Greenville-based husband-and-wife duo Carpoolparty drop warm, playful melodies and ebullient beats on both last year’s LP Hot Tapes and last month’s Internauts EP. We couldn’t help but wonder, what came first — the marriage or the music? Unsurprisingly, the two have intersected since their first encounter.
“I heard her sing before I even saw her,” says Danny Olguin, who handles keys and beats. His partner, Mary, finishes his thought, as they both so often do with one another. “I was playing a bus stop after a gig one day and we were both at the same bus stop, and he heard me and we started jamming.”
That incident was seemingly from another lifetime, before Greenville. Danny immigrated to the United States from Chile when he was eight. He grew up in Utah, which is where that fateful bus stop encounter occurred. Thankfully, the East Coast eventually beckoned and the two have made their musical magic as South Carolinians ever since.
But the infectious electro-pop we hear in Carpoolparty wasn’t their first sound. They arrived there, at the place they’re clearly meant to be, after trying on genres like jazz and indie rock. “We never got along musically until we started to mess around electronically,” Danny says.
Carpoolparty has not only nailed their sound but they’ve also created their own signature one — vapordance. It’s a name they came up with after discovering a genre called vaporwave. Danny, who thinks very technically, tries to explain possibly the most niche genre in existence. “Vaporwave is a blend of ’80s and ’90s nostalgia subculture tropes and like a Marxist critique on mass consumerism put together to, like, very early-’90s graphic design, tropical imagery, Roman busts, and kind of this pseudo-nostalgic aesthetic.”
While Carpoolparty draws inspiration from vaporwave, they also add hip-hop, funk, disco, and pitch to land at vapordance. “What we decided to do is to bring the speed up a little bit to around 105 APMs,” Danny says. “And then so not as fast as mainstream house or EDM but then not as slow as vaporwave, keeping at this happy little place.”
The duo has also latched onto another musical movement, one that features sounds that trigger the ASMR (Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response) experience. For many, ASMR sounds create relaxing, nonsexual sensations in the body, a.k.a. the tingles, that begin in the scalp and are triggered by anything from listening to whispering voices to watching someone paint or fold towels. And apparently beat makers are seeking such sounds for their music so as to trigger the tingles in listeners. “There’s a genre called lo-fi hip-hop that uses a lot of ASMR sounds — paper crinkling, the vinyl crackle is really big, the soda fizz,” Danny explains. “And also future bass is a genre that is up-and-coming that uses a lot of non-musical samples, like the ticking of a clock, cups clinking together, a bed squeak, and stuff like that, stuff that’s soothing. And that’s something I’m a huge fan of so I’ve been incorporating it into our music.”
For instance, in “Waves and Sun,” (???? Spotify) rather than use white noise for the song’s swells (as is traditional in electronic music), Danny uses ocean waves in addition to other noises, like pool splashes and the voices of people playing in a pool, creating a soundscape of summer.
The two also borrow significantly from all-things 1990s, writing lyrics to mimic the style used in songwriting back in the day. “Like the drums, bass, and everything are all from the ’90s,” Mary says before Danny intercepts: “And everything down to the rap style, like I’ll deliberately go after 311 or Fresh Prince.”
Indeed, you can clearly distinguish that Fresh Prince homage in Danny’s rap on “Dance Alright,” off Internauts, while “Love Online” features the sound of a ’90s modem, AOL samples, and the Windows 98 startup music, blended with steel drums and keys.
Two songs have been ready to rock since the end of last summer — but seeing how Internauts is the perfect beach soundtrack, the tracks had to wait out the winter before seeing the light of day. For instance, “Waves and Sun,” with its synth swells and beach vibes, has been on the shelf since September just waiting to become a 2017 summer jam.
Danny began writing “Love Online” even earlier, throwing down internet samples to make a song that leaned more toward vaporwave than funk, dance, or disco. “I didn’t record the rap for that song until a couple of months ago,” he says. “So that song sat partly done, kind of like a car in the garage that needed to be fixed for a year.”
The summer lovin’ lead track off Internauts, “We are in Love,” was written in a day and produced while the couple holidayed in Cancun, which makes perfect sense for Carpoolparty, really. “So instead of being out in the sun, I just spent a day in the hotel finishing the video,” Danny says. “I had a view of the ocean. Many people might consider that ‘work,’ but I considered it a vacation.”