For a band born and raised in Champaign-Urbana, i:scintilla gets little attention in their hometown.
Formed in 2003, the group was the brainchild of Jim Cookas, who had composed a number of songs on his home computer and was looking for a band to flesh them out. Cookas logged onto openingbands.com, a CU website dedicated to local music, and found a lead singer as well as the rest of his band.
From there, the group worked on and self-released their debut album, The Approach, in late 2004. Filled with heavy riffs and led by the intense vocals of lead signer, Brittany Bindrim, The Approach garnered fan and critical praise, as well as a deal with electronic music label Alfa Matrix. Yet i:scintilla, which means both “a minute amount, a trace” and “a spark, a flash,” were left feeling cold at home.
“We do much better outside of Champaign-Urbana than in our hometown,” Cookas said. “There are certain things about this town and our sound, maybe we’re too heavy, but we’re considered outcasts.”
The “heaviness” of i:scintilla has drawn comparisons to everyone from Garbage to White Zombie, but their reliance on electronic beats creates a unique musical landscape.
“Our influences are varied, but Nine Inch Nails, Bowie, The Cure, and even Soundgarden can be counted,” Cookas said.
The live experience brings to the forefront the versatility of the group with a set-up that includes a live drummer, electronic drum machines on laptops, two guitarists, synthesizers, and a bass player backing up the high-energy delivery
“We just added the live drummer and combined with the synths, laptops, and stuff our live songs actually sound a lot different than the recorded versions,” Cookas said. “We’re always writing new stuff and trying to become more sophisticated musically.”
The fruit of their hard work is a brand new EP, Havestar, which includes 4 re-mastered tracks from The Approach as well as remixes of other i:scintilla songs by artists on the Alfa Matrix label.
“The form of the songs is the same, but with better equipment and having worked with a great producer we’ve improved the sound greatly,” Cookas said. “We are trying more sounds, different sounds, and as a result we have better ears now.”
The Havestar EP, due out August 25, is the first of two releases scheduled in the near future for
i:scintilla, with a full-length major debut scheduled for March 2007. The band has a release party/show for the new EP on August 11 at Cowboy Monkey where advanced copies will be available and where the band hopes the local community will come out and support their brand of “heavy” electronic-rock.