“I think I broke my back last night,” Lindsey French, the artist known as Negative Gemini tells me over the phone. “I got too crazy and fell over a monitor.”
It’s a Thursday afternoon in early May and French and fellow solo musician George Clanton are driving to Miami for their next show. The night before, they played a wild and raucous set at an outdoor bar in Tampa — and they’re still recovering.
The last time I saw Clanton and French perform was in 2015 on a frigid January night at an underground Brooklyn venue, and I can attest to the exuberance of their shows. Clanton spent a portion of his set weaving through the crowd with his shirt off, wrapping his sweaty arms around random people, while belting out songs, and French tapped into some deep-seated emotional shit in her tunes.
“Back then, the quality of the show was inversely proportional to the amount of alcohol I would ingest,” Clanton tells me. “But now, the show stays the same. It results in a better show for everyone.”
Based out of New York City, Clanton and French began their careers as internet musicians, using their computers to create music and draw fans from disparate corners of the web. In 2015, Clanton released 100% ELECTRONICA, a wavy electronic dance album filled with murky vocals, slithering synths, and pounding drums. Shortly after, French released Body Work, her first album, filled with echoing vocals amid swelling soundscapes and tropical melodies. Their feisty shows and pulsing D.I.Y. lighting gave them a reputation for captivating performers and earned them slots at last year’s South by Southwest.
“If there was a single moment, [playing at SXSW] would be it,” Clanton says. “People caught wind of that and started taking us much more seriously.” Yahoo! Music called Clanton “the best thing we saw all week at SXSW,” and French’s Body Work was written up in The Fader and Gorilla vs. Bear.
Clanton and French hail from rural southern Virginia, a place they believe helped shaped the unique artists they’ve become.
“It actually prevents you from being influenced,” Clanton says. “Growing up in a small town in Virginia forces you to develop independent of a scene, because there isn’t one.”
Clanton’s originality is perhaps best on display in his hit 2015 song “It Makes Babies Want to Cry.” The song’s poignant vocals are part ‘80s pop and part something from a distant future, and Clanton says it was inspired by his “lifetime favorite” song “Return of the Mack” by Mark Morrison.
Body Work, French’s first album, was created over two years and released in 2016. After moving to New York City, the city’s house music scene began to influence French’s tunes, and you can hear the genre’s deep, humming melodies underneath her hypnotic and emotional singing.
“I got infected with house music,” French says. “If something pops into my head, I’ll let it marinate for a few days and just think about what I’m hearing.”
Internet-born genres such as vaporwave and chillwave have also influenced the duo’s sounds. Clanton even has a vaporwave side project called ESPRIT 空想. For several years, he kept his identity secret before finally acknowledging that he was, in fact, ESPRIT 空想.
“It got so popular that I couldn’t stand it being anonymous anymore because I’m such a slut for fame,” Clanton says half-joking.
On Thursday, May 18 they’re playing a show at a yet to be revealed Los Angeles warehouse that will be broadcast online via a 360-degree live stream. Shortly after that, they’re tour will take them to San Francisco, followed by Seattle and Portland. Clanton is bringing his home-made light setups, which feature hundreds of LED lights woven into a cloth that are programmed to flash along with the drumming in his songs. French will bring laser-styled lights and a fog machine to turn the venue into a spacey dreamscape.
“If you just look at the live stream you might have this idea that you know what it’s like. That would be a mistake,” Clanton says. “The live show is just so much better.”
George Clanton and Negative Gemini play at 9:00 p.m., Sunday, May 21, at Brick and Mortar Music Hall.