What happens when you take contemporary pop songs and rework them into 1920s speakeasy style? In the world of Postmodern Jukebox, you garner millions of YouTube fans and proceed to conquer the world.
“People like to relive this era they never experienced firsthand.”
– Robyn Adele Anderson
That’s exactly what materialized for Robyn Adele Anderson after she met Scott Bradlee at McKittrick Hotel in the Chelsea art district of New York City in 2012.
WATCH: the video for “Thrift Shop”
“I saw him playing piano at an immersive theater bar called Sleep No More,” says Anderson. “He was taking requests and playing them as ragtime. I thought it was the coolest thing I’d ever seen.”
Bradlee soon asked his newest fan to be in a video with him and his jazz musician friends in which they rearranged the Macklemore song “Thrift Shop” in a 1920s “Grandpa Style.”
“It literally went viral overnight,” says Anderson. “It was all very new to me.”
The group began posting more and more videos in the same vein gaining millions of followers in the process. Their biggest hit to date is a cover of Miley Cyrus’s “We Can’t Stop” set in a doo-wop style.
“Our fan base grew really quickly,” says Anderson. “People would e-mail Scott and say, ‘I want you to play at my Great Gatsby party.’ At that point, we were still just fancy background music, but it was a good way for me to ease into the profession in very low-stress situation.”
Although Anderson has secretly harbored dreams of a musician’s life since middle school, she hadn’t thought it realistic. She moved to New York City after college where she worked for a nonprofit refugee resettlement center.
“I knew I loved music,” she says. “I had always sung in the choir in high school, but I didn’t quite have the ambition or confidence to pursue it as a career. I never thought I’d be able to ever do anything with it. I didn’t know where or how people sang besides karaoke. Instead, I went down a normal track in life. But then I discovered the jazz scene in New York.”
Later that year, Postmodern Jukebox performed on “Good Morning America” and mainstream success soon followed. By 2014, they were touring the world from Europe to Asia and Australia. They were even flown to Dubai to perform a private party at a mansion whose backyard had been manicured to look exactly like the movie set in “The Great Gatsby.”
“That was definitely one of our most memorable performances,” say Anderson.
As they’ve now surpassed 3 million followers on YouTube, it seems their popularity is only on the rise. They bill themselves as “gramophone music for a Smartphone world.”
“I think a lot of these styles of music are very nostalgic for people,” says Anderson. “We have a lot of older fans and it reminds them of music they used to listen to or their parents used to listen to. Younger people probably romanticize it more. People like to relive this era they never experienced firsthand. People love dressing up in that style of clothing. A lot of our fans also appreciate the musicianship.”
By metamorphosing songs we all know into the elegance and charm of a bygone era, Postmodern Jukebox has found way to connect with fans throughout the generations.
“I think what most people like about it is — whether they love it or hate it — they like to see the song transformed,” says Anderson. “People on YouTube started with acoustic covers. That was the start of this whole cover craze. We’re just taking these songs people have heard a million times on the radio and giving them new life and making them sound as if they were recorded in a different year. It takes a simple pop song and makes it more.”
April 7 | 8 p.m.
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