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By Dawn Pomento
Jeff and Jess DeCuir launched their band Hyperbubble four years ago to coincide with the new millennium. "It was almost like we chose 2000 as a date," Jeff says. "Here's where we start the new music. It's going to be a band for the 21st century."
What is a 21st-century band like? Imagine Devo and Blondie distilled down to two artists who got married and formed a duo. So it's no surprise that Hyperbubble looks and sounds like what people in the 1980s thought the 21st century would be like. That is, Hyperbubble is as futuristic as Logan's Run.
The Hyperbubble aesthetic, evident both on the stage and the web site Jeff designed (hyperbubble.net), is defined by clean lines, lots of open space, primary colors, and a judicious under-use of words. The effect is deliberate and remote. During the group's most recent performance, at the Miss Southtown Pageant, Jeff wore modern wrap-around shades and used exaggerated gestures from behind his stacks of synthesizers. Jess wore a mini-dress that could have come from the Partridge Family wardrobe closet. She maintained a look of cool indifference as she played her 1986 Casio keyboard and carefully stepped over her tangled electrical cords.
Relaxing at home, the DeCuirs are more friendly than their stage personas would suggest. Far from being indifferent, Jess waxes enthusiastic about Hyperbubble and can't say enough about the supportive nature of the San Antonio art community. Since the duo's first show in November 2000 at Cactus Bra in the Blue Star Arts Complex, galleries have been a popular venue for Hyperbubble gigs - just like the other bands the DeCuirs founded since music and art first brought them together in 1997.
Their home still betrays small signs of their last band, Pink Filth, in the form of leftover albums and flyers. But Jeff prefers to talk about the present and Hyperbubble's future. "There's a lot of past," he says. Jeff has played in bands since he was a teenager. After playing with a multitude of musicians, he enjoys the simplicity of a duo. "You don't have to have four people to agree to a vote," he says. "And we're always available to practice."
Though it would be easy enough for this couple to rehearse together, Jeff and Jess usually prefer to sing separately in their cars. "I have my practice tape," Jess explains, "and he has his practice tape, then we get together `before shows`. We have this reflective door so we can see ourselves." The sliding door does indeed serve as an ersatz mirror in the practice space in their home, which also houses the Uncle Buzz record label and Jeff's impressive album collection. The space is an audiophile's dream.
But the car is where Jeff sings and composes. "I write all the lyrics in the car. I think it helps give the music momentum when you listen to it. It feels like it was written in a car, always going forward," he says.
Hyperbubble is moving forward, but not without an appreciative glance in pop-culture's rearview mirror. One of the Hyperbubble songs that best illustrates the balance between paying homage to seminal electronic bands of the 1980s and making fresh music for the new century is "Psychic Connection." Jess' soft, almost automated voice deliberately blurs the line between the kinds of 900 phone services that cater to lonely people. In the chorus, just for a moment, Jeff shouts "call me" in a subtle but unmistakable nod to Blondie's hit of the same name.
The record label and the band keep Jeff and Jess busy, but they also manage to work respectable day jobs. Jess teaches art at San Antonio College and the Southwest School of Arts and Craft. Among other pursuits, Jeff works as a scorer at a local test company, a job he chose because it provides him with the flexibility to pursue music. That doesn't mean they aspire to make a full-time job out of Hyperbubble. Their primarily goal is to keep Hyperbubble entertaining for themselves and their audience.
"I wouldn't go to see a band if they played constantly," Jeff says. "I'd go every time I got a jones for them, which would probably be once every two or three months."
Unlike previous bands that Jeff and Jess have played in, Hyperbubble refrains from performing any covers. In addition, the group aims to present at least one brand new song at each performance.
In spite of their preference for plenty of time between gigs, Hyperbubble has two shows scheduled for the next month: July 1 at the Southwest School of Arts and Craft for an art opening and July 4 at Taco Land. After two shows in such a short time span, Hyperbubble will likely need a break. After all, a 21st-century band has to pace itself for the future. •
By Dawn Pomento