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  • Jack Starr

SYSTEM EXCLUSIVE Interview – US Synth-Rock Duo Announce Sheffield Show on UK Tour

System Exclusive, a husband-and-wife synth duo from Pasadena, California, have announced a Sheffield show as part of their UK tour. They will play Sidney and Matilda on the 21st of September – and, frankly, we cannot wait. Their style blends retro synths with funk and punk, combining some of the best bits of the ‘80s to make stylish tunes.

Their latest EP, Party All the Time, features a unique take on the synth-funk Rick James banger, first released by Eddie Murphy in 1985. In anticipation of their show, we spoke to System Exclusive and asked them a few questions.

Could you introduce yourself a little?

Hi, we are a synthpop/post-punk duo from California called System Exclusive (or SysEx). I’m Ari and my partner in crime is named Matt. We are currently making our way back from our honeymoon in Croatia and Italy, towards Denmark next week for a festival called Stjerner over Farø. We are then headed to Manchester to see some friends and start the process of writing our next album, then continuing to write up in Glasgow for the month of August, prior to starting our month long UK tour in September.

We are a couple, and we designed the band in a way that would allow us to tour together and travel light, and we’ve been touring as much as possible since we were first allowed to play live shows again post-Covid, in fall of 2021.

This past February we rented our house in LA and began touring full time, starting with a tour in Spain, France and Portugal, then about a month with our friends Pearl Earl through Texas and the southwest US, then a ten week tour around the States in our minivan, ‘Mariah Caravan’. We got married in June and now here we are starting the second half of 2023 on your side of the pond.

Who are your biggest influences?

DEVO, Siouxsie and the Banshees, Sparks, Depeche Mode, The B52’s, and Kraftwerk.

You have an awesome retro-inspired image - how do you come up with your artwork?

Thanks - we outsource a lot of our album art and tour posters to our ultra-talented friends. Miles Wintner (of LA Takedown) and Jim Blaha (of Blue/Green) did the covers for our debut LP and EP respectively. Our tour posters have been by Kevin McCarthy (of Rank Xerox), Galine Tumasyan (of Seablite), and the upcoming UK tour poster is by Alex Bulli, who does art for so many wonderful bands, including our pals in Hooveriii.

And when we are low on funds or in a pinch we do our own fliers and posters, a lot of which I do in the car while Matt is driving us around.

You're playing in Sheffield on the 21st of September - are you familiar with Sheffield's music scene and history? Do you have a favourite Sheffield band?

Not super familiar with the scene there these days, but we are Pulp fans – in fact, we listened to the Jarvis Cocker autobiography in the car while on tour in England last September, which turned me into a Pulp fan, finally. Matt was obsessed with Pulp in high school to an uncool degree. If you haven’t read his book you should, and if you get a chance, listen to the audiobook, Jarvis reads it and his voice is 🤌 (pinched fingers).

What kind of synthesisers do you use?

We program a Keystep Pro to play through 4 boutique Roland synths, which are modelled on the classics:

· JU-06 (Juno 106)

· JU-06A (Juno 60)

· SH-01 (SH-101)

· JP-08 (Jupiter 8)

They’re compact, punchy, sound 99% as good as the originals, aren’t over 40 years old, and aren’t the cost of an economy car.

'Party All the Time', originally by Eddie Murphy and Rick James, is an interesting choice of cover - what inspired that?

We were stuck in traffic either in LA or on tour somewhere and it started playing on the radio. At first we couldn’t figure out how we knew the song, we just knew it slapped. When the chorus hit and we remembered the song and who sang it, we were taken aback and we knew we wanted to share that moment of realization, that reveal. It’s a powerful thing and we love that we get to play it every night and watch new people get it in real time. We visited Rick James’ grave in Buffalo when we were there on tour this year, what a master.

Do you have any new releases coming up?

We are currently touring on that EP Party All the Time that includes ‘Part Time Pierre’ and ‘Paint the Town’, both originals, as well as the cover. We are currently playing two new songs that haven’t been released or played in the UK: ‘2 Little 2 Late’ and ‘Lose Control’, which will be on the album we’re working on. We’ll have some more freshies to try out on our UK and EU audiences in the fall, and we’ll be recording those in Ponta Delgada on Sao Miguel Island, in the Azores, in November. With any luck we can get it out in the spring next year!

System Exclusive will play at Sheffield’s Sidney and Matilda on the 21st of September; tickets are available at Fatsoma.

Their extensive UK Tour will take place across September.


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