Monday, July 24, 2017 This Week's Paper

Make a Scene: Newest Umber Sleeping spinoff explores compelling, new sounds

Drummers that sing lead vocals are a rare breed. Even rarer are drummers that sing and keep the beat with one hand while playing key bass with the other, a la I Like Science's Peter Teitjan. But he insists he's not just showing off.

Tietjan first adopted this two-instrument approach – which he'll put on display when his buzz-worthy duo plays Tacoma's New Frontier Lounge on Jan. 25 – when bassist Paul Eddy couldn't make it to practice one day.

“I plugged in the bass amp, and the key bass sounded great,” Tietjan explained shortly before his shift running the boards at the New Frontier last week. He and guitarist Doug Morse were hooked and even contemplated adding more keys to the mix, despite their lack of personnel.

“I've done it at practice a little bit, have some bass goin' and top keys and kick drum,” he said. “But it's so showboaty, I just don't wanna do it. It looks a little ridiculous.”

Laughing, Morse agreed. “It does look a little ridiculous – singing and playing two keyboards.” (Hey, tell that to Tori Amos.)

Tietjan is best known as the singer, drummer and primary songwriter for Umber Sleeping, the popular Tacoma synth-pop band he started a decade ago. Morse played with that band for roughly half its run. And I Like Science is Umber's latest permutation, following a brief period when the group was renamed Follow the Kites, to reflect a new lineup and a change in musical direction, in 2010.

Tietjan and Morse started playing as I Like Science, initially with Eddy, last summer. Like Umber Sleeping, the new band's reverb-drenched jams compellingly bridge the gap between space rock and new wave. But stripping down to a lean two-piece has forced Tietjan and Morse to collaborate in inventive new ways.

“It's an instrumentation change and an era change and a quality change,” Tietjan explained.

“Having to play with one arm has affected the style of drumming a little bit,” he said. “I still have a looping pedal where I'll pull up a couple of things, and then I'll be able to have some fun for a minute. But, for the most part, it's a little more four on the floor, a little straighter beats.”

“And in the past couple years, I've gotten attached to my whammy bar and just delved into surf music. So that's come out more recently,” Morse said. “The necessity of two people having to fill up the sound has kind of forced us out of our comfort zone to create some cool music.”

The duo plans to head into the studio soon and hit the road this spring. “We're going to start recording an album now, basically – like a full-length,” Tiejen said. “And then maybe a bunch of tape EPs,” he added, citing the recent hipster revival of cassette collecting.

Joining I Like Science on Friday night's bill are Battersea, Oh Dear and the Glass Elevators. Music will start after 8 p.m., and cover is $8. The New Frontier is located at 301 E. 25th St., in Tacom: (253) 572-4020 or for further details.