Students from UTD, UTA form indie rock outfit Duo Contra, sign with record label to release debut album
Duo Contra, an alternative and indie rock band, performed for students Oct. 1 on The Plinth. The band started less than a year ago and consists of three UTD students and a UT Arlington student, who combine creativity, musical talent and close friendships.
Although it has only existed for about a year, the band has already gained a reputation both on and off campus.
Duo Contra was conceived in the summer of 2013 by historical studies sophomore Gabriel Jordan and UT Arlington composition freshman Lukas Bartke.
The two friends had been involved in a post-grunge band named The Perjury prior to forming Duo Contra. They wrote several songs together but decided their style did not fit with the band’s. They waited until later to revisit their ideas.
After taking a hiatus from The Perjury, Jordan and Bartke began to collaborate further. Bartke suggested the name Duo Contra Mundum, which translates to two against the world in Latin, referring to the end of the book “Brideshead Revisited” by Evelyn Waugh.
The name also related well to their status as a two-person group.
Eventually, with the name shortened to Duo Contra, Jordan and Bartke wanted to expand their new project to include a bass player and a drummer. They did not have to look far to find any either, as Jordan was already friends with several musically inclined students on campus.
“I was roommates with (Jordan) last year,” said mechanical engineering sophomore Gareth Mason. “He just called me one day and asked if I wanted to play drums.”
Mason had already been involved in several unnamed bands and also played for his worship band in church. He and Jordan had also already practiced together in their dorm room prior to Duo Contra.
Jordan said he specifically wanted a guitarist to play bass for the band instead of someone used to playing bass. He found that guitarist in accounting and finance sophomore Karan Bindra, whom he had become friends with at orientation his freshman year.
Bindra had played in various shows and groups before joining the band, and had also played with the other members on multiple occasions in the dorms. However, he learned how to play the bass specifically for Duo Contra.
“The style of our bass is more arpeggiated and I didn’t want someone to play the bass like a bass,” Jordan said. “And I really trusted Karan. He had a really good work ethic and was really passionate about music.”
Having most of the members of the band go to the same school has helped the group bond socially, even more than their friendships prior to Duo Contra.
“It’s very easy to know how to play a song,” Bindra said. “But not that easy to collaborate with different members in a band. I think that more than anything being at the same school, hanging out all the time, there’s not a communication barrier. We can feed off of each other, we know who needs to give the energy that day and who needs to take it, and I think that’s the best part.”
We can feed off of each other, we know who needs to give the energy that day and who needs to take it, and I think that’s the best part.
Three members of Duo Contra have extensive musical experience from a young age. Bartke said that he has been playing violin since he was seven, which transitioned into his skill on the guitar. Jordan has been playing the drums since he was 11, and he eventually picked up guitar in high school when he began songwriting. Mason started playing piano in fifth grade and switched to playing percussion through high school marching band.
Bindra said that he had a very different experience with music growing up.
“I think I’ve learned and forgotten how to read music a countless number of times in my life,” he said. “I didn’t like being taught really boring stuff in orchestra. I just never liked music in the classical sense.”
Bindra eventually bought a guitar in the eleventh grade and has been playing ever since.
Duo Contra’s unique style and sound lies somewhere between jazz, samba rock and alternative rock. Both Jordan and Bartke write its unique tracks, and the band’s influences include The Strokes, Tycho and various jazz artists.
“What’s really important about Duo Contra is that it’s really upbeat, it’s very happy, it’s very comforting,” Bindra said. “It’s really a theme throughout our music.”
The band has had several live performances of its original tracks since its formation, including shows at The Prophet Bar and The Liquid Lounge in Deep Ellum, as well as Gator’s Downtown on North Market street, among other venues. Their success as a group earned them an offer from Parthenon Records.
Paul Putman, the band’s booking agent from Parthenon Records, said that he first discovered Duo Contra through one of his talent agents. After listening to its demo recordings and attending one of Duo Contra’s performances, he met with Bartke, Jordan and Jordan’s father at a Starbucks, and then eventually with the whole group, to discuss a record deal. The two parties agreed to a contract and the band signed on.
“Duo Contra has something a lot of artists don’t have,” Putman said. “They have a kind of charismatic innocence, but they’re also very mature. I love that band. Ten or fifteen years from now, if I’m not backstage with them, I’ll be in the front row cheering them on.”
They have a kind of charismatic innocence, but they’re also very mature.
One stipulation of Duo Contra’s contract with the record company was to create an Indiegogo campaign to raise additional funding for the group.
The band created a campaign video and offered various rewards for donations, from keychains to yoga lessons with Bindra. After raising the required 70 percent of the $3,000 budget, Duo Contra was able to move forward with producing the album.
“The past few albums we produced together we mixed and produced ourselves,” Bartke said. “It takes a lot of trust to be able to hand your art to someone else.”
Duo Contra’s upcoming album, “An Ode to the Sun,” is made up of five original tracks that all deal with the star in some way.
Jordan stated that Duo Contra will most likely ride its contract out with Parthenon Records for this album, tour on the weekends and keep producing new music to see what comes next. “An Ode to the Sun” will be released on October 11.
“‘An Ode to the Sun’ was basically our way of having a self-titled album without having a self-titled album,” Jordan said. “There’s a big motif dealing with the sun in all the tracks and there’s always a reference to the sun.”
The album is the group’s first themed collection of work.
“We have a connection to the sun, it’s the creator of life in every way,” Bindra said. “When stars explode, those enriched guts are what causes life. That’s our nature, that’s our origin. So (the album is) literally an ode to the sun.”
Although they all have different majors and academic pursuits, all four members of Duo Contra are enthusiastic about sticking together for the future after college.
“I don’t like being told what to play or told how to learn something; I love to learn and to express music in my own way,” Bindra said. “That’s what I like about Duo Contra. I wouldn’t imagine doing music with anyone else.”