The Roosevelt Hotel is haunted, so they say.
Anonymous apparitions are known to waft in and out of the units on the ninth floor—Room 928 in particular.
The ghost of Marilyn Monroe continues to be a regular visitor in a suite that overlooks the cool-blue pool where she did her first magazine shoot.
But on this crisp Thursday night in late February, a certifiably living-and-breathing human being is seated on a sofa beside the pool: Room8 co-founder Ezra Reich.
He holds a mug of coffee as if it were an amulet protecting him from the hypnotic seduction of a fireplace snapping and popping nearby.
It’s important that Reich remain alert. In a couple of hours, his atmospheric electro-pop project will play their second-ever show to a roomful of transfixed early converts upstairs.
We’re both synth freaks, and we bonded over music from movies by David Lynch, Fellini and Michael Mann. Cool pop music.
Reich sets down the mug on the table in front of him and leans over.
“When I look at this coffee cup, I have my own unique interpretation of it,” he considers. “But if I am from New Guinea and have never seen a coffee cup before, it’s a completely different interpretation.”
Reich is speaking of the theory of “transduction,” the process of genetic recombination in bacteria—or, perhaps more tangibly, the conversion of energy from one form into another.
“‘Transduction’ has a psychological meaning as well, the conversion of environmental energy into neural energy,” he rasps above the sound of crackling embers in the fireplace.
“How we interpret what we see in the outside world, that’s transduction.”
It’s a new world created where style and substance meet.
Transduction is the title that will be bestowed upon Room8’s first album, which is anticipated for release later this year on a label to be decided.
The record will be the culmination of a long-festering collaborative effort between Reich (vocoders, synths) and his partner Nic Johns (synths, roto toms, guitar).
Reich met Memphis native Johns a few years back after he moved from his New York hometown to Los Angeles.
“I saw the guy play, and I had a good vibe from him,” Reich says of Johns, whose credits include work with Ben Lee. “We’re both synth freaks, and we bonded over music from movies by David Lynch, Fellini and Michael Mann. Cool pop music.”
Soon the two realized that they wanted to make a record together, and in early 2012, they started laying the groundwork for Room8.
The two envisioned their debut in movie soundtrack terms: It would have a narrative, intersecting story lines, a suspension of disbelief and realism, all in music form.
“The idea of the record was trying to create a soundtrack to a world we wanted to give people,” he recalls, stipulating that Transduction is not a “concept record” of the Pink Floyd variety. “It’s a new world created where style and substance meet.”
It was a positive affirmation that the things that we loved could be in the movies that we love.
For the cinematically inclined, even a cursory listen to songs from Transduction will conjure images of the Ryan Gosling/Nicolas Refn vehicle Drive.
Like the movie score’s composer, Cliff Martinez, Reich and Johns are self-confessed “vintage synth dorks” distinctly attuned to retro europop (the more noir, the better).
For good measure, Drive soundtrack contributor Electric Youth is featured on two like-sounding Room8 cuts: “Visions Of You” and “Big Mistake.”
Reich is quick to remind that Room8 came together well before the 2011 release of Drive. Also, he doesn’t think Gosling or Refn have even caught wind of his project.
Still, the unexpected success of the movie “definitely gave us a big boost of enthusiasm,” Reich says. “It was a positive affirmation that the things that we loved could be in the movies that we love.”
We want to be limited, not by any physical limitations, but by only the limits of our imagination.
“If there’s no current commercial precedent for what you’re doing, you’re fighting the system,” he surmises. “It’s cool to know that there’s a space that accepts what you’re doing, and that it could be wildly popular.”
A Room8 fanbase is already simmering, as will be evidenced by the tightly packed audience upstairs. They will witness Reich and Johns perform a sultry set with their newly cemented lineup featuring vocalist Jesika Miller, synth contributor Herschel Gaer and saxophonist George Holdcroft.
Those players will fill the live-performance shoes of musicians who have already recorded with Room8: new wave vixen Martha Davis of the Motels, Giorgio Moroder collaborator Richie Zito and M83 saxophone player Ian Young. Gavin MacKillop (Echo and the Bunnymen, Public Image Ltd.) will mix Room8’s self-produced Transduction.
With such an ambitious start, it’s no surprise that Reich has grand plans for Room8.
“We have a very full vision of what we want to do,” he says. “We’re limited by budget and venues starting out, but we’d love to have a great light show, lasers, futuristic magic pods [onstage]. I can imagine a set for the show that’d cost $50,000.”
With only 90-minutes left before his band’s second concert, and a handful of i’s and t’s to dot and cross before then, Reich prepares to vanish back into the darkly lit, moody hotel.
He pauses, then adds:
“We want to be limited, not by any physical limitations, but by only the limits of our imagination.”