Arcade defies conventions 

Muncie-based group looks to the future

When you hear the Muncie-based group Arcade, several different things stand out. There are passionate vocals, intricate harmonies and a heavy beat combined with an offbeat choice of song topics. Because they’re an all-female band, people have tried to compare them to such vastly different groups as Bikini Kill and the Go-Go’s.

But neither of those comparisons hit the mark. The Go-Go’s would never write a song about the Unicorn Killer and his girlfriend, or the kid who crashed a small plane into the Bank of America building in Tampa. And Bikini Kill would be envious at the way these women can structure a song.

A more apt comparison would be the lovable lunacy of the White Stripes. All conventions of pop songwriting have been thrown out the window. Key changes and tempo shifts are introduced throughout.

On their first album, Into the Light, the band throws about 300 different musical ideas at the listener. Some of them work, some of them don’t, but all of them are interesting.

The group is led by singer/guitarist Carrie Conley, who founded Arcade after the disintegration of her first band, Blacklisted. She says of that band, “We all got assigned instruments because most of us had never been in a band before. We only had one show.”

Members either graduated from Ball State, left town or were forced out. In April 2002, bassist Lisa Fett met up with Conley and Arcade was born. Sisters Jill and Joy Gerwe joined the band to fill guitar and drum roles, respectively.

“We all have a hard time describing our sound,” Fett says. “We all listen to really different music and we’re always coming from different directions.

The old Blacklisted stuff was more poppy-punk, while our stuff is more complicated.”

While the band keeps focused on writing good songs, others like to throw gender bias into the equation. A recent article about them took pains to emphasize they’re not “man-haters,” whatever that means.

And there are some who insist on figuring out where they stand on feminist issues. “People always ask us about our views on feminism and whether we consider ourselves a feminist band,” Conley says. “I don’t know that much about politics. Our songs are more about life in general, from my point of view. And, because I’m a girl, if you want to characterize them as feminist, fine.”

While their material is by no means depressing, Conley notes that “it’s hard to be optimistic and sincere without being ironic.” Until now, they haven’t played much in Indianapolis, other than a few gigs at the Melody Inn and at Birdy’s. However, they’ve received a good deal of regional and national press.

The magazine Punk Planet praised their album and Cincinnati’s City Beat paper noted their “post-punked, angled rhythms” and “captivatingly textured guitar patchwork.”

The only thing stopping them from a full frontal assault on the music scene is the fact that most of them still attend Ball State and have day jobs. But they’ve allied themselves with like-minded people in their hometown.

“For a while, it seemed like there weren’t any good venues in Muncie, but that’s been changing,” Joy Gerwe says. “It’s growing.” Their label, Wooden Man Records, is based in Muncie and Carbondale, Ill., giving the band two bases to start from.

Intensely ambitious, the members of Arcade are looking ahead to the future and to an increased level of activity. They have a three-week national tour planned for the summer and will continue to book gigs around the Midwest until then.

“With school and our jobs, we all work more than 40 hours a week,” Joy Gerwe says. “I’ve often thought, look how well we’re doing. How well would we be doing if we each spent 40 hours a week on the band?” For more information, visit www.arcadetheband.com.

Who: Arcade, Ishia, Painting Jamie, Medicated Becky Where: The Emerson Theater, 4634 E. 10th St. When: Saturday, Feb. 14, 7 p.m. Tickets: $7 at the door

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