It's a head in a drum! That's kind of weird!
courtesy Six Shooter Records

Keytars are a band's best friend

Shout Out Out Out Out mixes old-world technology with new-world indie awesomeness

Publication YearIssue Date 

Frontman Nik Kozub and Shout Out Out Out Out should start up a synthesizer fan club. The T-shirts they sell at their shows feature a picture of their practice space, nine different kinds of keyboards kicking around in a mess of pedals and drum kits interspersed between the numerous pianos.

Unlike the more modern, digitized ones, SO4-- the other name for the group for people who don't want to make any awkward faux pas by adding too many "outs" to the mix-- like to grab and twiddle the knobs to make their own sounds. They've begun to obsess over the older models hanging around in the corners of music shops and antique stores like their record collecting brethren.

"Since the last record came around, we've gotten way, way more into synth collecting," explains Kozub. "A lot of the gear we're using is really old-world technology. We're using equipment that was before MIDI [technology] and methods to sync things digitally. We use controlled voltages and electricity to control everything."

It's not that the group has an insane hatred for the more modernized versions. Like vinyl, old synths just have a different tone entirely. Even when companies like Moog do release computerized versions of past synths-- called analog-modelling digital synthesizers-- that can almost perfectly mimic the sound, they aren't the same.

"I'm not saying there's no merit to digital synths, that's just not true, there are good digital synths," he says. "That being said, we prefer the way the real analog stuff sounds. It just has a warmer, thicker tone to it. We've had our own [digitalized] analog-modelling synths in the past, while they can do some cool things, they just do not sound the same."

Like most musicians, these guys are doing it because it's fun. The band honestly loves all these older-styled keyboards because they're exciting and entertaining to play. Playing with power to change the sound, madly connecting wires and fiddling with the oscillator switches is just a good time for the group.

"That whole process is really fun," says Kozub. "All this analog synth stuff is our passion, our interest and our hobby. That's why it's become a mandate for us to bring it out on the road, which can be a bit of a pain in the ass to set up."

Unfortunately for synth-fans, the keytar is still very much a part of pop culture. Thank the '80s for that. Even most people who play it don't earnestly do it like they would a guitar. Unless you're in a metal band, you just can't look cool rocking on a keytar, so they do it in that faux-ironic way to be cool by looking dorky. Kozub doesn't buy the act.

"Honestly, [keytars are] kind of hokey," says Kozub contemptuously. "It's kind of a gimmicky thing. I've seen them used in ways that don't seem like it, but for the most part, it represents an irony that I don't appreciate. I take synths and electronic music so seriously that if I feel like someone is using those instruments jokingly then I'm not really into it."

Kozub quickly adds that he does own one, but wants to get rid of it.

"I do have a Yamaha keytar if anyone wants to buy it," laughs Kozub. "I haven't thought how much I'd sell it for, but I do have one that I don't need."