“We play a broad mix of acoustic and electronic styles,” says Nathan Samuels, who programs the melodies and beats for downtempo trip-hop trio XIV. The band uses an array of keyboards, guitars, trumpets, and analog and digital percussion.
“Our music is usually compared to acts like Portishead and Massive Attack, but we’re always adding new elements — rock, jazz, hip-hop, drum and bass, industrial, ambient. Whatever fits the mood.”
Nathan’s wife, singer/flautist Kelly Samuels, bristles at the request to describe XIV’s sound. “If we try to accomplish anything, it’s to defy genre classification.”
In concert, the trio’s dark carnival sound is vaguely cinematic while their svelte attire, big-band stage moves, and Kelly’s jazz-diva persona are more akin to purveyors of lounge Muzak, a genre they both enjoy and exploit without a trace of irony.
Furthering their soundtrack-style presentation, bassist Tony Sandoval designs and engineers video projections that appear behind the band on multiple circular screens, Pink Floydian in appearance but scaled down to more club-friendly dimensions. The projections are combined with real-time footage of the band shot live with multiple cameras operating around the stage.
The group’s second CD, Theta, was released this summer. XIV performs at the W Hotel on Saturday, December 18.
WHAT’S IN YOUR MUSIC PLAYER?
1) Beirut, The Flying Club Cup. “This guy has the amazing ability to make music that transcends time and space. When you listen to the songs, it’s hard to tell when and where they were recorded.”
2) Yppah, You Are Beautiful at All Times. “Some great instrumentals here, with irregular beats, spacey electronic sounds, and beautiful guitar melodies.”
3) Gnarls Barkley, The Odd Couple. “I love how the vocals are so soulful yet dirty.”
1) Engineers, self-titled. “Great, relaxing electronic dream-pop, from the band who does the opening-credits song for the HBO show Big Love.”
2) Mike Watt, Contemplating the Engine Room. “A punk-rock opera from the legendary Minutemen bass player.”
1) Tom Waits, Glitter and Doom Live. “Because I always love a good storyteller, and this guy is number one.”
2) Skalpel, self-titled. “Über-chill jams and fat beats, with an ultimate old-school sound on this one. Feels like a movie.”
WORST BAND NAME EVER?
Nathan: “Limp Bizkit.”
Kelly: “Hootie and the Blowfish. I mean, really?”
HAD A BRUSH WITH POVERTY?
Nathan: “I used to add frozen peas to Top Ramen noodles to make it more nutritious.”
Tony: “My first year as a school teacher, I was taking home $900 a month. Luckily, my rent was only $250.”
Kelly: “I have children, so every day I get a little poorer. And yet somehow life becomes richer.”
MOST EMBARRASSING SONG YOU LOVE?
Nathan: “I definitely get strange looks for playing ‘Our Mother the Mountain’ by Townes Van Zandt. I’m not usually a country fan, but I must admit I dig his tunes.”
Tony: “How about Slaughter, ‘Fly to the Angels’?”
Kelly: “I like to clean house to Jamiroquai.”
Nathan: “Dead Can Dance, the Spiritchaser tour, at Spreckels Theatre. A young girl asked Lisa Gerrard to sing ‘The Host of Seraphim’ for her mother, who had recently passed. She didn’t have the right instruments, so she did it a capella. The power of her voice almost knocked me unconscious.”
Tony: “Rage Against the Machine, 1993, at Iguana’s in TJ. My favorite live band at their peak, and the craziest crowd, with people jumping off the third-floor balcony.”
Kelly: “Tricky, a few years back at the Belly Up. Two words: stage presence.”
WHAT IS ON YOUR BUCKET LIST?
1) “Visit Africa.”
2) “Open up for Tricky.”
1) “Visit the pyramids in Egypt.”
2) “Explore the Galapagos Islands.”
“World tour. Look out, France, here we come!” ■