky lead basslines and strident vocals, Motorik's music is bound to strike a chord with fans of post-punk bands like Joy Division, Bush Tetras and Belle Stars. Listen a little harder and you might also hear traces of Gang of Four's splintered guitar-work and even the semi-chanted singing of PiL-era John Lydon.

All of the above are happily acknowledged as influences by the single-named singer; her band even performed as Joy Division at a recent Valentine's Day benefit for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. But she also professes an affection for crooners like David Bowie and Bryan Ferry. And Robert Palmer.

In fact, the band's forthcoming CD, Klang!, actually includes a song named after Palmer, the dapper singer who famously hammed it up in video hits like "Addicted to Love" and "I Didn't Mean to Turn You On," both featuring micro-skirted models who robotically played unplugged electric guitars.

"That's '80s Robert Palmer," Sio insists. "I'm talking '70s disco Robert Palmer, Sneakin' Sally Through the Alley and stuff like that. I love Robert Palmer. He's such a cipher as a person. He was all show, but it was very different every time, kind of like David Bowie. And he actually recorded a cover of a Gary Numan song, which was on his first New Wave-y record."

Sio even sees some Palmer in herself: "He borrows from other people, and there's a little bit of that in what I like to do. Kind of like being a crow, picking out the shiny bits."

Any shiny bits gleaned from Palmer himself are pretty much absent from Klang!. It does, however, boast plenty of sharp songwriting and tight instrumental interplay between Sio, drummer Hoagie Gero and guitarist Adrian Garver.

Although it's already available digitally, the album won't get its physical release until the end of April, by which time the band will be back home from touring. Asked if their timing isn't a bit counter-intuitive, Sio takes a philosophical stance.

"I don't know if there are hard and fast rules about this," she says. "But if there are, we broke them."

The band's name, meanwhile, is also an unusual choice, given that "motorik" is synonymous in music circles with the mechanical rhythms preferred by electronically inclined German bands.

"We came up with the name Motorik because there was a garage rock-y kind of simplicity to it, and we were going for that," she explains. "So we stuck with the name, even though it has occurred to me that we're not a Krautrock band."

The group's current tour, which includes a stop at the South by Southwest music conference, will be Sio's first. Still, she's no stranger to life on the road.

"My parents are musicians," she says, "so I schlepped around with them quite a bit when I was a kid, and I'm familiar with the territory. They're into old-time bluegrass music, and my stepfather still plays fiddle, mandolin and guitar.

"Of course, this is going to be different because it's a different kind of music altogether. I hear that in Colorado Springs we'll be playing with a DJ and a performance artist named Gezelle Za Belle. So that'll be interesting."



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