The Pacific Building Part Two: Into the Hive of the “Datadrone”
When real estate investor Davin Gumm set out to refurbish the Pacific Building in the heart of the Santa Ana Artist’s Village, he hoped that the office spaces would attract tenants who would use the lofts for “creative uses.” Gumm’s Copper Door beer bar in the basement of the Pacific Building has become a notable music venue that showcases quality local music, so it’s only fitting that the Pacific Building lofts would attract artists immersed in the local scene. So far, a fashion designer, musicians, and several filmmakers call this loft space their creative home.
The Pacific Building office spaces have been refurbished to their 1925 film noir-esque glory. When walking down the hall, past the frosted glass paneled doorways, I could not help but imagine I was going to meet a private eye. With all the elaborate stories that this building could inspire in me, it’s no wonder that I found an intriguing music collective called Datadrone in Studio 213, whose newest album release is based upon an elaborate mythology.
Datadrone are Jourdan Gallemore and Sean Robertson (aka stanelylucasRevolution), who are just completing their first album together with plans already in the works for later releases. Gallemore and Roberston are the heart and soul of the project, but they have collaborated with many other local artists, with the goal of creating a local musical collective. Both musicians have an infectious passion for what they are doing, so much so that over the course of interviewing them, they ended up talking me into bringing my harp over and recording some tracks for their album. So, I started out writing about Datadrone as an objective observer, but about an hour into speaking with the pair, I became part of their music collective.
Datadrone is a concept-laden music project based on a mythology Gallemore and Roberston wrote about a “saga of a bee… the datadrone,” who is half bee and half computer. The datadrone represents the fusing of organic nature and technology, and as part of its story it falls in love with a surveillance camera. The music project conceptually combines the organic with the inorganic- nature with machines, electronic music with acoustic instruments. Their lyrics, music video imagery, and their very band name play on the combination of bee and industrial technological references. The band name cleverly uses the term “drone” to double as both the drone bee and a musical drone sound. The combined result of all this conceptualism is an intriguing, smart, quirky and, at times, emotionally moving music project which can be likened to conceptual albums like Radiohead’s Kid A, the Animal Collective’s ODDSAC and Nine Inch Nail’s Year Zero. Much like how Radiohead’s music has reflected on the human emotional repercussions of modern isolation created by technological advancements or how Nine Inch Nails created Year Zero about what humanity’s current destructive choices could lead to in the future, Datadrone explores the question of how to reconcile modern technology and nature.
I was personally privileged to watch Gallemore and Roberston create a song from scratch after recording samples of my harp playing and singing. The pair’s songwriting dynamic is an interesting balance of rapid logic and an organic stream-of-conscious flow, which mirrors the concept behind the project itself. Gallemore works extremely quickly to edit and cut acoustic sound samples to fit a foundational beat he lays down and Roberston works like a sound designer in some ways, adding the ambience to the song on top of Gallemore’s foundation.
The charismatic pair have brought in quite a group of local musicians to add their own talents to Datadrone’s compositions. Damien Blaise from BLOK sang on “Pulp” and “Bones.” Additionally, David Shane Smith sang and played guitar on “Bones.” Vince Phung of the Detroit Bar, added guitar to “Morning Song,” while Spencer Askin of the Gromble contributed a trumpet part and myself of Joy Shannon and the Beauty Marks added a harp part to “Morning Song.” Takuji Shibata of Cosmodelion added his guitar playing to “Slacker” while Jorge Rios rapped on “Ima Skeleton.” Parker Macy of Parker Macy Blues added guitar to “Mind on Fire” while Yan Ski of Soar Nation based in New Jersey, the only out-of-state musician to contribute to the album, added vocals.
Datadrone additionally have collaborated with the visual artists Ben Fellowes and Tom Vadakan to create the visual aspects of this project. Sean Robertson has filmed and edited the project’s music videos, which rhythmically splice together footage of the musicians with archival footage of bees. My personal favorite is the video for the song “Slacker” which combines footage of a 1960s talk show with beehive imagery.
Datadrone’s self-titled first album comes out this spring in digital form and vinyl. The next Datadrone album is already in the works with plans to include musical collaborations with BLOK, the Los-Angeles-based band Wild Up and the London-based band the Protagonist amongst others. And the “saga of the Datadrone” will continue to evolve.
This Saturday Studio 213 opens its doors to the public for the First Saturday Art Walk. Come see what’s abuzz…