Though the couple is back in Athens now, appropriately, I Am the World Trade Center's first record got its start in New York City, where Geller and Dykes moved in 1999 in an attempt to coordinate Kindercore's activities with those of another indie, Emperor Norton, with which it had formed a partnership. (This deal ended amicably a couple of years later.) Around then, Geller became intrigued by the possibilities of making music entirely on computer and spent months pouring all of his ideas into a Gateway laptop that's presently being used by the Kindercore accounting department.
"Doing it that way made sense to me," he says, "because if I wanted to, I could make it into almost a mathematical process. I could break things down to simply numbers and pictures as opposed to music, and a lot of times that worked better for me. I think I have great ideas musically, but my skills playing instruments aren't that great, so it allowed me to realize my ideas in ways that I don't know I could have with drums, bass and guitars."
Still, something was missing. "I got halfway through trying to realize this idea, and it became clear that there was no humanity to it and it wasn't really musical in the way I wanted it to be. At first I thought I needed another instrument on the record, but I played some guitar, and that didn't really work. And Amy was sitting in the room--we lived in this tiny apartment in Brooklyn--and I said, 'Come sing.' And she sang two lines on 'Holland Tunnel,' and that's how it all started."
Dykes isn't a trained vocalist, but that turned out to be a good thing. Her untutored enthusiasm contrasted charmingly with the "Holland Tunnel" backing track, instantly transforming it into something altogether fresh and unexpected. Excited, Geller began tweaking his other compositions to clear room for Dykes, and before she knew it, she was in the band. "It was weird," Geller admits. "When I was in Kincaid, I would have never, ever thought I'd be in a band with my girlfriend. But it's actually worked out OK, because there are definitely two sides to our relationship. People know we're together, and that's cute and nice. But when we're in public, we're a band, and when we're in private, we're a couple."
That said, despite the spark that Dykes brought to tunes such as "Metro," "Sounds So Crazy" and "Aurora Borealis," Out of the Loop was mostly Geller's show--a fact that he was determined to change the second time around. While the first album's title suggests a certain detachment that Geller ascribes to their outsider status in New York, The Tight Connection, made after they moved back to Athens, speaks to the growing closeness of their musical bond.
"There's a lot more Amy on this record," he says. "I think everything's much more balanced this time, and you can hear a lot of her influences. For one thing, she's a fan of '80s music, and I'm really not. I like bands like New Order, and obviously there's some of that sound. But my big thing is '90s Brit pop; that's where I'm coming from. And since everybody tells us that we sound really '80s, that's got to be Amy's influence."
The most overt salute to the Ronald Reagan decade on Connection is a stripped-down cover of the 1980 Blondie-Giorgio Moroder stomper "Call Me," but it's far from the only one. Instead of pouring on the pretense or polishing the rhythms until no fingerprints remain, as is fairly common in computer-driven music, Geller keeps his arrangements light, witty and delightfully simple, relying most often on bouncy, occasionally cheesy beats and space-age burbles that alternately recall Erasure's synth pop and the pogo-friendly population of early new wave. The settings employed throughout the ultra-danceable "Believe in Me" and the chunky "Hold on to My Lines" are ideal for Dykes, who carries tunes casually rather than belting them out. She's a vocal everywoman, and her bliss is contagious even on "Soirée," a song that tangentially addresses the post-9/11 name controversy. Lines such as, "Always someone so easy to blame," may seem accusatory in print, but by delivering them languidly over a chipper melody, she strips them of angst.
"I think that's the only way we could have done it," Geller says. "If we'd tried to do it the other way, it would have been ridiculous, because it's not who we are. I mean, this is a really hard time for the world right now, but we can't forget that there's still time to enjoy life."