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Metro Area: Bringing Beats Back to the Basics

By: Amanda NowinskiRock stars are never on time. But when Darshan Jesrani and MorganGeist, two bashful vinyl geeks who cook up early ’80spost-disco/house music in their bedroom studios, show up 45 minuteslate for an interview, you have to wonder: Did they misplace thebong, or are 10 million journalists crawling up their bums?

Judging by public response, the answer seems to be the latter. For those looking for new directions in a tranced-out club scene, Metro Area is the best thing to happen to electronic music since the Roland 808 and really good Ecstasy. Their self-titled debut album, released on Geist’s Environ label, pulses with a unique, sexed-up mix of disco, funk, house, and sweetened techno–a gorgeous mélange that almost makes up for the time I spent trying not to look completely dissed at a Brooklyn café.

Geist: Sorry I’m so late–some English guy had us on the phone forever. [In a poorly executed British accent] “How and what is Metro Area?”

Spin: Thanks for the warning. I’ll try to avoid such questions.

Jesrani: People always ask what you might expect. How do we see ourselves in relation to 80’s revivalism? Did we mean to affect anything like this? Are we participating in it?

Geist: “Are you leading it? Are you following? Are you involved at all?” The answer to everything is, we don’t know. We’re obviously influenced by older records, and old meaning 1989–punk, soul, a lot of different things. But we also know we’re not “following” because our music predates a lot of [current trends in electronic music].

Jesrani: I don’t think a scene should be made of [our music], but I think people should be more open to slower tempos, and a little more soulful music. You can never foist this thing on people; it sort of just has to happen. I think that a lot of kids who participate in dance music feel an alienation from the original stuff–the Paradise Garage, the Loft, West End and Prelude, that whole lineage [of garage and disco music].

Spin: The electroclash scene has expressed disdain for house and disco, which makes me think they know nothing about it.

Geist: It’s great. Let them [express disdain].

Jesrani: When the first wave of “electronica” started to surface, it was basically rock. Now it’s electroclash, and they’re pushing all the soulful elements aside, and capitalizing instead on style and imagery.

Spin: And electroclash is an extension of the rock scene.

Jesrani: Yeah, very much.

Geist: Scenes are just a pain in the ass. And certain scenes have a self importance about them, and maybe there’s something self important about the, uh…

Spin: Electroclash scene?

Geist: Well, I was starting to say that, but every scene is self-important. A lot of people would argue that music and entertainment are intertwined, whether that’s visuals, the way you dress on the street, the lifestyle, etc. Part of the reason why Darshan and I connect is because music is a very personal thing. Growing up in the suburbs, it has to be–there’s no scene to become a part of. I didn’t know anyone in high school that was listening to electronic music. It was personal by necessity.

Spin: Your music has a very introspective side, which reminds me of early Detroit techno and Chicago house music.

Geist: To me, techno is stuff that I can play slow and deep. Listen to early Detroit techno records–when they were made they sounded hard, but now they sound like this throbbing, slow, really laid back house music. The original response to [classic techno producer] Derrick May’s “Nude Photo” was that it was freaky, but now it sounds like this pensive, gorgeous thing.

Spin: So in a sense you are reintroducing the sound to an audience that for the most part, thinks techno means banging Richie Hawtin.

Geist: Yeah, but I don’t want to be too techno dominant. We’re just making music. We’re not concerned with what we’re doing to the scene. When we first made Metro Area stuff, it was ’98–not so long ago, but a lot has changed since then. Back then we were really scared about not being able to sell enough records, and about them not fitting in anywhere. So it’s weird that now people are saying, “So do you feel like you fit into this or that?” We’re just as naive about stuff as we always were. The whole American music scene surprises me, that people are interested in our stuff at all. But I’m very pessimistic about things. In six months no one will care about us at all [laughs].