Scientist by day, moonlighting musician after hours
Music versus science. Right brain against left brain. Creativity versus logic. ASU Professor Ed Garnero lived the first 35 years of his life thinking that the two were in battle with each other until he discovered that his day-job skill of analyzing seismic waves could be transferred to the musical realm. This seismic wave-studying, electric bass guitar-toting scientist and his band The Groove Noodles played together for the first time at their CD release party May 8.
Before The Groove Noodles there was just a young Ed, torn between science and music. Growing up in a very artistic environment, he was exposed to music and art at a young age. A self-taught electric bass guitarist, he was soon running down the street to play in the neighborhood garage band. His passion carried him into college, and it was the money he earned playing gigs on the weekends that paid his tuition. Although he enjoyed both music and school, he was jealous of his musician friends who got to play their instruments all week (and did not have to go to school), but he was also envious of his schoolmates who only studied and did not have to perform on weekends to earn money.
Years later, after receiving tenure in the School of Earth and Space Exploration in ASU’s College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, Garnero realized he was forgetting to live, that the music was gone from his life. He discovered that his need for self-expression could be fulfilled by transferring a skill from his day job to the musical realm. With his Sadowsky electric bass in hand, Garnero started musically experimenting and exploring project tunes.
“Scientists are organizers – we take in information and look at it and see patterns. When I stopped fighting it, I could learn music and see many more patterns in the music,” explains Garnero. “There is a direct correlation between science and music – waves and vibration define music, as well as phenomena in our natural world, like earthquakes, tsunamis, and the like.”
The software music producers use relies on wave analysis, and it is earthquake waveforms that Garnero and other seismologists look at on a daily basis. He transferred this skill to the recording studio and produced The Groove Noodles’ first CD Me Oui.
“The band was a kind of funny after thought,” says Garnero, adding, “and because of that the CD is a bit eclectic. I never had a destination in mind while I was playing alone.”
The music is pleasingly eclectic, but so is the composition of the band itself with its funky horns, soulful singers, and rock-solid rhythm section.
“Many of the musicians that recorded on the CD have not met,” says Garnero. “I used many of the same tools I use in seismology to digitally edit us all together, collecting the performances from afar, and then emailing parts around.”
Garnero assembled a 10-piece band that included casual players and professional musicians including sax player Gary Regina (Prescott, Ariz.), guitarist David Bell (Richmond, Calif.), keyboardist Tim Campbell (Antioch, Calif.), drummer Jim Watson (Venice, Calif.), and even one guy from France.
“At the American Geophysical Union conference I met this geodynamicist France, Nico Coltice, and got to know him a bit more on Facebook,” explains Garnero. “I sent him an MP3 and he sent back a sax part.”
Many people find that self-expression comes easiest when they can let go and be spontaneous – and for The Groove Noodles it’s no different. The band’s sound is fresh because it’s not practiced or planned – it’s a response, it’s an expression.
“Our music is created by us authentically responding to each other. This isn’t just one person pasting individual parts together to make a nice sounding musical quilt,” explains Garnero. “My goal is to capture people responding to stuff around them. I encourage the musicians respond to the track and play what they play.”
Creating in this manner takes people with big ears and even bigger hearts who have the technical proficiency to express themselves with an instrument.
“The name of the band has real meaning to us and represents what we do,” says Garnero. “Noodling is the equivalent of ‘music doodling’ but for us, the groove needs to come first, then the melodic noodling part.”
The song “Me Oui” embodies what the band is all about: musicians listening to and responding to each other and it began with Garnero asking Coltice to say something in French and record it.
“He didn’t write just a sentence or two, or even a paragraph – he wrote an entire French rap, which ended up as part of the title track,” says Garnero. “I then asked one of our French-speaking post doctoral students, Audrey, to help me come up with things to rhyme with “Me Oui.” She calls me back and leaves a message in French, and that’s now the chorus of the song. I love how it came together randomly by having people add to it.”
Like many of the album’s other songs, “Me Oui” pushed all of the artists out of their element, including vocalist Sarah Keller. Keller was one of Garnero’s former Geology 101 students who volunteered to sing extra credit songs. Four years later she’s with The Groove Noodles – singing the chorus of “Me Oui” and she does not even speak French.
The album, which consists of 12 songs, has funky grooves beneath soul and rhythm and blues that is inspired by hitmakers Stevie Wonder, Earth Wind and Fire, and various jam bands and Motown artists. It was recorded over a period of two years in studios in Phoenix, Los Angeles, and the Bay Area under the label “Be Good 2 Your Earhole.”
In addition to the main CD “Me Oui” there is an extra three song CD called “More.” The main CD has three covers, the rest originals. The extra CD is three covers that have a very old soul/funk feel.
“The musicians are really excited for the gig – they’ve been hearing about each other, hearing each other, and playing along with recordings of each other for a couple years,” says Garnero. “It’s probably like an internet relationship, and Saturday is finally the big date!”
The released recording is soon to be available locally and online. For more information on the Groove Noodles or to listen to samples of the CD, go to the band’s website at: http://groovenoodles.com/.