If you’re too poor to afford a Together Fest pass but still need your dose of super-fresh, razor-edge electronic pop, then stop by ZuZu tonight to hear Cry Guy play their first Boston-area show in two months
The duo, which consists of local ambient-electronic musician Cameron Potter and Berklee first-year Virginia de las Pozas, formed in late 2012, when de las Pozas, also the singer in low-fi pop band Seductress, gave a solo performance at Dreamhaus, the Allston house venue where Potter was living at the time. Potter, who has spent the last few years touring extensively under the name Little Spoon, heard her set and immediately recognized a kindred spirit. Some weeks later, bedridden with a broken toe and zonked out on painkillers, Potter composed a track with her voice in mind and emailed it to her on a whim. She returned it within 24 hours with vocals, and Cry Guy was born.
That song, titled “Gumdrop Wishes,” became the fourth track on Tears of Whatever, the four-track EP that Cry Guy released in mid-March as a limited run of 100 cassette tapes and also online via their Bandcamp page. The other songs developed in a similar manner, with Potter and de las Pozas collaborating mostly via email. They did not even play together in the same room until they started rehearsing for their late-March tour, and did not write their songs with live performance in mind. And furthermore, the sample – and loop-based composition technique that Potter has practiced for years was still new to de las Pozas, whose fateful Dreamhaus show last fall was, in fact, the first time she ever looped her voice live.
Despite these difficulties, though, Cry Guy are supremely confident onstage. Early on, they made a conscious decision to keep their songs loosely defined, so as to leave room for improvisation. De las Pozas, as of their tour kickoff show (and fifth time onstage together) at Great Scott on March 13, was clearly still unaccustomed to having her voice sampled live – but her discomfort only served to charge her singing with a palpable sense of exploration and discovery. At times she gave the impression of a deaf person with a brand new cochlear implant, hearing her voice, a gorgeous alto in the vein of Billie Holiday and Portishead’s Beth Gibbons, for the first time ever. She and Potter gave a captivating performance: heartfelt, exploratory but never meandering or tentative, full of surprises.
Potter and de las Pozas are always determined to keep their work as fresh as possible. Even the unmistakable strains of Super Mario Brothers, which rang out in the Plough and Stars at the start of Cry Guy’s set there in early March, were not pre-recorded.
“That’s not a sample,” says Potter, “That’s actually me playing Mario 64 on an emulator on my computer.”
After years in the Boston underground music scene, Potter is soon to move out of town, but he and de las Pozas are nonetheless optimistic about the future of Cry Guy. After all, the band was born via email, so long-distance collaboration won’t pose much of a difficulty for them. And moreover, it’s clear to both Potter and de las Pozas that they are onto something special. Both have been making music for over five years, and neither has ever gotten a reception anything like the one that Cry Guy is already receiving. They already have a full-length debut in the works, and look forward to pushing their fledgeling project forward as far as it will go – which, we suspect, will be quite far indeed.-Nick Cox
See Cry Guy tonight (Monday, May 13) at 9 p.m. at ZuZu (474 Mass Ave.) as part of their free weekly live music series, Night of the Living Deadhead. Local chamber-pop heroes Gem Club and newcomers Sunodeko will also appear