Dave Randall calls himself Captain Smooth when he performs with local band Red Rose. Maybe that's because he helps fuse lots of textures into a sleek and fluid whole.
Randall describes the group's sound as a mixture of EDM, instrumental music, house, trip-hop and more. He blends dance grooves with funk and puts "a lot of dub aspects into it, like reggae, reverb and echo." This description may sound complicated, but the music's pretty easy to digest.
An equally wide variety of musical genres captured Randall's attention when he was growing up. He taught himself music in high school, beginning with drums.
"I was always interested in taking a sound and making it into something else," he says. "I don't know whether to call it sound engineering, exactly, but I enjoyed designing my own sounds and putting them together in a bunch of layers, and creating a fusion of multiple genres."
Soon, drums weren't enough to express his vision.
"I started getting melodies in my head, so I learned to play keyboard, and then I started writing music," Randall says.
He also attended UW-Stevens Point for music theory and composition. There he met bandmate Kyle "K-Dub" Wege.
"He wasn't playing with anyone at the time, and I was looking for musicians who could devote their time to this project," Randall recalls, describing Wege as a rock and funk bassist. The two musicians worked with jazz guitarist Nathan Reliss on an album, but their current guitarist is Michael "Funky Fresh," who, as his nickname suggests, has a funk background.
Some Red Rose songs have a disco-funk dance beat, occasionally bringing in elements of ska. Others feature an ambient groove that highlights the musicians' firm command of production skills and their electronic sensibilities. Shows venture into trippy territory with live looping. Randall says this technique creates "a mashup of styles...like a DJ set with instruments, so it's a continuous set with a light show."
But instead of looking to dubstep or jamtronica, genres often associated with light shows and rave-like dancing, Red Rose tend to draw inspiration from hip-hop and lyric-free rock. They list MF Doom and Daft Punk as two primary influences, as well as Madison expats Cougar, who emphasize driving, melodic instrumental work. Hints of these acts can be heard in Red Rose's sound, but the band's most impressive feature might be their range. The trio can go from up-tempo jams to laid-back trip-hop to emotive psychedelia reminiscent of Ratatat, and then turn the tables with 8-bit tunes that reference videogame soundtracks.
Red Rose's Sept. 13 show is a release party for their first record, No Place Like Now. It's a concept album about turning a dream into reality, something the band has accomplished this year.
"Our dream was to put out an album, go on tour and get our music out to as many people as possible," Randall says, noting that the band and their friends handled every aspect of its creation, from mastering to cover art.
Now Red Rose are ready to tackle the other two parts of that dream: touring the country and sharing their music. The Alchemy record-release show kicks off a tour that includes stops in Colorado, California and parts of the Southwest.
Randall hopes the process of promoting the band is as smooth as the songs themselves.
"Basically, we want to bridge the gap between analog and digital music and bring a unique sound that has a wide appeal," he says.