If the old adage “slow and steady wins the race” is to be believed, then Organized Crimes is destined for success. The Kansas City-based trio has a penchant for taking their time coming out with new music, and despite how maddening a prospect this is for fans, the results have proven to be worth it every time.
“We had the mind-set early on that we would release EPs, because we could crank them out quicker and keep the hype going more consistently. But honestly, we work so slow that it doesn’t even matter,” says Alec Nicholas, one of the band’s multi-instrumentalists. “For some reason the amount of time it takes us to release a handful of songs, most other bands in that same amount of time would have been able to release an entire album.”
In the summer of 2011, the band — Cortland Gibson, Sam Sartorious, and Nicholas — dropped an EP via their Bandcamp page called Collection One: Bad Press/Good Press and did not come out with their follow-up EP Soft Angeles until late in 2013. Angeles is a testament to the band’s willingness to evolve creatively, even if sometimes the changes feel simultaneously natural and unusual.
“We started out as a surf-rock band, and now we are not, which is weird. I don’t know how that happened, honestly,” Nicholas says. “Cortland and I both at the same time — unknowingly — bought these weird Wurlitzer electric organs that have all these crazy knobs. One day he started playing me these dance jams and said, ‘This is what I want to start doing.’ I was like, ‘That’s insane. I don’t know about that.’ But then we started doing that, and it’s worked out.”
At first, it isn’t entirely obvious on Angeles that they have become a dance-happy synth-pop band — what with the moody electric guitars and cacophonous drums on the opener “Picking Them Out.” But the other two songs — the synth-tastic “Game Over Song” and the joygasm-inducing mash-up pop track “Articulated Jaws” — cement their new direction. Drum machines, synth explosions, and the alternately hovering and jerky vocals that characterized many early ’80s pop tunes are in full force here, and they work exceptionally well. The result is a collection of songs that’ll make you want to have your own dance-off, and that’s the point.
When the band releases their next batch of new material later this month — a seven-inch vinyl called the Bel-Rey Flats EP, listeners will find that the band is more firmly entrenched in the synth-pop realm than ever. They’re hitting their stride and doing so all in the name of having a good time, especially when it comes to their live shows.
“It was never really our intention to make everyone dance, so it was really weird to me at first, because Cortland and I had played in really heavy bands before and most people just had this weird Midwest, head-bob with their arms folded, looking-upset kind-of-a-thing,” says Nicholas. “It was weird to get used to, but I’m glad it’s [dancing] rather than people sitting there with a pleasant scowl. I’d much rather people dance.”
Getting everything just right has been something of a dance in itself for the band. Originally formed as a sextet, the band then became a quintet before settling on their current lineup, which also includes drummer Sam Sartorious. But this tour proves that even that lineup is subject to change, as Sartorious will be unable to play, leaving Nicholas and Gibson to perform as a duo. “Most of the songs were written years ago when we were playing as a six-piece, and that was the intention while writing, so everything had a million parts,” says Nicholas. “But things have shifted down since then, so the songs have morphed accordingly. You obviously can’t play the exact same thing as a five-person band would, so you have to morph it a little bit and make it more doable.”
Fortunately, as multi-instrumentalists, Nicholas and Gibson are adept at being adaptable. “A lot of the live show is Cortland and I looping and sampling and sequencing everything,” Nicholas says. “We both have a couple instruments we play at once. We switch off playing drums, and we loop keyboards while we’re playing drums, so it’s pretty insane.”