Trading Spaces

Back in 1999, the acclaimed film Office Space was released. This film, which was about the trials and tribulations of the cubical world, featured a character comically named Michael Bolton. Bolton, of course, scorned the same-named vocalist, stating that his name was all well and good until he was 12 and “that no-talent ass-clown” ruined it.

I am the World Trade Center, a synthy-pop band from Athens, Ga., can understand. But they aren’t pointing fingers.

Singer Amy Dykes and programmer Dan Geller selected the name in 1999 because the Athens, Ga., couple were living in Brooklyn and saw the towers beyond the end of the street each morning as they left their apartment building.

“They kind of represented us – two individuals that are identified as one,” said Dan Geller, half of this beauty-and-the-beats duo.

After the terrorist attacks last year, IATWTC donated a portion of the profits from their first album Out of the Loop, to the United Way as part of the September 11 Fund. While contemplating a name change, they shortened their name for some live shows to “I am the World,” and just “I am … ,” for others. But after overwhelming support from their fans, the band decided to re-institute their full name and haven’t looked back since.

Geller, originally from Milwaukee, and Dykes, of Alabama, met while studying at the University of Georgia. If you think your 15-credit class schedule is tough, check out their schedule. Geller also works as a bioengineering researcher at UGA, while Dykes is a graduate student in textiles and fashion design. She usually takes a semester off each year so the band can tour.

Their current tour is the definition of breakneck. After a 75-date tour this spring and summer, the band started a 45-city, 50-day tour recently, then on to Europe early next year.

While the two shared the small Brooklyn apartment, Geller would mess around mixing some beats on his laptop.

“Since our place was so small, it started to annoy Amy. So, I asked her to sing along,” said Geller.

Among their influences are ’80s legends The Clash, Blondie, and the Stone Roses. The band covers a song each from the latter two on their second album, The Tight Connection. The album features ’80s-ish synth beats, but much more clear – to the point that they sound catchy, and not familiar. On “Big Star,” Geller utilizes a simple keyboard melody that almost rings of chopsticks, but not quite. But mix that with the intermittent synthesizers and Dykes’ vocals, which weave into and out of the music, you have a song that’s extremely fun. And with lyrics like “Do you want to be a big star/Do you want to drive a new car,” you can tell they don’t take themselves too seriously.

“Pretty Baby,” has hints of a guitar riff from The Smiths’ Johnny Marr. Dykes’ voice doesn’t have the greatest range, but there’s little need for high highs or low lows here. She can strike a sultry, Kim Gordon-like tone that is consistent throughout and poses an interesting juxtaposition with all the snaps and pops in the Geller’s arrangements.

Her vocals are also not the throwaway they are in your normal dancy-pop fare. On “Dancing Alone,” there is renewed strength in Dykes’ voice, as she has to compete with Geller’s rollicking, old school hip-hop-style number. Again she sings about taking yourself too seriously, with lyrics like “Everybody looking at you/ they want to be who you are.” They even end the track with a synthesized voice. “Soirée” bounces back and forth from the calypso lounge to the dance club so much it sounds like it should be in a Volkswagen commercial (that’s a good thing).

Of course, the one song that does sound like a straight ’80s track is a cover of the famous Blondie dance hit “Call Me.” Geller said they’ve played the song at shows for some time, and it seemed to fit this album well.

This song bounces as much as the original, if only with a harder bass and Dykes pays tribute to one of her favorite songs by modeling the Debbie Harry attitude well.

At this point in the album, the listener finally figures out what IATWTC are working toward. They’re just out to have a good time and hope listeners have fun, too.

IATWTC is not your ordinary guitar-laden indie band; their shows are high-energy affairs. They rock the house with crisp digital beats and light shows.

Geller still arranges all the beats on his laptop, so he considers himself more of a producer. They rock with electronics and wit instead of three guys with six strings each.

“We’re more like entertainers, not really musicians,” said Geller.

Geller thankfully leaves the laptop at home, opting for keyboards while sharing the stage with Dykes. They don’t really want to be the focal point of their own performance, however.

“We want to get people up and dancing,” said Geller.

IATWTC will be performing as part of the Kindercore Travelling Rock & Roll Circus Tour at the Orpheum in Ybor City tonight at 9 p.m. Geller, co-founder of Kindercore Records, will also perform with The Agenda. Instrumental band Maserati (think Mercury Program) and Paper Lions round out the bill. All the bands are on the Kindercore label.

Contact Andrew Pina at