It’s not every day that you get a cease and desist from a huge soda company. Imagine the surprise that came to Ryan DeRobertis, formerly known as Saint Pepsi, when he was contacted by the company and asked to change his name. In an informal conversation I had with DeRobertis, he said he was slightly flattered that he was even a “blip on Pepsi’s radar”. Unfortunately, Saint Pepsi had to go, but his music resurfaced under the name of Skylar Spence, which was a nod to Woody Allen’s film, Everybody Says I Love You.
Now is when you might be saying, “hold on, hold on. What?” Well, where do I even start?
Under the name of Saint Pepsi, Ryan DeRobertis explored and mastered the vaporwave, disco, dance, and future funk genres. He released several albums, cleverly sampling classic soul and disco artists like The Whispers in his iconic track, “Better”, and Lustt, in one of my favorites, “Private Caller.” A few years and a “friendly” phone call from Pepsi Co. later, Skylar Spence was born, and in mid-September his latest album, Prom King came out. Now that’s a really brief, vague history of how Skylar Spence came to be, but I’d encourage you to check out his Soundcloud, Bandcamp, Facebook, and Twitter to get a complete picture.
I only found out about Skylar Spence two years ago, when he was still Saint Pepsi, so it’s confusing to go back and forth, but I’m getting used to it. There was something about his carefree, smile-inducing music that struck a chord and reminded me of the glorious music I grew up listening to: 70’s disco and 80’s pop and new wave. It didn’t take long for me to fall in love with Hit Vibes, and from there, discovering DeRobertis’ older albums like World Tour and Empire Building was easy listening (but weirder). Then, Prom King came out, and I realized his talent extended beyond the computer and mixers and onto the guitar and keyboard and even the microphone. This fun(ky) album is a staple in my car’s CD player, and I’ve listened to it a Ridiculous! amount of times, but I love it.
The minute I discovered Saint Pepsi/Skylar Spence, I hoped to see a live performance, but I had to wait quite a while. I missed Big Guava Music Festival this summer. I was so sad. I thought that was my last hope. But then, a tour announcement came, and one of the last stops was in a local venue, Bardot.
This Friday, the day finally came. I walked into Bardot, a small venue that looks like your rich grandfather’s library, for the first time in my life. Immediately to my right, I saw a merch table and when I looked up at the person in charge, it was none other than Ryan DeRobertis, Skylar Spence in the flesh. After a few minutes of intense fangirling, I realized I should stop speaking. He was very gracious and kind, and it was cool to realize one of my favorite artists was a real human being.
He and his band played an incredible set. I had worried about how his songs would translate to live sound, but as it turns out, I had nothing to worry about. It was arguably better live than the recorded versions.
Skylar Spence opened with a fantastic live rendition of one of my favorite tracks – the aforementioned “Private Caller”. The set consisted mostly of songs from Prom King such as “Can’t You See”, “Affairs”, and “I Can’t Be Your Superman”. The songs were coupled with endearingly cheesy segues by frontman Ryan DeRobertis. The best one was the most subtle, and it caught me by surprise. Just before the last song, the audience was cheering and I was screaming bloody murder. DeRobertis acknowledged how it seemed we liked the set, and then he said, “Let’s see if I can make it better.” AND HE ENDED WITH THE SONG “BETTER” FROM HIT VIBES (excuse the caps, but I was trying to convey my excitement).
The end came too quickly. I danced more than I’ve ever danced at a show before. It was a blast. Sadly, that was the second to last show of his 2015 tour, but he’ll be touring again with Madeon in 2016. All I can hope for is that I’ll get to relive the magic sometime soon, and Skylar Spence will come to Miami once again.
A girl can dream.
(Here’s a video I took of Skylar Spence performing Ridiculous!)