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 V.17 No.5 | January 31 - February 6, 2008 

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Roman Numerals

Rhythm rock with a breadbasket work ethic

Roman Numerals
Roman Numerals

It started as a Joy Division tribute band, but once its members got tired of aping their idols, Roman Numerals set some ground rules.

"All we said at the beginning was, Anybody can play any instrument on any song, and you can bring anything you want to the table," Roman Numerals co-lead singer, bassist, keyboardist and guitarist Steven Tulipana recalls. "There weren't any other conscious decisions after that. It just kind of grew."

Roman Numerals is equal parts straight-laced indie rock and dance-hall electro grooves. The songs aren't club bangers but they aren't head bangers either.

"It's really rhythm-oriented," Tulipana says. "There's something about being in the mosh pit and that aggression. Dance rhythms are the same thing, except it's maybe a more civilized approach. Everybody can be involved and at the front of the stage instead of being in the back because they don't want their heads beat."

Roman Numerals touts two lead singers with very different styles. Tulipana has a melodic but decidedly hard-rock voice while his counterpart, William Smith, brings a new wave sound to the tracks. "We're different kinds of people, but we jell really well," Tulipana explains. "We like that push and pull in the band—it creates something unique. It keeps you interested in the songs and pulls you through an album."

As far as its demeanor, the band is more like a Mohawked punker than a lavishly dressed club kid. For all of its urbanite accoutrements, Roman Numerals is from Kansas City, not one of the coasts, and being from the breadbasket has helped instill a DIY mentality in its members. "We want people to hear our music so that's why we're getting in a van and still doing underground tours," Tulipana says. "We're not some pretentious poser electro-goth band. We come from the Midwest, where we have this mentality of 'If you wanna do it, you just gotta do it,' with no expectations other than working hard."

When shopping for a label to carry the Roman Numerals name, Tulipana and his fellow band members saw some of themselves in Kansas City-based Anodyne Records owner John Hulston. "Running an independent label is so hard and he's really stuck with it and put in a lot of hard work," Tulipana says. "We all really respect that about John."

Before hitting the studio to record a follow up to their full-length self-titled release, Roman Numerals is heading out on the road for a spell. After a gig in Park City, Utah, during the Sundance Film Festival, the band is swinging through the West and stopping at the Atomic Cantina for a free, 21-and-over show, this Monday, Feb. 4, at 10 p.m.


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