They’ve called the music they make “Feathered Experimental Psychodelic Electro-Post Indie,” the kind of cheeky fictional genre one might expect from a band called Playfully Yours. But for a more serious label, frontwoman Katie Busemeyer calls the music the Cincinnati-based trio plays “trance-dance,” songs with lulling repetitions but also up-tempo dance beats for a body-moving groove.
Such cross-genre opportunities open up when you trade drums and guitars for synthesizers, keyboards and all manner of high-tech devices. It’s the kind of music Busemeyer says she always had an interest in, but could never really make before Playfully Yours started up in the summer of 2010. Busemeyer, trained as a singer and pianist, teamed up with brothers Brock and Maxx McKinley, who were making electronic music together without a vocalist.
“It was a pretty natural fusion,” Busemeyer said.
There’s a balance to be struck when making electronic, experimental music: tapping into the abilities of the technology and the creativity of the musician while still making something listenable and enjoyable for audiences. The McKinley brothers were making music on the more experimental side of the spectrum, Busemeyer said, adding that it was “somewhat abrasive at times,” but with the addition of a lead vocalist with an ear for melody and pop sensibility, the music became something different and new.
“We try to make it very listener-friendly,” Busemeyer said. “Our goal is for it to not feel so foreign that you can’t get into it, but you’re still hearing something that you’ve never heard before.”
Take “Horns,” the track that kicks off the group’s August 2011 self-titled debut EP. The song was composed before Busemeyer joined the group, and is certainly a musical experiment. It opens with the phrase “an orchestra can paint some wonderful sound pictures, what do you see,” a sample taken from an album introducing children to classical music. (Such spoken-word samples, usually vintage vinyl finds, are how Brock and Maxx in their own way contribute vocals, Busemeyer explained.) The music kicks in, and a sample of a horn, distorted and played backwards, appears throughout the song. It has a catchy melody, Busemeyer said, so she put catchy lyrics to it. And through layers of sound, nearly unintelligible voice samples, bells, chirps, whirrs and whistles comes something that is ultimately danceable. The band will be releasing the follow-up to that EP this September, and Busemeyer says listeners will find a changed Playfully Yours in its tracks.
“Our sound and the way we create music has changed significantly since then, and that’s what our upcoming EP is,” Busemeyer said. “It’s a culmination of all of our new songwriting techniques, and it has a lot more fluidity, and a lot less spastic kind of tonality than our prior album.”
Their stage show has been similarly refined – indeed, they have found a way to recreate the multi-machine sounds of their tracks for a live audience, and will be doing so Tuesday at Iota Club and Café. Concert-goers won’t be seeing the standard drum-guitar-bass setup on stage. Busemeyer describes the group’s arrangement as stations from which each band member performs, her own including a microphone and synthesizer, Brock mans a computer and controllers at his, and Maxx manipulates sounds with Kaoss pads in a DJ coffin. It’s a challenge to stage, Busemeyer admits – “the more things you have to plug in, the more things that can go wrong,” she said – but with the challenge comes the reward of playing for a live audience.
“We get to rock out and enjoy our music and share it with other people,” Busemeyer said. “Really we have a lot of fun playing our songs for people, because we like our music and we can get up there and play it for your and dance to it, and we hope that you can feel the energy from not only the music itself, but the energy of us enjoying playing our music for you.”
• For more information about Playfully Yours, visit facebook.com/yours.playfully.