Hank and Cupcakes, Brooklyn’s buzz worthy drum and bass duo, rock out on their new self-titled EP with four rhythmically dense tracks and one video that showcase their innovative sound.
When Hank & Cupcakes take the stage, their infectious energy dominates the room, generating a fierce groove that immediately has the crowd up and moving. First time fans may find themselves scrutinizing the stage, looking in vain for the guitar player that seems to be filling out the band’s sound, but it’s just Hank & Cupcakes.
Since arriving in Brooklyn from Israel a little more than a year ago, Hank and Cupcakes have captivated New York with an explosive show noted for its simmering sexuality, irresistible dance pulse, and hard to pigeonhole sound. “If I had to define it, I’d call the music experimental minimalist pop,” Hank says. “We’re trying to make pop music without having a pop sound.” Taking the best from all worlds, Hank & Cupcakes have managed to create a new hybrid of music. Tours de force cross between The Ting Tings and Yeah Yeah Yeah’s, rock without guitars, pop without synthesizers.
Hank and Cupcakes were determined to capture that live vibe when they recorded their new self- titled EP. They enlisted Grammy award winning producer Mark B. Christensen of Engine Room Audio. “We tracked the bass and drums live,” Mark explains, “then added vocals and layers of bass to get a fuller sound.”
Hank and Cupcakes, kicks off with “Ain’t No Love” a stripped down new wave disco track with an effervescent bass line and simple, driving drum pattern. Hank’s percolating bass and melody lines weave in and out of the mix as Cupcakes lays down a bedrock backbeat that’s solid enough to build a skyscraper on while wailing out the tough lyric with a soulfulness suited to an R&B diva.
“Pleasure Town” keeps up the pressure. It’s a funky, 80s style dance track with a hint of Bernard Edwards in its popping bass line. Cupcakes lays out a rhythmically complex pattern while delivering a sultry vocal to augment the track’s blistering energy. The “Pleasure Town” video, filmed on deserted Coney Island boardwalk under a cloudless blue sky and directed by Matt Bockelman, captures the playful high spirits of a Hank and Cupcakes performance. The jittery camera work mimics the duo’s frenetic rhythms while their intense emotional rapport is shown by their flirty interactions as they dance around the boardwalk.
“Roses” is a heartfelt ballad about growing up and returning back home that shows off the duo’s serious side. The band maintains their rhythmic orientation but slows it down with a tribal beat as Cupcakes’ yearning vocals ebb and flow, building to an understated climax.
Hearing a woman sing “She’s Lost Control” makes the song sound more hopeless and self implied than the original. Hank and Cupcakes use quotes from the Joy Division arrangement, then Hank’s bass spins off in its own direction, while Cupcakes’ vocals loop and overlap creating a dark whirlpool that slowly dissolves into a desperate, breathless climax.
“We try to reinvent ourselves at each show,” Hank says. “Last night, I wore lipstick…When you do something that’s new to you; it gives people permission to be whatever they want to be. We add new elements to excite the audience and ourselves and try to maintain a fresh attitude each time we perform.” “Since we’re a couple, our love and musical communication gives the music a sense of urgency when we play live,” Cupcakes says. “We create something new every time we play and invite the audience to take part in the process.”
Cupcakes grew up commuting between Australia and Israel. “I studied classical piano for about six years. When one of my teachers taught me how to accompany myself, I started making up songs.” Cupcakes still composes on piano, but had a musical shift at age 18. “A friend took me to a gathering of African drummers on the beach in Tel Aviv. I was hypnotized and started learning percussion.” Cupcakes took drum classes, but formal training was too restricting. “I got the basics and then took it from there.” Hank was born in Jerusalem. “I grew up doing art. When I heard the Beatles, I listened to them for two years exclusively and picked up the bass. I like the low frequencies” Hank laughs “and never wanted to front a band. I guess it’s just my personality.”
After Hank and Cupcakes return from their current overseas tour, they will be hitting the road to conquer America with their upbeat, high-energy shows.
The Aviation Orange
The Aviation Orange, New York’s hottest new Indie-Rock group, is set to conquer the music scene with the release of their self-titled debut album.
The Aviation Orange was founded by childhood friends Michael Nesci (vocals/guitar) and Alexander Beninato (guitarist). In 2008, they scoured the Brooklyn music scene for the best and brightest where they met drummer Josh Harris, bassist Jon Levine and keyboardist/vocalist Hana Mogulescu. The quintet’s debut album, which was recorded at James Iha’s (Smashing Pumpkins) Stratosphere Sound Recording Studio in NYC, features songs that recall legendary groups like Echo & The Bunnymen, The Cure, New Order, The Shins, Pixies and The Police. “Darling Johnny,” “Seattle Slide,” “Lost in the West End” and “Radio” sound like lost Ocean Rain hits thanks to their subdued guitar work and floating wall of sound textures buoyed by Post-Punk style rhythms and contrasting boy/girl vocals.
TAO has already expanded their fanbase across the country thanks to airplay on BreakThru Radio, 102X FM and KIAC. Audiences at The Mercury Lounge, The Annex, North Gate Music Festival and other arenas can attest to their dynamic and entertaining performances.
Photos by Erica Carpiniello