Over the weekend I noticed that the Christmas shopping ads are still going strong on radio and television, especially car commercials.
The campaign that I’ll bet infiltrated your brain the most (much to either your delight or all-out annoyance) was the Hyundai Holidays spots that were simply everywhere. They feature jazzed-up indie versions of “Jingle Bells”, “Up On The Housetop”, “O Come All Ye Faithful”, and “Deck The Halls” performed by a festively-dressed combo. Surely you saw or heard them at least once:
So, who the hell are they?
The band is called Pomplamoose.
Now, before you write them off as a flash in the pan sensation, have a listen to some of their stuff. The multi-instrumentalist indie duo consisting of Jack Conte and Nataly Dawn (real name Natalie Dawn Knutsen) come from the Bay Area of California, and formed just a couple of years ago.
Dawn moved from the West Coast to France at the age of ten, spent some time in Belgium and returned Stateside to study. Conte’s pedigree comes from his musical family and cites the likes of Danny Elfman, Björk and Chopin as influences. Both Dawn and Conte do plenty of work on their own outside of Pomplamoose, and it appears as if both can play just about any sort of instrument.
Their repertoire consists of one 8-song digital-only “album” called ‘Pomplamoose Video Songs’ released in 2009, a year-old small set enthusiastically entitled ‘3 New Songs, Woot!’ as well as ‘Tribute To Famous People’ which came out in March 2010. The latter is what has helped put Pomplamoose on the map, illustrated by the inclusion of their take on The Chordettes 1954 hit “Mr. Sandman” on the Mad Men-styled Toyota Avalon commercial. The collection features 10 covers spanning any era and style of music including showtunes (“My Favorite Things”), 80’s (“Beat It”), and contemporary pop (“Single Ladies” and “Telephone”).
But for me, the most interesting thing about Pomplamoose is how well they are forging a workable (and presumably profitable) business model for their music. They are the perfect example of how long gone the days are of playing gigs, catching the ear of an A&R guy, getting signed, recording albums and going on tour and becoming rock stars. It just doesn’t work that way anymore. Musicians no longer only come up with brilliant songs, but they have to now be their own clever businesspeople, as well.
Pomplamoose’s first album is called ‘Video Songs’ because that is the term they use for how they capture and present their music. Instead of making a traditional record, they make a video that essentially shows them playing the song. What you’re hearing being played, is also what you’re seeing being played. Just hop onto their Youtube channel and you’ll find all of it.
They’re considered “internet musicians” because everything they record is for online consumption, and they actually rarely play live gigs.
However, after this Christmas season they might need to reconsider their approach as I’m sure the demand for a tour will present itself. But who knows, since Nataly still scoffs at the idea of making music a full-time endeavor. They might just prefer to go on feeding us with new delights straight from their studio and never bother with the professional music rigmarole.
If you really loved the Hyundai commercials, their Christmas album that features all of those songs is available, but not for sale. You get it if you donate a book to their local library, and this hilarious video has the duo themselves instructing you how to do so. And interestingly enough, the Hyundai folks who converted the duo’s garage into a full-on production facility to shoot the spots, gave them full creative control and a final say in the finished pieces. All other Pomplamoose music is available here, and as much fun as the covers are, you’ve got to check out their originals as well: