By Juliet Farmer
Take classical instruments; add haunting vocals, mix, and the end result is Exquisite Corps, a local band with a loyal following and much-anticipated debut album in the works. The six-member band, or some variation thereof, has performed at local art galleries, with the Sacramento Ballet, and in various local venues including The Press Club. Bryan Valenzuela (vocals/guitar), Krystyna Taylor (cello), Robby Dean (drums/vocals), Nathan Webb (bass), Reylynn Goessling (violin), and Kristin Arnold (violin) have managed to create a sound that’s at once unique and familiar, haunting and happy, melodic and melancholy. Their rich, deep sound is created layer upon layer, making for music that’s dramatic and decadent.
Fan Anne Iaccopucci describes Exquisite Corp’s sound as infectious and provocative. “They are marrying the beginnings of music with an innovative modern day sound,” she notes. Fellow fan Nick Lawrence adds that the band makes maximum use of both modern rock and classical string instruments’ capabilities and timbres. Fan David Andry admits he’s hard-pressed to sum up their style. “When people ask me who they sound like, I really have no answer for them because I’ve never heard anyone like them,” he says. “I mean, how many times to you get to rock out to cello and violins?”
Exquisite Corps calls their music orchestral indie/chamber pop, and claim such diverse influences as Nick Cave, Led Zeppelin, the music from Twin Peaks, and opera.
And then there’s the live performance element, which can make or break a band. With abundant stage presence, Exquisite Corps can make a fan out of anyone. Says Jake Sorensen, “The music is brilliant, sure, but it is the energy brought to every performance that makes Exquisite Corps remarkable. You get the sense that the band is having so much fun, and that energy immediately transfers to the audience.”
Recently, CBSSacramento caught up with some of Exquisite Corps’s members to talk about music and the band. Here’s what they had to say:
CBS Sacramento: When did you first take an interest in music? Why?
Bryan: My first memory of music is watching a Beatles special on TV. I was probably three or four years old. It drew me in.
Krystyna: I started cello in fifth grade in an after-school program, after seeing Yo-Yo Ma on “Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood.”
Kristen: I remember my mom taking me to see Syracuse Symphony a couple of times when I was around four and being completely drawn in. Also, my brothers and sister were studying violin at the time, so being the youngest, I of course wanted to do whatever they were doing. I didn’t really get my chance until I was 11 though.
Reylynn: As a little girl I was obsessed with ballet and had several records that I cycled through (I still have my “Nutcracker” record). But alas, I was a pretty awful dancer. Despite that, I still loved the music. I was very fortunate to have a great orchestra program at school, and once I had the violin in my hands, I knew I found my fit.
CBS Sacramento: What’s your music background?
Bryan: I started playing guitar at 10 or 11. Violin in my teens. Piano too. I’ve played in a million bands since then, toured across the country, and wrote and released some albums.
Krystyna: I’ve been playing cello for 21 years and was a music major in college where I picked up violin and viola.
Kristin: I come from a classical background. As a kid, my best friend and I wanted be in musicals. In high school, I sang in two choirs and played in the high school orchestra and chamber
orchestra. I started college as a double-major in voice and violin. After my third year in college, I won a fellowship to play with an orchestra in New York City–a whole season at Carnegie Hall. That’s about when I decided to focus on violin.
Reylynn: After receiving a bachelor’s degree in music in performance, I played for various orchestras including playing as assistant concert master for the Camellia Symphony here in Sacramento and with chamber groups such as the Alternative String Band. I have recorded with various bands (David Houston, Sal Valentino, An Angle, and Doombird). In addition to Exquisite Corps, I currently play with David Houston, Doombird, and David Houston.
CBS Sacramento: How did Exquisite Corps come together?
Bryan: Krystyna and I started the group officially in spring of 2010 and went through a series of other players. We finalized a line-up in spring of this year, which includes a drummer (Robby) and bassist (Nate) that I’ve been playing with since high school on and off, and two violinists (Reylynn and Kristin) that Krystyna has played with since college. It’s kind of a family band atmosphere, to use the term loosely.
CBS Sacramento: How did the band name come about?
Bryan: It’s sort of a play on words based on the Surrealist game “the exquisite corpse.” It’s a game of collaboration which suits the purpose of any ensemble endeavor, but especially a
Krystyna: Bryan picked the name, but it represents many different musical people brought together to create something unique.
CBS Sacramento: How does the band write songs?
Bryan: I write the songs and approach Krystyna, Robby, and Nate with them. They all work out parts and help arrange. I write the violin parts based on what we come up with. Then everyone fleshes it out and makes it sing.
CBS Sacramento: What’s your goal/dream for the band?
Bryan: To be able to make a career solely from writing, recording, and performing this music around the world.
Krystyna: My goals and dreams are to become a rock star.
Until their inevitable (INO) dreams come true, Bryan works at the Crocker Art Museum as an art handler/preparator and visitor services representative; Reylynn and Krystyna teach privately, and Krystyna also conducts the K Street orchestra; and Kristin is a consultant with an IT firm.
Learn more about Exquisite Corps on their Facebook page.