"Cleveland is so much of a rock city. If you're a punk band, there's a lot more places for you to play than there is for electronic music," says Patrick Colef, founder of the shadowy synth act Inovercy. Colef is sipping a beer in the cellar where his friends in State of Being are rehearsing. They share the same plight: "There's a lot of people out there doing this kind of music; they're just not getting exposure," Colef says. "They're not getting heard."
Now, we know how much Cleveland likes good old-fashioned rock and roll. It's not like anyone could forget, with The Drew Carey Show and its "Cleveland rocks!" sloganeering, done with all the subtlety of an atomic wedgie.
In the past decade, though, the real movers out of the Cleveland music scene -- Nine Inch Nails, Filter, Prick -- haven't hailed from the ballyhooed trad-rock crowd, but the overlooked electronic realm. Granted, those acts have pronounced rock leanings that balance their digital undertones; still, given the fanfare they've been afforded, it's a mystery why electronic music is a second-class citizen here these days.
Out to boost this rep is the Cleveland Synth Club, a loose coterie of musicians and fans aiming to shore up the local electronic scene. The club sprang from a website -- these are tech geeks we're talking about, after all -- created by State of Being frontman Christopher Foldi a couple of years back. Foldi's darkcleveland.com, primarily a listing of upcoming shows and contact info for Cleveland electronic musicians, inspired Colef and Matthew Lewis of SickApril to supply an infrastructure to the scattered scene.
Thus, CSC was born last August. With just over 50 members, the group holds monthly meetings, hosts a website (clevelandsynth.com), puts on shows and workshops on MIDI and software applications, and recently released a superb compilation of Cleveland electro-goth and rock titled Foundations.
"When I started making this compilation and hearing from all these bands that were around here, I was amazed at what people were doing," Colef says. "The feedback that I've gotten from the comp -- not only from the bands, but from fans out there -- has been really good. And not just in Cleveland."
CSC has held well-attended release parties for the disc in Toledo and Columbus, and in doing so, it is beginning to establish the kind of ties between bands that strong scenes are built upon.
"It's great when somebody takes the initiative to actually do something to bring the community together, because, in the past, there's been a lot of squabbling," says Ed Douglas of the ambient goth duo Midnight Syndicate. "They're getting all these bands to play together; I love it."
It's a simple enough task to round up local musicians for the purposes of drinking beer and talking shop. But it's the same camaraderie that solidified Seattle's storied rock scene of the early '90s -- as well as the rap circles in Houston and Atlanta a couple of years later. And while the local electronic underground can hardly be expected to do the same for Cleveland -- the music simply isn't commercial enough -- clearly this scene has gained momentum in recent months.
"We've been doing this for 10 years or so, and we've kind of always felt like we were floating out there as one of the few bands doing it," State of Being keyboardist Shara von Foldi says. "Suddenly, we started noticing that there's a whole lot of bands [doing this kind of music]. We're all going to each other's shows, we're supporting each other, and I have to attribute it to the Synth Club. It was like 'Oh wow, there is a network out there. There really is.'"
Realistically, though, how much impact can CSC expect to have?
"A lot of this stuff starts with big aspirations and then kind of crashes, but so far the mailing list is continuing, the website is up, and the CD seems to be spurring a lot of interest," says Adam Boose of Furnace St., a moody synth-rock ensemble whose members are part of CSC.
"I'm hoping this is a foundation for something that's going to build," adds Christopher Foldi. "This is a starting point, the first step."
Out of the basement, hopefully. Elvis will be lonely.