Feeding in the dark corners of the room, Afrobeta want to make you make love. Two home-grown beat slaves set on dance floor domination, if Afrobeta bothers to make a sound, it's going to be the kind of hyphy-groove your body can't deny.
Tucked away in a shed behind their Miami home sits beat-master Tony, a.k.a. Smurphio. His hair grows wildly out in a brown, fuzzy dome with glimpses of white. You couldn't miss this guy in a crowd of hundreds. He jokes that if he's the "afro" in Aforbeta, his partner Cristina, stage-name Cuci Amador, is the "beta half."
The shed has been converted into a studio. The wooden walls are covered in sheets and silencing foam. More than half the space is filled with synths and computers, drums, guitars, microphones and recording equipment. As if not to seem constrained by geography, they're quick to point out that they "write anywhere."
The affable pair came together in 2007, inspired by the fusion of hipster attitudes, guitar-driven musicality, and dance music rhythms coming from Justice and the like. Afrobeta performed 150 live sets at bars and clubs before recording a single note. They built a reputation and devoted fan base on their fresh mix of electronic and analog elements, fueled by a lively stage-presence. Couple that energy with quirky visuals, fun props, and an array of instrumentation, and you've got an underground hit.
They've come a long way doing it. They just took the stage both weekends at Ultra Music Festival 2013.
"But the scene has grown into that," Amador said. "It never was that in the beginning, I don't think."
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Before recording debut LP Under The Streets, or last-years follow-up Wig party, a lot of their show turn-out included fellow music insiders. Smurphio and Amador said that initial support from the local scene was key to building a momentum. More heads started coming out to the bars they headlined, and unfamiliar faces began to appear in the crowd.
"I think the sense of community is really important," Amador said. "We have to support each other in this scene, because there isn't an industry that's pushing it, propelling it forward. In New York or Austin or LA, Nashville, there's a music industry that's invested in the young artists coming up, and there's all these things that we don't have."
That sense of community is bringing Afrobeta together with Jacuzzi Boys, MillionYoung, and about 30 other local acts for Block X Blog music festival on Saturday, April 20. The night will be headlined by NYC-based synthpop duo Holy Ghost!, and is meant to showcase the myriad of musical and artistic talent right in south Florida's backyard.
That it's also Record Store Day is no coincidence. The organizers of the event, Subculture, hope to tap into the nostalgic feelings of community music events from the days when more music lovers gathered around new sounds in public.
"There is that community aspect of going to a record store and hearing what's playing or seeing what's recommended," Amador said, "then talking to people about music and getting excited."
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"It's one thing if someone's telling you something, and it's another thing reading, like, 300 blogs," Smurphio said. "It's not the same."
"You need the human interaction," Amador adds. "It makes the moments. You remember where you were when you heard that... And artwork, I love album artwork, so that's part of having a tangible product too, I don't know. I appreciate it, and I know that it's going to be something that is nostalgic, because it's not practical for the digital future."
The culture of records and interaction is changing, and Afrobeta admits it. DJs are the modern rock stars, currently peaking on the power of dope beats and tight mixes. But in an EDM-driven world, people aren't dancing with each other so much as watching a big production. It's all smoke, lasers, dancers, masks, strobes, LEDs, screens, cubes, and fireworks out there.
"I am about our visuals," Smurphio said, but with slight reservation. "As great as they are, sometimes they take away from what we're doing."
For Afrobeta, coming from a background of making people dance using live production, entertaining showmanship, and lively, universal beats, it's important to keep things in perspective. The music is the cornerstone, and atmosphere should be derived from the energy of the musical connection, not from any sort of ancillary gimmicks.
"We're in a weird spot," Smurphio said. "We're too rock 'n' roll for EDM, and we're too EDM for rock 'n' roll. We have our foot in both doors."
The duo's open approach to music writing and performing has left some people wondering what to make of the sound. They're not really sure themselves what to call it.
"I guess that's part of what's plagued us for a long time," Amador said. "We write songs, and the production part happens after the song writing for the most part. It makes it really easy for us to throw different things in, then it becomes harder to classify as an artist."
Call it what you may, they don't care. As long as Afrobeta makes you dance, the label you put on them makes no difference.
"I would hope that we can make music that we are happy with and love, and that it can be accepted by more people," Amador said. "The most important thing is the music, and the most important thing is the show."