- - Wednesday, September 28, 2016

If this were the 1980s, then Cardiknox’s new CD, “Portrait,” would be part of your CD collection alongside Berlin, Animotion, Cyndi Lauper and Yaz. The duo, composed of singer Lonnie Angle and multi-instrumentalist Thomas Dutton, play dance-y, retro-flavored synth pop with stunning vocals and style. And yes, they look as good as they sound.

The pair moved from Seattle to New York to Los Angeles to score a major record label deal with Warner Bros., the label that once signed their heroes Prince and Madonna. Cardiknox too makes ultracool and memorable music videos — just Google “Wild Child” and “On My Way” to see for yourself.

Mr. Dutton and Miss Angle sat down to discuss how the band grew out of an off-Broadway play, how important fashion plays into things and their love of Cyndi Lauper.

Question: You guys started working together in the theater on an off-Broadway play, yes?

Thomas Dutton: I was in a rock band before this and my brother and I wrote this album. We wanted it to sound like the soundtrack to a musical that doesn’t really exist. We orchestrated arrangements and everything, brought all these singers in from other bands. After we released and toured on it, I wanted to go the next step, which is reverse engineering, and do an actual stage musical.

Lonnie’s background is theater. We met through some mutual friends when we all lived in Seattle. The two of us and the director started working on adapting the album into a musical. First we worked in Seattle for about a year on it, then the Public Theater in New York became interested in it. We all ended up moving to New York City to focus on developing it. That took another year, then we put on a staged reading of it with Broadway actors, which was awesome.

But after that we were super burned out it.

Lonnie Angle: The process of creating a Broadway play is endless.

Q: How did you go from that to creating the band?

TD: While we were working on the show, we had been toying around with pop songs. We decided to give that a go.

Q: Is making pop music easier than creating an epic musical?

LA: Just different. Very, very different. It certainly is more satisfying in terms of being able to create something and be done with it. With musical theater the gestation period of a piece from idea to Broadway takes forever — a ridiculous amount of time. In pop music it felt really satisfying to write something and get to put it out online to get a reaction immediately.

Q: You started in Seattle, moved to New York and now live in Los Angeles. Did the sound of your music change with each move?

TD: Maybe subconsciously more than anything. Cardiknox started in New York, and we were hugely inspired by the city and the sound, the grit and edge to the city. We wanted that to come through in the production and the lyrics.

LA: I think we held onto that more than L.A. Although we really recorded the majority of it here, we were living in a black box studio for 14 hours. For months. Los Angeles was irrelevant. Up until that point, our experiences had been in New York for the last five years.

Q: The album has a heavy ‘80s sound to it. Who were your musical influences?

LA: Cyndi Lauper is a huge hero of mine. Especially vocally, because her tone isn’t like a traditional pop tone. I recently got to meet her. We played with her. It was like a dream come true.

I’m also vocally inspired by Gwen Stefani and Pat Benatar — these kind of nontraditional, throatier, chestier sounds.

In terms of the production, Thomas and I grew up a ton from Prince and Peter Gabriel and Micheal Jackson. We tried to take what we love from that and bring it to a more current place. Marry it with the electro scene today.

Q: You guys are also very stylish. Is style as important as the music?

LA: I think so. Especially with media, where you are able to touch and feel and see everything so quickly. It’s not just the music. It’s a brand, for lack of a better word. People want to connect you as a person in addition to the music. Therefore, it makes the music that much more powerful. The style informs that. And the music informs the style.

TD: And it’s not like it’s forced, because we both like fashion. Visuals, whether it’s videos or a live performance, can elevate and enhance an artist’s music. Everything becomes part of one big universe as opposed to just a song.

Q: Your videos for “Wild Child” and “On My Way” are great. How did they come about?

TD: The “On My Way” video, where it is in one shot, came from our love of one-take videos. From the onset we wanted to make a long one-take video with choreography and performance happening.

Q: How many takes did you do to get it right?

TD: We ended up doing 10 takes, and the one we used was take nine.

LA: Every take had its own strength. But take 9 had the dude at the end smoking a cigarette and staring. We couldn’t have staged that if we had tried to. That was a big part of it. We wanted to have this juxtaposition of the performance in the middle of the city with real people around us. It was pretty rad.

Q: Since you are together so much, how do you keep from hating each other.

LA: It’s a mutual respect for one another. And really being inspired by the other person. Although, obviously, I’m always right. [laughs]

I trust Thomas‘ opinion and tastes and much as I trust my own.


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