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Jan 16, 2009

With a potent mix of tech wizardry and old-fashioned musicianship, D Numbers is proving that some of the best music is often the hardest to define.

By Drew Stoga

Think of it as loop-driven, progressive instrumental rock. Or as glitchy electronica infused with futuristic post-rock.
Better yet, don’t try to define it. Just enjoy it.
Formed in 2002 in the desert town of Santa Fe, N.M., D Numbers is a trio of gifted young musicians who are making a name for themselves by pushing boundaries and mixing genres.
Using both traditional rock instruments and a slew of computer programs, loopers, samplers, drum machines and other electronics, the band seamlessly blends rock and electronica, along with countless sub-genres like minimal techno and intelligent dance music.
While the end result may be hard to label, the band’s sound is undeniably funky and absorbing, not to mention refreshingly unique.

GEARING UP

D Numbers guitarist Ben Wright sees the band’s mission as simply wanting to “create music that people can dance to, that doesn’t have words to it.”
The group cites DJs like Aphex Twin, Squarepusher and Mouse on Mars, as well as bands like Tortoise and Radiohead, as influences that have helped pave the way for their distinct and dynamic sound.
“We started as a rock ’n’ roll band who wanted to get into electronics,” explains drummer Paul Groetzinger. “But for awhile, we were just a rock band with a couple pedals.”
But after years of collecting gear, their musical arsenal has grown prodigiously.
Besides his drum kit, Groetzinger also plays glockenspiel, sampler and drum machine. Brian Mayhall doubles as bass and keyboard player, and Wright plays guitar, synthesizer, drum machine and a “host of electronics.”

FLYP lets you listen in on three tracks off of D Numbers’s debut album, Light Parade.

“Piece by piece over the years, we have added the gear that we want to make the sounds that we want,” Groetzinger explains. “And now we have far more electronics than we do instruments.”
Mayhall agrees that the gear is integral to their sound, but that it is important to remember that D Numbers “is still humans playing music. In my experience, you use a different side of your brain when operating electronics as you do when playing live instruments,” Mayhall says. “I think we ride the space between the two parts of the brain.”
While D Numbers’s listeners may not always know which sounds are coming from analog instruments and which are digital, they are still treated to a sound that is both profound and funky.
“Music is about making a real connection between the performers and the audience. And the gear is there to further that connection, not take away from it,” explains Wright.

Switching between multiple instruments, the members of D Numbers are known for the lush soundscapes they create during their live performances. FLYP gives you a photo slideshow of the band playing live, so you can experience the thrill vicariously.

HITTING THE STAGE

In concert, all three members of D Numbers literally jump from instrument to instrument while employing various pedals and buttons to sequence an endless array of tightly arranged loops.
Of their live process, Wright explains that “there is not a whole lot that is pre-recorded or sampled. The computer serves as the clock that keeps everything in sync…[but] we prefer to have kind of a blank slate to start with and to sample our instruments on the fly and to process them.”
While they have toured the States several times, the band has become a fixture of Santa Fe’s burgeoning music scene, performing both as a band and DJing parties and shows.
“Santa Fe is just a beautiful place to be an artist, and it is just a wonderful community,” says Groetzinger. “It’s a small scene. We know a lot of—if not most of—the people living creative lives out there. And everyone is really supportive.”

On Stage Fusion: In FLYP Media’s short documentary, the members of D Numbers discuss their blending of electronic and rock music.

STUDIO TIME
In 2006, the band traveled a few miles out of town to Quarteles, N.M., to record in the studio of friend and producer Walker Barnard. The result was their debut album Light Parade, which they financed themselves.
Groetzinger recalls that the experience “was really intense and hard, figuring out how to take this project into the studio, [how to] take this very live experience and put it to tape and do it justice. And I think we did so.”
“I’d say when we went into the studio to record Light Parade, we were still coming into our own as a group,” adds Wright. “We learned a lot going through the recording process—how to refine a big pallet of sounds and a sort of amorphous arrangement into something very concise and compositional.”
The trio has recently returned to the studio with a batch of 12 songs they have been honing in concert over the last year. They began work on their sophomore record at the end of 2008 and hope to finish it in the first few months of 2009.
According to Wright, the band “feel better prepared this time around. When we went in to do Light Parade, we had these long-form songs that didn’t really have real arrangements around them. We ended up doing a lot of the arranging in the studio afterward. We have learned a lot from that experience and are building on it. We have been working very hard on our songwriting, and I think that it shows.”

Drawing on a Mix: Like their music, D Number’s influences are all over the map. FLYP’s interactive spread details the band members’ influences, and lets you listen to clips from songs.


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