Local trio combines jazz and electronic

Ben Godar

Few people know there are any electronic bands in central Iowa, but Cleo’s Apartment is trying to change that.

As the three members of the group prepare for a show Saturday night at Java Joe’s in Des Moines, Jeff Blanchard, junior in English, admits it hasn’t been easy.

“It’s really difficult to be an electronic group in Iowa,” Blanchard says.

Blanchard formed Cleo’s Apartment with Mike Huss almost two years ago. There have been plenty of changes since then.

“Two years ago Mike and I bought instruments and formed the band,” Blanchard says. “We originally had four members, but that was whittled down to me and Mike over one summer.”

Blanchard handles the turntables, sampler and plays trumpet, while Huss covers keyboards, synthesizers, and guitar.

In the last year, Cleo’s Apartment has added bass player Guarav Sharma, freshman in computer science, to the group.

The band has garnered most of its exposure through Mp3.com. Their music can be heard at www.mp3.com/cleo.

“Mp3.com has been a pretty good forum,” Blanchard says. “We’ve had some remixes done of our songs. We’ve gotten to know people from the Iowa electronic scene and gotten to know people worldwide.”

Blanchard says the road to electronic music lead through an early fascination with rock ‘n’ roll.

“Through high school I was really into rock ‘n’ roll,” Blanchard says. “I eventually thought there was nothing new or exciting there, so I turned to hip-hop. That lead to electronic music.”

Huss, on the other hand, became interested in electronic music from another angle.

“I got into electronic through jazz,” Huss says. “We slowly combined jazz and hip-hop and formed our sound.”

Blanchard says performing live brings new challenges for the band.

“When you have an acoustic set things mix easier,” Blanchard says. “With [electronic], we have to make sure we’re not just robots pushing buttons. You want to give people a show, but stay true to the music you make. That’s why we’ve added more live instrumentation to our set.”

Blanchard says the show will feature a guest guitar player, two DJs, and a few MCs. This will be in addition to Cleo’s own blend of keyboards, bass, turntables, sampler, organ and guitar.

“I hope people come away with a better understanding of how electronic music is created,” Blanchard says. “I hope they also have a desire to look into other electronic groups.”

Huss hopes people come to the show with an open mind.

“We don’t expect everybody to like it,” Huss says. “I hope it at least opens their eyes to what’s out there, outside Iowa.”