- The Washington Times - Saturday, December 15, 2001

The D.C. band Moodroom is in an optimistic mood. With the ink still wet from its recently signed deal with Annapolis label Fowl Records and the band preparing to release its debut full-length album, that shouldn't be surprising.

A headlining show at the Velvet Lounge tonight is simply icing on the cake.

Sitting around a picnic table on an unseasonably warm December afternoon, the members of Moodroom (sans lead singer-guitarist Stef Magro) are as close to giddy as a seasoned alternative rock band can get.

Although the band's current lineup Jay Hardin (keyboard-synthesizers), Mike Wolpe (bass), Miss Magro, Sean Saley (drums) and Gene Diotalevi (guitar) has been together for two years, Moodroom was never intended to be a full-time group.

"We actually came together as a studio project," Mr. Hardin says. "It was kind of an experiment."

That experiment brought two underground EPs, which drew interest from several major labels and gained the group a cult following. None of the major label deals worked out to the band's liking, which led it to sign with independent label Fowl Records two weeks ago.

The group fashions a kind of dream-pop that recalls the hard-rock distortion of Garbage, the smooth pop hooks of Catatonia, the trip-hop atmosphere of Portishead and even some of the percussive flair behind the Pixies and Nirvana. It rocks more than trip-hop, yet has too many techno elements for most mainstream pop.

Miss Magro, who lives in New York and commutes to band practices is the glue that holds the musical stew together with her polished voice that can still transform into a throaty growl. On "Hung Up on Breathing," the band's debut due out in late January, the indie-rock roots are there, even as the band admits to loving pop hooks.

The opener, "Loving," shows off the group's ability to underline Miss Magro's smooth vocals with two layers of guitar distortion, atmospheric keyboards and a driving rhythm section. Other standout tracks include the mellow, slow-building ballad "Vibes, " the trip-hop "Safe in the Sound" and the album closer, "Blue Skies," which features a spoken word verse that culminates in an electronic maze of guitar, keys and percussion.

It's no wonder that the studio project, begun four years ago, has turned into one of the District's best young bands.

"Our biggest fear is to say we didn't give it our best shot," Mr. Wolpe says.

WHAT: Moodroom with opening acts Petland and the Swinging Neckbreakers

WHERE: The Velvet Lounge, 915 U St., NW

WHEN: 10 tonight


PHONE: 202/462-3213

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