"She bop, he bop, a-we-bop/ I bop, you bop, a-they-bop/Be bop, be bop/ a-lu-she-bop/ I hope he will understand/ She bop, he bop, a-we-bop/ I bop, you bop, a-they-bop/ Be bop, be bop, a-lu-she-bop/ Oo, oo, she do, she bop, she bop.
"She Bop," Cyndi Lauper, 1984
What a difference the words make. Or, maybe not really. In the case of the long-winded caricatures traversed in the '80s pop pantheon, absurdity was the name of the game. Wild Boys, they never lose it. And Gentleman, they take Polaroids. Be-bop-a-lu-she-bop, etc.
Local impresarios Casiopeia attempt to explore (exploit?) the novelty of said treasures by stripping them down to the core of their very existence: the ingratiating synth-loop. And by doing so, are carrying their own irony torch in the face of a darker and darker music scene.
But there is a hidden motive.
"Originally, the motivation was because, we are in an indie rock band that plays instrumental music with no singer, and we knew that we wouldn't be getting that much attention as that band," says band leader Carlos DeSoto. "We knew that, ironically, if we did '80s music as a band, it would be a joke to us, but we knew we'd get more attention. We knew the irony would be there, and it's a joke, but it works."
And it does, remarkably. Donning Members Only jackets and spaceage Numan goggles, the trio transcend their palpable gimmick with a sense of mechanized detachment, and a one-finger adherence to the melodies we both know and love. Already members (only) of the reputable experimental act The Rules (which features the Casiopeia trio of DeSoto, Todd Elliott and Chris Medico plus the ubiquitous Anthony Cole), the idea of musical exploration is far from foreign. And it all started, purportedly, with a little idea that could.
"I had this little Casio keyboard, but it had a lot of potential," says Elliott. "And it had all of these buttons. The idea of just having a couple of keyboards was appeal-ing, instead of having so much stuff."
This particular writer had a Casio keyboard in the late '70s that featured a litany of Bee Gees songs already programmed in for his one finger enjoyment. This particular writer understands. But in the case that you, particular reader, don't, the phenomenon that is Casiopeia brings with it the universality of karaoke charm -- right down to providing musical accompaniment to some of the Back Booth's more extreme karaoke endeavors.
"There's a lot of humor that goes on ... not a lot of seriousness," says DeSoto.
But seriously, Casiopeia (and The Rules, for that matter) find their roots in the trenchant performance-art tendencies of Orlando's high-meets-low brow. DeSoto took up bass in the legendary Obliteratti, before side-projecting into the cross-bred Microfun ("the smallest amount of fun possible," says DeSoto).
And the Duran Duran/Power Station/ Arcadia similarities don't end there. Classically trained musician (Berklee, UCF) DeSoto continues his peerless diversification in such thematic ex-cursions as Good Golly Miss Molly Hatchet (for real) and Mexicon (for real, too).
"We're in a bunch of bands, and some of them are just made up," he says.
Mexicon isn't made up, although it would perhaps be funnier if it was -- a fact even DeSoto acknowledges.
"Everyone thinks that Mexicon is a mariachi version of Casiopeia that dresses up like mariachi players and does Mexican versions of songs," he says. "The truth of the matter is, that was a fancy that we had once that we were gonna do as a joke, but the real Mexicon is me and Chris: me playing drums, him playing guitar. And it sounds nothing like Mexican music."
To prove that they get the joke (and, well, wrote the joke), Casiopeia plan to enact that premise by including performances from Mexicon (the un-Mexican duo that played Aug. 7) and, well, Mexicon (the Casiopeia-does-mariachi myth that will perform as part of Casiopeia's show on Aug. 14), during their August-long residency at the Peacock Room. The residency -- arranged by fellow Oblitterati alum Pat Greene, who books the Peacock -- will feature many of the various aspects of the Casiopeia/DeSoto diaspora, including Good Golly Miss Molly Hatchet.
"Good Golly Miss Molly Hatchet is a real band, that I play with almost every Tuesday at the Back Booth," says DeSoto. "It's a jazz quartet with a female singer, and it's totally just like lounge jazz: we do Frank Sinatra tunes. Anthony Cole plays too."
So is there anything DeSoto, and for that matter, Casiopeia, won't do? While the options may seem limitless, the wall comes up with Grace Slick and Mickey Thomas. As well it should.
"One that we just keep saying no to is 'We Built This City,'" says Medico. "It's like, it sounded funny, but then when we actually listened to it a second time, and thought it was going to sound good, it was like, 'No, it'll never sound good.'"