SouthSounds veterans I’MAGENE will perform at Dauphin Street Blues Co. Saturday, June 2.
Date: Saturday, June 2, 10 p.m.
Venue: Dauphin Street Blues Co., 568 Dauphin St., 251-725-6429
Tickets: Call for more info.
SouthSounds 2018 succeeded in introducing attendees to some of the Southeast’s freshest and hottest musical acts. I’MAGENE was among many up-and-coming bands that took advantage of the weekend in April to make their Azalea City debut.
I’MAGENE guitarist Robby Walton said the band’s journey to SouthSounds was his first experience in Mobile. He said he was taken by the mix of Southern and European influences Mobile shares with New Orleans. Walton said he was also surprised by the many great musical acts he experienced over the course of the festival.
“I had never seen some of the people that we were performing next to. It wasn’t what I expected. There were 12-piece fun bands and a band with two bass players. There were unique styles of music, but still held true to the South. It was really a breath of fresh air,” Walton said.
He should not sell his own band short. I’MAGENE was one of the most original acts featured in the SouthSounds 2018 lineup. In a time when the synth-pop craze is growing stale, I’MAGENE has taken this ‘80s-inspired style and forced it into a new dimension.
This Panhandle quartet uses synthesizer and electric violin as the foundation for a smooth, sensual musical experience that drips with unbridled emotion through musical arrangements and Anthony O’Shae’s stellar lyrical and vocal work. This sound maintains the nostalgic aspects of synth-pop while taking the genre into the future.
Walton, who fronted a power funk group before I’MAGENE, says the band’s unique sound is a pooling of each member’s musical influence, with the end result something the group calls “Retro Electro Soul.”
“Everybody’s doing this retro ‘80s synth-pop thing, and we want to make it more heartfelt and rootsy and show people that it’s an influence of not just one style,” Walton said.
Five years ago, I’MAGENE began shaping its Retro Electro Soul sound under the name Continuum. However, this moniker proved problematic for the quartet. Not only was there an abundance of musical projects using the name, it also was the title of a John Mayer album. When it came to locating I’MAGENE under its former name, Walton said newcomers had a hard time finding the band online.
The group arrived at the name I’MAGENE after the current lineup’s first performance at the Imogene Theater in Milton, Florida. However, the band decided to give the name a twist that would give the public a peek into the band’s ideology.
“We just changed the spelling a little and made the phrase ‘I’m a gene,’ like we’re all made up with genes,” Walton said. “No matter what it looks like on the outside, we all love music. It just kind of fit, and we shoved it into one word.”
Pioneering the Retro Electro Soul sound has not been without its challenges. Coming up in Destin, Walton says the band is basically “disconnected from everything in the area.” With the exception of Mobile, I’MAGENE has quite a distance to travel for performances in major markets such as Atlanta and New Orleans. However, Walton also added this “disconnection” has allowed the band to “incubate” its sound.
I’MAGENE also had their region to consider. For years, a trifecta of blues, Southern rock and heavy metal has dominated the Florida music scene. While it makes I’MAGENE’s sound a unique artistic commodity, Walton said the band realized this regionally innovative music project could be viewed as “really good or really bad.” He attributed the band’s initial acceptance to regional connections, friendly interactions with the public and each member’s musical talents, especially vocalist Anthony O’Shae.
“Anthony, our singer, is phenomenal,” Walton said. “He can hold a powerful note. I call him the male version of Whitney Houston. We have Jess [Heit] on the violin and Charlie [Bruice] adds his influence, which is ‘90s alt. rock. When you combine all these things with synth-pop, it becomes its own thing. People have just responded to it, and it has taken off like wildfire.”
In addition to playing shows, the members of I’MAGENE have been spending their free time in the studio recording an EP, which Walton said he hopes will be released before the end of summer.
The songwriting process can change with each song, Walton said. The one constant during the band’s composition is the members’ collective desire to make each song “a work of art.” One songwriting method begins with O’Shae, who Walton said finds inspiration from life experience.
O’Shae will compose lyrics and a basic chord structure. As the rest of the band hears O’Shae’s contribution, Walton said, the band tries to make an emotional connection and translate these emotions through the band’s arrangements.
“We like to make it so if there were no words, then you would still know what the song is about by how it feels,” Walton said.
Until the release of the EP, the public can get a taste for I’MAGENE through the single “Faded.” A warm, ethereal wave of synth introduces this song before O’Shae’s versatile soul vocals slide cleanly into the first verse. “Faded” maintains an air of sweet, melancholy passion through the entire song as layer upon layer of instrumentation is introduced.
Walton said “Faded” details the aftermath of a toxic relationship. The track details the dilemma over whether the decision to leave this toxic relationship was a good choice.
“You’re trying really, really hard to get them back, but they’re nonexistent in your life,” Walton explained. “It makes you wonder if you made the right decision. The song comes from knowing that and understanding that you have to let it go too.”
I’MAGENE will perform this track as well as other originals at the Dauphin Street Blues Co. Walton promised the crowd will have an “honest and genuine” musical experience. He said newcomers will find the electronic groove of I’MAGENE’s Retro Electro Soul appealing.
I’MAGENE fans can look forward to the release of a new single within the next month.