“We’re always the oddballs,” jokes San Jose-based musician and songwriter April Gee while discussing the humble beginnings of her synth music night: SYNTHesthesia. Gee, who performs under the moniker Containher, is energized as she talks about the challenges synth musicians can face booking gigs. “A lot of our bands end up on a strange bill, with metal bands or just things that don’t quite fit,” she explains as her mind seems to whirr back to previous shows.
The idea of uniting the “oddballs” and finding a space where they could celebrate their sonic strangeness was central to starting the monthly night at Oakland’s Stork Club. “Even if no one else shows up, we’re having a badass time!” she beams. It is about more than just having fun and celebrating music: Gee is hoping SYNTHesthesia can be a place to build a supportive and diverse community around the musical synth misfits.
For Gee, this notion of community spreads beyond just the music to the cross-pollination of the Bay Area. “I noticed a lot of South Bay artists weren’t making it up to Oakland or San Francisco and vice versa,” she explains. We talk about the importance of diversity, and how it is something that can sometimes be missed by promoters when they are booking shows. “We need to consciously include people of different genders and colors, and subgenres of electronic music in my event — I notice a lot of the synth-based events, they want only very pale, white guys dressed in black…they want one kind of bro-tronic music.” She says this without apportioning blame, and more with the understanding of someone who feels they can make a difference in the way things are perceived, even if on the small scale of a club night in the East Bay.
A recent experience brought these notions of race and identity crashing together when one of her songs was turned into an award-winning music video. In 2016, she collaborated with Stellar on “You’re Dead Wrong.” “he basically sent me a beat, and I wrote a song over it,” she says. “He was like, ‘I need your vocals,’ so I wrote the lyrics and the vocal parts,” she explains. Time passed. Then at the end of September, she heard the news about the Hamilton Film Festival win.
“I learned that the song was turned into a music video I wasn’t aware of, and it won best music video at this film festival in Toronto,” she shares of the video directed by Craig Lobo. At the time of our interview, she had not yet seen the video. “I didn’t even know it was out there…