Cabo Boing will perform at The Atlantic Friday, March 23 for Sprang Break along with Gainesville’s Pearl & The Oysters and DirtBike from Boynton Beach.
By Tyler Francischine
The house lights dim as Cabo Boing’s set begins. All eyes are drawn to two glowing red orbs, which hover just below Brian Esser’s eyes. Lemon-yellow fringe drips from his nose to his chin, resembling the whiskers of some radioactive Santa Claus or perhaps the inner workings of a mechanized car wash. Nearly every inch of Esser’s body is covered in bright fabric, save for the tips of his fingers, which nimbly move from the electric guitar strapped to his neck to the effects equipment lined up in front of him.
Photo courtesy of Brian Esser
Cabo Boing, the solo project of veteran Florida musician Brian Esser, transports listeners with its bright, jubilant melodies and driving rhythms. The sounds of 2017 debut Blob On A Grid, released by Haord Records, get your juices flowing whether you’re dancing in a live audience or head-bopping along with headphones as you crank away in a cubicle. Combine this sound with Esser’s costuming, and you’ve got an experience that’ll probably resurface in your dreamscape.
Esser says he feels most inspired to create in the moments immediately following a live performance.
“There’s a sense of accomplishment following every live show. I think of it like a magic trick that I hope goes well, and I’m very relieved every time it does,” he says. “Like a magic trick, there is a system in place for how I perform my songs. While I’m playing, I’ll get these feelings of when things are working best, or when I’m enjoying what I’m hearing the most. I try to remember these moments for when I get home and can start writing again.”
Esser began writing music nearly two decades ago when he was gifted a synthesizer after graduating high school in Longwood, Fla., just north of Orlando. In 2001, he formed Yip-Yip with friend Jason Temple, and the pair went on to release six albums over the next decade. The self-proclaimed “weirdo synthesizer duo” drew acclaim for both their sound and their attention to visual aesthetic. An Independent Florida Alligator article from 2013 noted, “This band is used to performing blind. No, it’s not a Ray Charles tribute band. It’s Yip-Yip, Orlando’s strangely costumed electronic act.”
Yip-Yip, 2011. Photo by Jenna Shumate
Esser, who also played in Orlando’s Moon Jelly for their self-titled album, says costumes have longed enabled him to get on stage and share his music with others.
“I have stage fright and anxiety in most social situations. I’ve always been comforted by the idea of making it seem like it’s not me up on stage,” he says. “I didn’t realize this until a recent show where a friend posted a clip of my set. Not only can you not tell it’s me physically, but my voice is now so mutated that it doesn’t sound like me either.”
Though Cabo Boing continues Yip-Yip’s penchant for visuals and synthesizer-based sounds, it differs philosophically from previous projects. With Blob On A Grid, Esser is more intentional than ever before.
“The equipment that we used in Yip-Yip was just a mess of odd things we would find for cheap on Craigslist,” he says. “Cabo Boing comes from a place where I understand the equipment more, and how much these boxes can change the sound of a project. I could start the project thinking about what my favorite sounds and effects are and make that the core of what I’m doing. I’m trying to spread my love of certain sounds and effects to anyone that’s happy to hear it. There are other things I’m communicating in the lyrics that might be important too, but that’s more unconscious.”
Esser draws inspiration from avant-garde artist collective The Residents, English art rock act Cardiacs and new-wave electronic rock act Devo, the latter of which also incorporated kitsch science-fiction themes in their costuming and sample-based, synthesized sounds.
“Oh, No! It’s Devo was the first Devo album I bought. I think it was 20 years ago! It’s funny because I didn’t realize for years how electronic the album was. Most of the drums were actually drum machines, and a lot of the synthesizers were sequenced and probably not played by hand,” he says. “Their next album, Shout, was almost entirely made on an early sampling computer. I relate much more to those two albums because it’s so much like how I make music.”
Photo by Tiffany Topor
Esser says his creative process incorporates both ever-evolving techniques and ancient software, which evens out to become a fairly slow and annoying undertaking.
“I start by writing the music with now-ancient computer software like Acid 4.0 and Sound Forge,” he says. “Then I run those sounds and melodies through a few different convoluted processes with hardware equipment that hopefully bring them to life.”
Esser spent four years in New York City bringing Cabo Boing to life, but now he’s excited to share the project with Florida audiences. He moved to Tampa a few months ago and has already played several shows across the sunshine state.
“I missed Florida very much. I made a lot of friends and learned a lot while I was up in New York, but it always felt like a temporary thing. Many of my best creative friends either live here, or they’re from here,” he says. “It’s been really fun going out the past couple of months, seeing what’s new in all the different cities. Lots of exciting stuff and I’m very happy to be back!”