Sometime in the past month, a group of kids from the valley became the most recent local band to say they’ve toured internationally. They did this before getting a record deal, or even recording an album with which to land a deal. They can count the shows they played before the tour on two hands and no toes. They are Cinemetric, and we won’t be surprised if they do to France what The Killers did to England.
But how they go about it won’t be out of the Brandon Flowers playbook. Cinemetric isn’t a band of rock stars or showmen. Though brothers Pao and Poch Gonzales started the band and do the most speaking when we meet, there is no clear, in-the-flesh leader onstage. Because, when you see Cinemetric, you aren’t necessarily supposed to look at the musicians.
You look behind them, at a drop-down screen displaying anything from small-budget films to clips from Trainspotting, to which the band builds a sweeping, usually epic-sounding soundtrack to a shot of two characters running from the police, described musically by an almost military-sounding drum buildup, guitars picking a fast, rigid pattern. As the scene shifts to a heroin-stoned Ewan McGregor staring around a group of suspicious onlookers, the guitar switches to a rotating pattern — just as the camera starts rotating around the room. In this way, Cinemetric is the pit orchestra, hiding below eye level in a throng of guitars, pedals and synthesizers. For the next six minutes, McGregor is their leader.
“Most of the time bands start with a frontman and then get everyone else,” drummer Renz Layug says. “We started with the band, and never got a singer. That’s the reason we didn’t start playing right away. On the first couple songs, like ‘Green’ and ‘Red,’ those songs are built verse-chorus, but we wrote like that to give space to the vocalist … we expected to have lyrics.”
It’s admittedly abstract — without the video, you might not hear the guitar progression and immediately see a junkie running from the law. But beyond using vocals in a purely instrumental capacity (which they’re considering in the future), a singer would only take away from what Cinemetric is — which is easy enough to name until you try to choose a genre. In short, it’s music inspired by motion pictures.
“When you see a movie while listening to music that amplifies an emotion while watching it, that’s what we try to do,” Layug says. It’s the serious, Radiohead- or Explosions in the Sky-sounding version of what Carl Stalling did for Looney Toons, creating the sonic script for wordless film. “The main idea is tying the music and the visuals together,” Poch says. “That’s the whole theme that we brought with us to France.”
When I meet the guys to talk, it’s two days after they’ve returned from six weeks in Europe, a tour that was only supposed to last seven days. It started with an offer from a Frenchman named Martin, who saw them perform at First Friday — their fourth gig ever. He wanted them to play Rock in the Barn in Giverny, France, birthplace of Claude Monet, above Paris in terms of geography and around 1,200 in terms of turnout, playing next to the European bands Gush, Main Square and Bye Bye Blondie. “There weren’t any bands like us there,” says Poch. “It was mostly folk and dance music. Like Arctic Monkeys.” This was the end of September. And after a couple more days, the plan was to head home. But that didn’t happen.
“Promoters at Rock in the Barn came up and talked to us about booking more shows,” Poch says. “You meet a guy and get invited to play another show the next day. We played at a film high school. We had four pop-up shows in a theater where people just sat down and watched us.” By the end of it, they had 12 shows, spread over a month and a half. At that point, Cinemetric members who worked hourly jobs that had set schedules quit and sold their cars. They stayed at a 500-year-old bed and breakfast in Giverny, where the Barn promoter makes his nut on art history-buff tourists. And life was perfect.
They conclude the interview talking about loving to play in Vegas — they’re playing Nov. 24 at the Beauty Bar — but everything still drifts back to France. The music. The people. How many shows they’ve already been asked to play. “Right now we’re focused on coming up with new materials for the next tour,” Pao says. “If someone sponsors us in France, we can move there and start recording.”