While entertaining a cheeky approach to music, there’s one thing Alli Deleo and Francis Hooper don’t joke around about – that is, producing captivating, dreamy tracks. Formerly known as Booty EP, the synth-pop duo released their debut album Don’t Fix Anything ;) March 12th under a fresh new name – Doohickey Cubicle.
Tracing their origins back to 2015, the dexterous musicians were united when Deleo was hired to create light and visual projections for Hooper’s band Goodwood Atoms. The Vancouver-based duo relished in the act of casually jamming together, sharing their common creative interests and musical talent. Surrounded by a plethora of electro gear lounging around their live-in studio, the group started throwing together tunes and hosting live shows with local bands. Hooper and Deleo easily impressed audiences with their laid-back, playful energy on stage and immersive, awe-inspiring DIY visuals and light projections. Without taking themselves too seriously, Doohickey Cubicle endeavored to release a slew of self-produced singles while retaining their quirky nature via whimsical lyrics, irreverent song titles, and even their nonsensical band name.
“Sign Here” is a fitting way to open the record, in that it demonstrates the group’s nod to their jazzier influences with dancy beats, velvety harmonic vocals, bass hooks and a groovy sax appearance; a remix by Canadian electronic duo Blue Hawaii offers another chance for listeners to get on their feet and get moving by the album’s end. In between, “Milano Sport,” “Thinking,” and “Mildly Concerned” evoke a funkier, slower vibe with clouds of a lo-fi haze spewing out from the keys. “Hotel Beds” carries on in slowing the beat down and brings the listener into an alternate reality of a late-night jazz club. Feel-good tune “Forever” keeps spirits up in reference to the more earnest notion of wanting perpetually to stay in a state of bliss with its cascade of electronic notes coupled with jazzy beats.
As primarily self-taught musicians, both Deleo and Hooper cultivate their collaborative project with varying, unique musical backgrounds. Hooper’s academic experience in sound design and production combined with Deleo’s lyrical focus and musical upbringing gives the pair an advantage in enticing music production. “Francis can get lost in mixing for hours and can completely zone out,” Deleo explains. “I can come in with fresh ears and hear where it’s at and say ‘what about a vocal harmony?’ It’s a healthy balance of Francis going in deep and me coming in and surface cleaning it.”
Satisfying their thirst for creative expression, Doohickey Cubicle embraces the metamorphic process as their songs shift and take shape over time. Collaboration with fellow musicians is most inspiring, and the pair keeps their grind flowing with musical input from drummer Kai Basanta and saxist Mark Sutherland. “We try and collaborate with musicians specifically,” Deleo explains. “I think it’s important to have other people poke in at a certain part of the process.”
Rooted in smooth, honeyed vibrations of analog synths, Doohickey Cubicle don’t stop at exclusively mellow electronic beats and chord progressions. Drawn primarily to the lively, funky rhythms of nu jazz, the band alludes to artists such as Salami Rose Joe Louis, Khruangbin, Beverly Glen Copeland and Crumb. Deleo’s ear gravitates towards Toronto singer-songwriter Eliza Neimi’s catchy and cathartic way with words, giving her immense cravings for vibrant textual concepts of music. “I’m in a phase where lyrics mean so much to me,” describes Deleo. “I think that’s telling of the kind of year and a half it’s been. With so many ups and downs – but mostly downs – I’m so infatuated with lyrics that speak to me.”
Deleo’s own lyrical approach hinges on emotive effects without feeling bogged down by the drag of melodrama. Keeping it light, the album’s title Don’t Fix Anything ;) is a tongue-in-cheek prelude the LP’s overall attitude, like a parent attempting to cheer up their pouty kid with the teasing phrase “don’t smile.” Deleo gets the kid giggling in the background of a lo-fi jam sequence on “~Interlude~” by cooing the titular expression in baby-talk, knowing too well there’s plenty of changes that need to be made in the world. Throwing in an added dose of sarcasm, “Sign Here” mocks the rather negative influences of consumerism as Deleo lets out a chuckle in between singing, “I can be happy/Hahahahaha/I will be quite thrilled if only I/Had more things than I think are needed.”
With its contemplative, yet cheeky lyrics and smooth mix of chill and upbeat tones, the allure of dancing and laughing along with Doohickey Cubicle is hard to resist. The duo hopes to offer an open-ended experience for all simply to enjoy. “If you want to feel the emotions that’s an option,” Deleo states. “I’d rather someone just take it and apply it to however they want. I hope that people can listen to [the album] and feel joy, [as if] you’re just hanging out and getting lost in feeling the enjoyment.”
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