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Thursday, April 19, 2012

Syna So Pro's Incredible A Capella Smashups of St. Louis Bands

Posted By on Thu, Apr 19, 2012 at 6:26 AM

Syna So Pro's Syrhea Conaway has been undertaking a capella "SMASHups" of local music.
  • Syna So Pro's Syrhea Conaway has been undertaking a capella "SMASHups" of local music.

Syna So Pro has been bending St. Louis' collective mind for a while now, taking the concept of the solo act to new heights. Syrhea Conaway - the brainchild behind Syna So Pro - uses an array of foot pedals, instruments and looping technology to create a hypnotic stream of very rad experimental music.

Conaway - a finalist in the Best Solo Project category for the 2012 RFT Music Awards - has also created a series of a capella clips that incorporates songs from one local band at a time. The most recent edition came out earlier this week, when Conaway performed a "SMASHup" of songs from The Blind Eyes. She's also done renditions of songs by Bo and the Locomotive, Ellen the Felon, the Dive Poets and more. In total the series has had eight installments.

Some of the tunes have never been recorded, meaning Conaway only has her memory as a drawing point. Several of the SMASHups that feature Conaway performing live were captured on film by Kat Touschner, who also works as a media arts producer at KDHX.

RFT Music chatted with Conaway on the telephone to get a handle on the origins of this project -- and how it's meant to showcase the vibrancy of St. Louis' music scene. Questions and answers have been edited for clarity.

Jason Rosenbaum: How did this whole thing come about?

Syrhea Conaway: Sort of how it started is kind of like a funny story. I wouldn't say funny, but it's definitely interesting.

I guess about two days before the Cinco De Mayo show [last year], Paige (Brubeck) and Evan (Sult) of Sleepy Kitty texted me and said 'hey can you play our slot for us for Cinco De Mayo? Because Paige hurt her arm and is having a hard time holding a guitar.' And I was like 'oh shit yeah, sure I'll play it.' I start thinking about it and I said "Man, people are going to be really upset if they come to see Sleepy Kitty and then it's going to be me. And they'll be like who the hell is this? I didn't want to come see this." But I thought I could cover one of their songs just to be like "Hey - Sleepy Kitty couldn't make it. You've got me. Sorry." But then I would play one of their songs to appease the crowd for a second.

Then I was like, "Two days ... that's not enough time." But then I thought - I could do anything with my voice so much easier than grabbing a bunch of instruments. So I just put together five of their songs and smashed them altogether. And it turns out that I didn't get to play Cinco De Mayo because they were so behind schedule. This actually worked out perfectly, because I got sick the next day -- and I was even too sick to play for them anyway.

But we had recorded the smash with an iPhone - just a regular iPhone camera, totally low-fi. I made a DVD and gave it to Evan and Paige. And then a couple days later, they blew up my phone at two in the morning. They were like "Oh my God, that's so awesome." And I was like, "Thanks." I didn't think anything of it. And then maybe a couple weeks later I thought, "That was kind of fun, I wish I could do it again."

I picked the next band I really liked watching and that was Union Tree Review. And then I did that one. And then next was Humdrum. I just started doing bands that I'd seen a bunch and like a lot. I guess I sent out a mass e-mail by the third or fourth one. And I was like "Hey I'm doing this thing - any suggestions? Anybody I should check out?" And then I got a whole bunch of feedback.

I kind of regret sending out the e-mail because now I've got like a list of 45 bands in St. Louis. I'm like "Man - there is no way I'm going to do all of this." It's going to take me three years just to complete the list.

Are there some instances where you're smashing up songs that haven't been recorded yet? Or are most of them drawn from prior recordings?

I guess for Sleepy Kitty's case... they hadn't released their album yet. It's just me going off my memory of hearing their songs. But for the most part the last few bands I've done, this is stuff that's been recorded that I could be "Oh I know how this melody goes, but I have no idea what they're saying." So I'll go back and be like "Oh, that's their thing" and use whatever can be used for the song.

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