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Provoker Jack Into the Ritz

In Music
BLUE SHEEN: On new album Body Jumper, Provoke creates a blur of past and future sounds.

BLUE SHEEN: On new album Body Jumper, Provoke creates a blur of past and future sounds.

Remember in the original Matrix when our hero, Neo—played by Keanu Reeves—tells the crew of the Nebuchadnezzar he saw the same black cat walk by twice? 

His crewmates grow anxious as he describes the experience, telling him: “déjà vu is usually a glitch in the Matrix. It happens when they change something.” 

If that’s true and reality’s a simulation, then it’s no wonder Body Jumper—released in August by California post-punk band Provoker—carries an eerie sense of déjà vu throughout, seeing as so much has changed during the pandemic.

Heavy, dark and dreamy, the massive full-length floats through an algorithm of nostalgia while continually feeling fresh and singular. Listeners might swear they’ve heard it before, but where exactly will continually escape them.

True to its title, Body Jumper is a concept album about a person running away from their own life, using technology to escape by inhabiting bodies like avatars—all set to a darkwave soundtrack.

“They end up chasing the same problems as before, just as a different person,” surmises guitarist and founder, Jonathan Lopez, who adds that it’s more science than fiction.

“It’s something everyone does, even through our phones: Instagram, TikTok or any new technology. It’s the same idea.”

Strands of Joy Division, Killing Joke and Suicide can be found coded within the DNA of Body Jumper, without directly sounding like any of them, an intentional process according to Lopez.

“I didn’t go into this with any specific influence in mind,” he says. “I just copied a lot of ‘80s sounds, using a Roland-707, tweaking the drum kit, adding delays and making it sound almost like it’s on a cassette. We wanted to take it to the next level without losing any elements.” 

Founded in 2015, Provoker was originally intended as Lopez’s solo project. At the time he was a film student at DeAnza College in Cupertino and had the idea to write soundtracks to fake horror movies.

“I was used to being in short-lived punk bands where we’d just make demos,” he remembers. “So I thought to apply that concept to a fake movie.” 

That year he released Sneak Peak! (Mercy Stroke Original Soundtrack) followed by 2017’s Dry City Maniac Original Soundtrack, alongside fictional poster art and title sequences. During this time Lopez met up with singer Christian Petty, another Bay Area musician with a love for R&B. They were introduced through Petty’s brother, Alex, and met at a San Francisco screening of the black comedy horror film, The Greasy Strangler—which is just as weird as it sounds. 

“Afterward we just stood in a circle very awkwardly and didn’t say anything,” laughs Petty. “But we later talked about collaborating and he sent me some tracks.”

With the addition of Wil Palacioius on bass and Kristian Moreno on drums, in 2018 Provoker was complete. The same year, they released their 5 song Darkangel EP. In 2019, the band moved from the Bay Area to Los Angeles to write and record Body Jumper, finishing most of it before the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

In March, 2020, they were two days into what would’ve been a major, multiple state tour when the world shut down. Rather than power off, they used the time to write new music and finish their full-length. 

After signing to Swedish label YEAR0001 earlier this year, they used livestreaming to master Body Jumper, a fitting conclusion to a record about technology crossing impossible distances. 

With the world reopened and their debut now out, Provoker is ready for big changes in the matrix of life. The band is relocating back to the Bay and sets out on a Pacific Southwest tour this month, before heading to the UK in December. 

And even Neo is a fan. Ok, not really, that Instragram photo of Keanu Reeves wearing a Provoker shirt is photoshopped—although the band says they would love to have him in a video sometime.

However, they have earned a dedicated following online and the few one-off shows they played earlier this year—both in-state and on the East Coast—have either sold-out or come very close to it. 

“I’m pretty amazed that people are singing the lyrics to almost all the songs,” Petty says with a laugh. “It’s hard for me to even understand myself sometimes. It’s pretty crazy that they’re able to all sing along.”

Provoker
Sat, 8pm, $18
The Ritz, San Jose
theritzsanjose.com/

 

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