On November 26, 1989 MTV launched the highly successful and critically praised hour-long show simply entitled “Unplugged.” The concept was brilliant, take big name acts and have them play their songs (or others) acoustically.
It was the height of the “grunge” era, so bands like Alice Chains, Nirvana and Pearl Jam put in some legendary performances. Then, as with all MTV ideas, it went straight to hell. Artists like LL Cool J, Mariah Carey, and Lil Wayne were the focus of the show.
(Editor’s note: Apparently “MTV Unplugged” still exists, just not on a regular basis.)
Fast forward 20-plus years and you will find Chicago’s industrial hard rock band I:Scintilla—Brittany Bindrim (vocals/lyrics); Jim Cookas (guitar/programming); Vincent Grech (drums); and Brent Leitner (guitar/programming)—has put down their Gibson Les Pauls and synths in favor of acoustic guitars and basic percussion for their latest EP, Marrow 1.
“We have wanted to put together a collection of acoustic recordings for a while now. We’ve talked about it for years and we finally decided to make it happen,” frontwoman Brittany Bindrim said.
“Since the formation of the band we have written many songs unplugged and have often performed this way. So even though a lot of our music is heavily electronic, it felt like a natural move for us. We wanted to try something new, shift gears and experiment with our sound. Writing Marrow 1 was a great way to recharge our batteries and help us think about songwriting in a different way.”
As Bindrim mentioned, I:Sctinlla has experimented with playing acoustically at special and/or smaller shows, which was a request from their fan base.
“We began doing acoustic shows to fulfill our own desires. Performing acoustically is more laid back and raw than our full band performances, which appealed to us as a nice change of pace and a great way to be a bit more spontaneous,” Bindrim said. “For example, on a recent trip to New Orleans Jim and I decided to randomly busk on the streets of the French Quarter just for fun. Performing unplugged gave us the final push to record an acoustic EP. In the end, we are very happy we did.”
Those early acoustic shows gave the hard rockers the confidence to take their newfound sound into the studio to record what would become the five-song EP Marrow 1. The release is something special, with three I:Scintilla originals stripped down to their bare bones.
“‘Drag Along’ is a new song that we wrote for the EP. I had a vocal melody and lyrics in mind that I thought would work perfect in a stripped down environment. Jim wrote the guitar parts to the vocal. This was a different way from which we typically begin the writing process, and we really loved the outcome.
“The second two original songs were from our last full-length album, Dying & Falling. We experimented with a number of originals by stripping them down, but those two tracks were our favorites. From the start we knew ‘The Shake’ would translate well acoustically. On the flip side, we were pleasantly surprised when we slowed down and reworked the metal infused, fast paced song ‘Ammunition.’ It takes on a completely different life.”
To complete the five-song EP, the band threw in two…let’s just say obscure cover versions. However, if you knew anything about the band, you know their influences are wide and far.
“One could diagnose our band with bipolar disorder, right?” Bindrim joked. “The two covers that appear on Marrow 1 were songs we had first tried out live. We covered ‘Girl You Want’ for a performance at our good friends’ wedding. The mood and pace of the quirky, upbeat original is vastly different from our acoustic take. We liked the outcome so much that we decided to record the track. The band IAMX is an influence of ours, and ‘Spit It Out’ is one of our favorite songs. It is so brilliantly crafted and well written. I hope we did the song justice!”
I:Scintilla has been around for nearly a decade now, so this new acoustic EP should be no big surprise to their loyal fans. Not only has the band continued to grow, but Bindrim’s vocals are vastly more confident and powerful.
“I feel I have grown much more confident as a vocalist, performer, and songwriter over the years as each member of I:Scintilla feels they have grown and become a stronger musician. An acoustic EP wouldn’t have come as naturally to us five or 10 years ago because of what we have seen on the road, what we have written over the years, and where life has led us to this point.”
So the simple question begs to be asked, what’s next for I:Scintilla? Will they be playing more acoustic shows now? Will there be a heavy full-length soon, touring….or will Bindrim and Cookas become domesticated with babies and a minivan?
“In addition to playing acoustic shows here and there, we just released a brand new digital single for our new electronic track, ‘Skin Tight.’ The release also features two fantastic remixes from The Luna Sequence and Psy’Aviah. To coincide with the single, we just unleashed our brand new music video directed by the mighty and talented Chris Folkens. This is the third video he has directed for us and most definitely our favorite. Coming up, we plan on releasing a new EP and album, as well as doing a substantial full band tour in the spring.”
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