It was the year 2000, and Drew Hooke and Tom Tash were freshmen at Mattanawcook Academy in Lincoln. It didn’t take long for the budding young musicians to realize that not only were they destined to be best friends, but that they also made a very good songwriting duo.
“That was over 10 years ago,” said Hooke, now 26 and living in Boston. “I feel like he and I will always make music together. I feel like we are two halves of a whole, in whatever way we work together.”
That initial musical partnership developed into The Bay State, the power-pop band in which drummer Hooke and vocalist-guitarist Tash performed with violist Evan James and bass player Susanne Gerry. For six years, the Bay State toured the Northeast, amassing fans and recording several albums and EPs along the way. By 2010, however, things began to feel a little stale. In May of last year, the band members amicably went their separate ways — except for Hooke and Tash, who immediately began working on their new project, Dance Atlantic.
The Bay State was high-energy, unerringly positive power-pop with a dash of emo crunch, but Dance Atlantic allows the pair to explore the things that have always interested them, namely the electronic music created by groups such as Daft Punk, Justice, Pendulum and groups from the ’70s and ’80s — but still with the pair’s knack for pop hooks.
“Drew was always into electronic music, and he was always trying to convert me. It never really caught with me until about three years ago when he played me the Justice album,” said Tash, who now lives in Falmouth. “That one stuck with me. I think by that time it had already started to change what we were doing with The Bay State. Our song ‘Glamour Kills’ definitely had that electronic edge. But we knew it would have been the wrong thing for The Bay State, overall.”
Hooke and Tash wanted to make music with a bit more of an edge than what they were doing with The Bay State.
“[The Bay State] was a blast, but it’s only one kind of music. Dance Atlantic, we say, is making up for lost attitude,” said Hooke. “It’s definitely where our heads are at now. It’s a different track for us, and it’s been so fun to get into it and experiment.”
Hooke and Tash both are fans of the warm, rich sound of 1970s and 1980s analog synthesizers, the hallmark of the early 1980s sound present in music from artists and groups such as Gary Numan, Depeche Mode and even Herbie Hancock. Hooke works at a recording studio in Boston, so he has had the chance to get to know some of the Roland, Yamaha and Korg gear that makes that sound.
“I’ve had access to some really nice analog gear. It makes it sound as organic as an electronic thing can be,” said Hooke. “I’ve always liked that warm late ’70s, early ’80s sound so much more than the colder, digital stuff of today. We like to layer that sound when we’re building tracks. That’s the counterargument to anyone who still says that digital music has no soul.”
For the past year, the pair have been painstakingly crafting each song, relishing the luxury of no deadlines for recording. If they want to spend two months on one track, so be it. Nevertheless, they are shooting for a late-2011 release date for they first EP, showcasing their blend of irresistible melodies with programmed drums and seductive synthesizer sounds.
In the meantime, fans of the pair from both The Bay State days and new fans who have kept tabs on their work with their new project can catch their very first live performance, with DJ Clevergirl, at the KahBang Festival on the Bangor Waterfront. They will perform 1:30 p.m. Friday, Aug. 12, on the Dispatch ME Stage.