Freeks and Geeks

Thanks to their cool world-music electronica and some major help from the Internet, the Supreme Beings of Leisure may become the first rock stars born on the Web.

The single "Strangelove Addiction," a current favorite on KCRW's Morning Becomes Eclectic, is less subtle, kicking off with a haunting 60-second sitar solo played by noted Iranian instrumentalist Fahrang Shariff, before launching into crunching electronic rave and ultimately settling into a straight dance-pop number with a distinct Middle Eastern twist. Elsewhere sitars and tablas make appearances, alongside tastefully arranged strings and horns. There perhaps was never a band more suited to KCRW's flagship radio show.

"We really wanted to meld the organic with the electronic -- to humanize the sound but within a pop aesthetic," explains Sakurai, crediting their world-music influences to their parents' diverse record collections. "You go to Kiran's house, and there's Indian music on in the background all the time. My mum's the same with Iranian music. Rick's dad has an enormous record collection. He'll play something on guitar you've never heard before, and it'll be from an obscure record he heard his dad play years ago."

All this reflects the band's global philosophy; their association with Palm (a label whose roster includes some of the more diverse electronic artists and international filmmakers) seems a perfect marriage and a divinely coincidental backdrop to their Internet world. Their fans span all four corners of the globe, evidenced by a steady stream of e-mail from the unlikeliest locations. They've apparently even developed a healthy following in Portugal, thanks to a local radio DJ supporter who found them on the Net.

"The people out there on the Web seem to really dig what we're doing," says Soriano-Lightwood. "Our music tends to appeal to people who have computers at home, tech-savvy types. I really think it's our market."

"It's part of the reason Chris Blackwell wanted to really exploit us on the Web," adds Sakurai. "We were saying: 'What about billboards on the Sunset Strip?' And his reaction was: 'Why? You can have a banner on the Internet instead and everyone around the world can see it.' It makes perfect sense."

Music-loving cyberdudes who surf their way into the Supreme Beings of Leisure's Web site (www.sbleisure.com) are guided to the lounge area, where they can access real audio and video samples of many of the songs from the new album. They're also given information on obtaining free MP3 downloads of the band's current and forthcoming Web singles.

Cynics would say they're shooting themselves in the foot by posting their wares for free on the Web, but the band and its record company see it differently.

"Yes, it's a wild frontier out there, and record companies still don't know how they're going to control it, let alone make money from it," says Sakurai. "But we're just looking at it as a great opportunity to gain exposure. Palm has a different mind-set from most of the other labels out there. They see MP3s are a great promotional tool, and for a band like us, that's perfect. Because when all's said and done, nobody really knows who we are."

But success in the virtual world -- especially when you're giving away your product for free -- doesn't necessarily guarantee real-world celebrity. Whether the band's impressive score of Web hits will actually translate into chart hits remains to be seen. If that were to happen, what would become of their Web fan base?

"We're not done yet," assures Soriano-Lightwood. "We have a game we're developing for our Web site. We also have a Flash video that's coming out that's going to be showcased on Macromedia. And we're sending out digital postcards, which will probably be the Flash video cut up into episodes. We haven't really launched our full-on campaign yet. There's still a lot more to come."

Meanwhile, their album is due for release this week. As of this writing, management and label still haven't decided on the first single; it's a toss-up between the already much downloaded "Strangelove Addiction" or the smoother, more straight-ahead pop song "Golddigger." Finally, world radio is taking some precedence.

In terms of live appearances, they've kept it pretty low-key over the last few months with just a smattering of L.A. gigs, but they're planning a tour in the spring.

"We're currently looking at ways of developing our live show," says Soriano-Lightwood. "We're still experimenting because we want to make it as live as possible, yet we can't really afford to hire a 10-piece band, which is what we'd need to re-create the sound of our record. Right now, we're working on incorporating visuals and other eye candy. We want a cinematic approach to our live show."

Could L.A. be the city that spawns the first successful music group born on the World Wide Web? If Supreme Beings of Leisure have anything to do with it, virtually anything's possible. Hey, e-clectronica anyone?

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