Talkdemonic have the most scrumptious sound in Portland music today. With Kevin O’Connor’s hip-hop aesthetic and Lisa Molinaro’s classic viola, the two create a sound that is dynamic and textured, as if you could run your hands along the melodies and feel the undulating forms beneath. They are equal parts gypsy and technology, playing to audiences who watch with rapt attention, swaying close under O’Connor’s powerful rhythm and Molinaro’s intoxicating strings.
The duo on stage today was once just O’Connor, Molinaro’s haunting strings being played from a laptop along with other instrumental sequences. About a year after O’Connor brought Talkdemonic to the stage for the first time as a solo act, Molinaro emerged from the digital shadows. “We like playing music together so much,” O’Connor said. “That’s the basis of all of it.”
“Kevin, as a solo performer was unique enough,” Molinaro said. She noted that a solo drummer as the center of attention is rare, but then to add a viola, what she calls the “underdog of stringed instruments,” created a new kind of dynamic. “It definitely changed the live shows.”
The music has changed since O’Connor’s initial forays into instrumental hip-hop, building music around himself as a drummer mostly because he couldn’t find the right people to play with. As it turned out, Molinaro would become the right person to play with, “I always bugged Lisa, in the beginning, about coming over and recording,” O’Connor recalled. “She would come over, do one take and play this amazing part. I was just – ‘Holy shit, how do you do that?'”
According to O’Connor it took awhile to get Molinaro on stage. “I needed time to see if it was something I wanted to commit to,” said Molinaro, who had been playing classical music and listening to punk rock and hardcore. “I was being introduced to a whole new world of music,” but after awhile, she explained, the music sounded so good that it didn’t matter. She was also looking for the right person to play with.
Now they are writing songs together, a collaboration that has lead to the second Talkdemonic album, Beat Romantic, due for a summer release this year. This type of songwriting partnership is a new for the duo and they have approached their latest project with equality. Molinaro explained that sometimes you can hear who influenced which songs. “Some are really string-heavy and some are everything else that Kevin is capable of.”
Still, people can expect another dynamic and seamless album with songs tumbling and blending into one another. This is largely O’Connor’s influence. “Basically, I think albums should always flow as if a DJ has put them together. It shouldn’t just sound like a compilation of songs.”
With so much local attention, being picked as the Willamette Week’s best new band of the year for instance, Talkdemonic have plans to go further. “We’re going to tour hard,” O’Connor said.
“This is very much still the beginning,” Molinaro added. With Talkdemonic’s unique set-up, she would eventually like to inspire others to collaborate musically. “It works,” she said. Considering the success they have already had, there are not many who could disagree.