"I bump fades when I fuck. So what?" says the muscular, shirtless man, digitally rendered as part of the virtual-world game Second Life, as he cocks his head to the side and spreads his arms wide. This is the type of Internet art Mike Grabarek and Jeremy Scott, together known as electronic R&B duo Magic Fades, forge out of found images and post on Tumblr. They're mild gamers, but it's the images, not the games themselves, that hold so much intrigue for the duo. "People are creating what they think would be the ultimate human," Scott explains.
This quest for perfection is not lost on Scott and Grabarek. Musically, Magic Fades is hard to pin down but can be geolocated somewhere in the bloggy, foggy Bermuda Triangle between "new alternative," dreamy R&B and the emerging micro-genre referred to as "vaporwave." In short, Grabarek says, their goal is "to make weird music that is also poppy." Lyrically, their songs ooze with romance, swagger and sex. On "Sims Hunk," from last year's Mishka-released Obsession, Grabarek promises, "I can do this for hours/ Let's make this night ours."
Although currently relegated to opening slots in Portland, Magic Fades has made a lot of fans on the Web. Last year, Scott and Grabarek took what they considered their best song, the twinkling, thumping "Endless Summer," to the now-defunct Dior Nights Facebook group, a collection of like-minded influential artists and musicians across the U.S. With support from respected Knoxville-based producer Slow Head, Magic Fades saw its SoundCloud play counts rise considerably. Last month, along with fellow Portlander Vektroid, the group performed on Tinychat—a "very ghetto" live video-streaming site, according to Grabarek—and attracted so many viewers that the site crashed.
Magic Fades' local rep is gradually increasing, especially after playing last summer's Dark Arts Fest. Since then, requests to open for acts like Onuinu and Shy Girls have streamed in, and Scott and Grabarek bagged a monthly DJ night at Holocene, which they're calling Real Emotion: Slow Jams & Cosmic Soul. "We've been fortunate to open for bands people love," Grabarek says. "Normally if we get a response from a booking agent, it's gonna be one word: no." With Scott on keyboards and backing vocals and Grabarek singing lead and shredding guitar, Magic Fades' sultry jams are difficult for a lot of club kids to grasp, and normally they elicit little more than the typical head-bob from uninitiated crowds. Bigger nights have seen other results, however. At their New Year's Eve performance at Holocene, Scott says, "a group of girls were wasted and they were getting freaky." Grabarek pauses: "Who's that girl? I can't remember her name. She was twerking pretty hard actually."
Magic Fades isn't planning to leave the bedroom world of SoundClouds, tweets and Tumbles behind, but you can bet that expanding into the club world will change how it operates. "It's not just searching tags or whatever," Scott says. "It's about being friends with someone and trusting their taste."
SEE IT: Magic Fades plays Holocene, 1001 SE Morrison St., with Shy Girls, Sapient and Sex Life DJs, on Saturday, April 13. 8:30 pm. $8 advance, $10 day of show. 21+.