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Monday, January 26, 2015 |  Madison, WI: 10.0° F  Fair
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The Projection People flaunt their diverse musical tastes
No compromise
The band's new CD is genuinely experimental.
The band's new CD is genuinely experimental.
Credit:Joe Ramos

For Tyler Commo, musical tastes change with age.

"When I was a teenager, it was all about Kurt Cobain," says Commo, the lead singer of the Madison-based alt-rock band the Projection People. "But when I hit 20, I started opening up to different styles."

This year, Commo turned a mature 29. That may explain why the Projection People are releasing a CD this weekend that's genuinely experimental.

The 11 tracks on their self-titled full-length debut merges elements of electronic music and rock. The most experimental track, "Etienne," blends strings, keys and downtempo bass to create a brooding rock ballad.

The band celebrates the release of the new CD with a show at the Frequency on Friday, May 28.

The Projection People grew out of a connection between two bands.

Back in 2005, the local alt-rock bands Middleworld and Dafino started playing shows together at the Annex. Middleworld was powered by guitarist Marc Claggett and bassist Kevin McDonnell. Commo fronted Dafino.

"When those bands broke up, the three of us started writing songs together," says Commo. "We never planned to play live together and turn it into a new band."

At the time, Commo was changing his approach to songwriting. "I had discovered ProTools and thought it would be a great way to write music because you just kind of copy and paste to see if it fits," he says.

McDonnell and Claggett joined Commo's efforts. "I think we were all just bored with what we were doing," says Commo. "We wanted to try a different way to write songs."

After the trio starting posting their compositions to MySpace, drummer Brad Hawes and guitarist and keyboard player Scott Cannady from Madison's Revolving Door asked Commo if he had room for two more.

Suddenly, the Projection People had evolved into a band and started playing live.

What bonds the band, says Commo, is an appetite for musical diversity. "Our tastes are so broad," he says. "I can bring in a track from Fiona Apple to Mastodon, and we'll find things we like in it, things we want to bring to our music."

For Commo, that commonality has provided the rare experience of, as he puts it, "not having to compromise."

"In other bands I've felt like I had to compromise my musical tastes," he says. "But in this band, it's different."

There's a heavy-rock overtone to much of the Projection People's debut disc. But there's also a lot more. The opening minute of "Spacefest" feeds off an explosion of electric guitars that's punctuated with psychedelic synth. Then the power surge wanes. The song gets quieter. Bass and drums resonate with piano and strings.

"Burying the Sun" has the feel of a Silversun Pickups alt-rock song, but the track begins with sampled strings reminiscent of the Dirty Projectors.

Then there are tracks that depart entirely, like "Familia." The electric piano chords of that song meet bass lines that give the song an R&B feel.

Commo says it took the Projection People two years to make this CD, but they're already at work on a six-song EP follow-up.

The new songs, says Commo, will continue to expand the band's experimental edges. "The idea of this band is musical diversity."

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