Madison has more than its share of musical chameleons, songsters who switch effortlessly between rock, country, jazz and more. You have to look harder to find people who work not only in pop but also in more complex musical genres, like classical.
An example is multi-instrumentalist Scott Lamps. One of the most prolific Madison musicians right now, the UW graduate works in widely divergent genres.
Already this year, he has contributed music and lyrics to Holy Musical B@man!, a stage work by the Chicago musical theater/media troupe Team StarKid, creators of the 2009 viral video sensation A Very Potter Musical. Out soon are new discs by a pair of projects Lamps is a member of: a full-length by acoustic trio Bello, which will be released May 16 at a High Noon Saloon gig; and an EP by electronics & beats duo Chants, out May 19.
This latest work goes on a résumé that includes 2000s campus-and-beyond sensation the Profits; a Profits splinter band, the Compass Rose; a slew of Chicago musical theater productions; film scores; and the 2010 Madison Area Music Awards for Best Classical Album, for Evensong.
Is it tricky to juggle, say, classical and pop? "In one word: yes," Lamps emails. "But on a more subtle level, they can also complement each other considerably. All music has more in common than there are differences between styles."
For Lamps, cross-pollinating genres is a very rewarding process. "My habits are constantly challenged, and I have to assess and reassess why I am making the choices I make. If I always worked in one genre of music, I would become rutted in the idiomatic language of that style. Working in classical, pop, film and theater allows me to borrow bits from each style to put in my music."
Holy Musical B@man! was written with Nick Gage, Lamps' friend, musical collaborator and former dorm-mate at UW. Gage had become friends with a member of Team StarKid, which was co-founded by Glee actor Darren Criss.
"After StarKid heard Nick's songs (and because Darren Criss was unavailable), they asked him to write the music for their new production," Lamps says. "Nick had never tackled a musical project of that size, so he enlisted my help because I have written several musicals. We put the music together over the course of six weeks." Lamps and Gage also served as musical directors for the production, and played synthesizers for the live performances.
The new trio Bello also involves some longtime Lamps collaborators, Compass Rose bandmates Mike Droho and Ida Jo. The self-titled debut album's songs, which use only voices, acoustic guitars and violin, take a much more stripped-down musical approach than some of Lamps' other collaborations. "The three of us have a good rapport and complementary skill sets and sensibilities, and between us we had a handful of half-written songs, so that's where we began," says Lamps. "We started singing three-part harmony because it felt good to do while we were writing. We thought it made the music more beautiful. So the songs developed the choral nature that is Bello.
"Over the months we discussed things like beats, instrumentation and studio production. But at the end of the day we just wanted it to be what it was to us: three people singing songs together. No tricks. No props. Human music pure and simple."