The music of Sci-Fi Romance has been described as everything from Alternative to Americana, but there are distinct elements of all genres in the songs they play. Vance Kotrla (guitar/vocals), Mr. Mike (drums), and Jody Stark (cello) have created a unique sound in blending components from a myriad of styles, thrilling fans along the way.
Keep your day job. Like most musicians, Kotrla has to pay the bills, but he found a passion for film production, which provides a steady income. While the music industry is constantly fluctuating, Kotrla remains committed to new avenues for his music. He said, “I can make videos and PSAs and stuff for their business value, and the music gets to stay art. It’s not the picture I had in my head when I was 15 and sitting behind a drum kit for the first time, but it’s not been such a bad way for things to work out.” Coming from a musical family helped guide his choices, but playing instruments did not come easy. It took practice and hard work to gain the skills he has today. Kotrla had some formal training in drums, but it was a long process of trial and error that taught him the most.
Mix it up. Starting out as a drummer in metal bands, Kotrla quickly found endless variations in music that appealed to him. Kotrla explains, “You take that experience of playing with a cellist, bring that forward, my background as a drummer, and you get our strong percussive presence in what are basically folk songs, and factor in that I made electronic music for short films for a few years, put that in a pot and cook it, and that’s kind of the Sci-Fi Romance I hear in my head.” The music envelopes you from the first note, captivating in the stories the songs tell, moving from one to the other like the movement in a folk opera. Listen closely and you will hear influences from virtually every genre. On some tracks, there is distinct industrial, almost goth feel, where other songs are decidedly folk tunes with a twist.
You always expect more from yourself. From the song, “Goodbye at the End of the World”, lyrics say, “I’m afraid to walk away/Cause when you’re on your own there’s always so much more to prove” lamenting how we can be our own worst critic at times. All relationships can be defining, but as individuals we often find that decisions are ours alone. Kotrla explains, “…for me, the forcefulness in that particular song – because it gets loud — is not about blame or scorn for the other person, it’s about resolve. Making up your mind, hard and fast, to take a step that’s good for you, because of you – not because of somebody else.” It is essential to make your own choices, without compromising based on what other’s may think you should do.
When it’s over, it’s over. Since Sci-Fi Romance tells stories in their music, the perfect song is one with an ending. Kotrla describes the songwriting process as, “I have a very strong storytelling impulse in my songs, and for me, the song is over when the story’s told. That can be literally on the last word of the lyric, and you’re done, or it could be that the music adds some type of emotional commentary or framework to the lyrics that has to continue on to achieve that emotional closure. But I do believe very strongly in ENDING the song. There’s yet to be a Sci-Fi Romance song with a simple fade out.” Songwriting is an organic process for Kotrla and comes together as the music and story strike an emotional chord, then forms into a cohesive song.
This month, Sci-Fi Romance will release their newest album, Dust Among the Stars, which is a stunning blend of musical stories that are sure to be a hit. I find that when I listen to it, I end up engrossed in the story telling and find hours have passed in an instant as I let my imagination run wild. No matter where your musical proclivities lie, you are going to want this album in your collection. It is truly one of a kind and slightly addictive. Watch for a new music video soon as Kotrla tries his hand at animation!