Atomic Swindlers

January 2004 PRESS

Gannett's Rochester Insider Weekly Magazine, January 21, 2005

nightlife: Swindlers need their space
Tim Karan

It was a dreary, slushy, miserable January day when I interviewed April Laragy of the local quasi-futuristic, alterna-pop outfit Atomic Swindlers. I had too many appointments to meet with her in person, so I called her instead.

She made me regret the decision.

“I was planning on doing an all-nude interview,” she revealed. “Nothing but baby oil and a smile.”

If only I had known, perhaps I would've shifted my schedule — blown off a meeting, called in sick, stolen a bike from a nun.

It's this kind of power — a sly, so overt it's almost subliminal sexual power — that the leggy Laragy casually wields as the frontwoman of the coolly sci-fi group.

Laragy is a veteran of the Rochester music scene, as are drummer Roy Stein, bassist Gary Trainer, keyboardist Brian Eggleston and guitarists Scott Ostrowski and Chris Yockel. They've played in such bands as Jet Black Berries and the Raw MaGillys.

The Atomic Swindlers first hit the street in 2001, and in 2003 the group began work on its debut album, Coming Out Electric — a concept piece that revels in retro, space-age sonicscapes originally brought to life by Ziggy Stardust -era David Bowie and Iggy Pop.

“I think we take what was cosmic about the past and try to springboard it into the future,” says Laragy. “It's sort of a celestial ride.”

In keeping with the feel of the album and songs like “Intergalactic Lesbian Love Song” and “Planet of a Thousand Lies,” Laragy herself becomes a leather-clad star girl of sorts — like a flight attendant aboard Major Tom's ship in Bowie's “Space Oddity.”

“It's a caricature of me,” she says. “The album kind of features that character going through time and space.”

Combining other-worldly lyrics, Laragy's breathy vocals and lush, multilayered instrumental tracks, the sound is one that drummer Stein describes as “big” and “British.”

“We put (the band) together to be psychobilly, and then as soon as we started to write our own stuff it didn't sound anything like that,” he says. “You've got to let it be what it's going to be.”

Among other things, the band is visually stimulating.

Aside from the futuristic outfits of Laragy and the band, the animated video for the single “Float (My Electric Stargirl)” debuted in October at the ImageOut Festival, and plans are under way for a multimedia backdrop at live shows.

“When people come, each time they can see a whole new show,” says Laragy. “Not that I'm not completely entertaining myself.”

But really, she and Stein say, the music is speaking for itself.

The Swindlers' songs have been in steady rotation on WBER-FM (90.5) since the fall (see Page 32 for a story on WBER), and “Float” cracked the top-20 list on the nationally broadcast XM Radio show Unsigned . And for now, Laragy says, the band is prepared to do whatever it takes to be heard.

“If a tampon commercial wants to use our songs, put it there,” she says. “Just make them shaped like a rocket.”




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