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Two Loons for Tea brings experimental pop to Dahlonega
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Two Loons for Tea, a Seattle-based band, will play Saturday at The Crimson Moon in Dahlonega

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"Monkey" by Two Loons for Tea

As a child, Jonathan Kochmer discovered music by playing with his father's Army surplus equipment in the basement.

Now one half of the duo Two Loons for Tea, a Seattle-based pop group performing Saturday at The Crimson Moon in Dahlonega, Kochmer said his first instrument was an old oscilloscope. The device allows electrical currents to be seen, and gives off an eerie "wrrahhh" sound.

"My dad had been in the Army and he had all these Army surplus electronics in the cellar, and before I started playing guitar I would tinker downstairs with weird signal generators," he said. "My first band I was the mad scientist of all sorts of wheels and gears, and some of the music I listened to a lot as a teenager was experimental classical music."

Those early beginnings in electronica laid the foundation of what would evolve into a music career, and today those influences can be heard - albeit subtly - in Two Loons for Tea.

The group layers pop-styled music with the vocals of Sarah Scott, evoking a bit of trance music intertwined with jazz and ambient influences. While their style could be compared with Cocteau Twins or Portishead, Scott's vocals add a bright dimension to the songs.

She said her vocal style is influenced by music her mother played when she was young - lots of classic singer/songwriters and soul music.

"She was into singer/songwriters or soul. For the vocal style, it was soul because I was hearing all the time Aretha Franklin and Marvin Gaye, and she played a lot of Billie Holiday records," Scott said. "Later I gravitated to other things, but early on it was a soul influence from my mother's collection."

Both contribute to the songwriting process, they said, although more recently Scott has focused on lyrics and Kochmer has focused on the music. Their approach to the music is improvisational, Kochmer said, and when they get into the studio they have other musicians join them and the songs are stirred up even more.

"It's a back and forth of inspiration," he said. "What I'm playing on the guitar might be leading Sarah for a while, and then she'll come up with some melody or some lyric and that might inspire me to go off in a different way.

"So, it's pretty much give and take."

Their most recent album, "Nine Lucid Dreams," was recorded outside Austin, Texas, at Willie Nelson's recording studio. The duo recruited musician friends from Austin, like Matt Chamberlain, a drummer for Tori Amos and Patrick Warren, a keyboardist for Fiona Apple, and then let the countryside and the atmosphere direct the record.

As a result, Scott said, the flavor of the Southwest comes through on the album more than their previous ones, which were recorded in the cloudy Pacific Northwest.

"There were a couple of songs that emerged that I think were directly related to that experience," she said. "One is ‘Marietta,' which has got sort of a Southwest flavor.

"It was just nice to - well, it gets pretty gray in Seattle in the summer - just to be in a different environment and soak up some of that Willie energy."

Their live shows, she added, are always different. Rather than try to recreate exactly what happened during the recording session, she said their live shows are more spontaneous and also depend on the musicians traveling with them, too.

"It's a pretty full sound," she said. "It's different from the album, and some people are surprised that they like it even more than the album. It's a little more raw, and it's got energy."

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