BY: KEALIE MARDELL
In a realm of online dating there is a lesser known trend of online band mating, which is the case of Marion Racimo and Frankie Contreras who met over social media site Tumblr. Drawn together with acoustic covers, 8-bit YouTube renditions, and a shared love for the band Crystal Castles, Kids Without Instruments was born.
By sending each other beats and ideas online, these two singer-songwriters created music together before they met in person. In 2011, they were brought together at CSULB, both majoring in film and electronic arts. With a series of shows in the local area and the release of their first self-titled extended play, they caught the eyes and ears of the alternative music scene.
Their motto is, “We are Kids Without Instruments. We don’t play instruments. Except on stage.”
They create their music using a laptop with a Musical Instrument Digital Interface controller, and sometimes the occasional instruments on stage. In an industry that is developing a reliance on computers, this is an ironic outcry reflecting the growing popularity of music created without conventional instruments.
Contreras provides a dance-hook backing with 8-bit inspired beats, synthesizing electronics emulated by the sound chips of vintage computers, game consoles and arcade machines.
“I use 8-bit a lot of the time because it’s simple and doesn’t melt my laptop’s processing speed,” Contreras said. “My limitations create the sounds I make.”
With his vocals harmonizing Racimo’s strong and soulful sound, there is a dynamic feel to the duo that is unmistakable in their music, as well as in the energy and enthusiasm of their live shows.
“Our performances are extremely dramatic, I feel, so when we perform at dive bars my energy can be a bit overwhelming,” Contreras said.
Last semester, Kids Without Instruments performed at The Nugget in a show presented by the CSULB Underground Music Society, which promotes local artists and the music scene on campus.
“Part of what makes Kids Without Instruments’ music so great is how it developed from their individual histories with music,” said UMS member Hannah Moroz.“ I know some of their early music influences are rock and punk bands, but electronic music turned out to be easier to make. So we end up with dance-worthy songs that have melancholy lyrics.”
While you can feel the influence from other bands, this is not a cover band—there is unique sense of freedom about their music. Together they are a songwriting force to be reckoned with, pushing past the boundaries of popular music. There is no pretension or insincerity here; behind the augmented dance tracks lies an authentic lyricism.
“The inspiration for my lyrics just comes from myself and past experiences,” Racimo said. “Sometimes though, when Frankie makes a beat and I need to write lyrics for it, I feel as if the beat already has lyrics in it. I just have to listen more closely. It sounds like some new-age hippie nonsense, but I find that it works for me.”
With their unique sound and energy, Kids Without Instruments caught the attention of Benjamin Groff from Kobalt Music Publishing, where they were signed alongside a client roster which includes Skrillex, Bon Iver, Gotye and LMFAO. Groff discovered Kids Without Instruments after they were featured on indie music filter BitCandy.
“I thought their songs were awesome, and was also seeing how quickly they were growing as artists and songwriters,” Groff said. “Marion also has a ridiculous voice that the music industry is starting to recognize.”
While they are presently focusing on their music and new EP with Kobalt, the longterm goal for Kids Without Instruments is to develop a charity to give solar-powered keyboards to unprivileged children so they can find their voice in electronic music.
“My background in musical education wasn’t so good, so I would like to make something that anyone can program and make music with,” Contreras said.
As their music relies on technology, it is interesting to consider the impact this has on the band. Racimo feels that an online presence is very important for their music, but difficult to attain.
“The future of music depends on it,” Contreras said. “Maybe one day we will be better able to utilize our fan base, but as of right now we kind of just upload music to the Internet in hopes of it organically spreading.”
For now, Kids Without Instruments plans to continue doing what they love, making people happy and getting them moving through their music.
Listen to our radio podcast about them here.