Six fingers and three iPhones are enough to create a band, and Austria’s iBand is living proof, having scored a hit on the Internet by converting the little gadgets into a guitar, a keyboard and a set of drums.
The Viennese trio first gained attention in February on the video-sharing website YouTube with its music video “Life is greater than the Internet.”
The clip, showing a bird’s eye view of six hands wearing fingerless gloves and typing away at three touchscreens, has since been viewed over 2.8 million times. “It was a test, we were rather surprised by all these viewings, but of course it's flattering” Seb, the “drummer,”said.
Fascinated by the pocket-sized gadget’s possibilities, the three members of the band, all in their mid-20s, imported Apple iPhones as soon as they went on sale in the United States in December and began experimenting with the accompanying software.
“The idea was there even before the software existed,” said Marina, the arts and communication student who is the band's singer and ‘pianist.’
The iPhone is very easy to play, says the band, which has composed three pop songs. “Of course the screen isn’t very big and it doesn’t have all the advantages of a real instrument,” says Marina’s brother Roger, the band’s ‘guitarist’.
“But I can change the settings any way I please. For instance, I can play two different notes on the same guitar chord at the same time. And as long as there are new programmes, there will be new sounds,” he added.
The musical phone’s only limitation is its lack of nuances: whether the player’s touch is soft or hard the sound coming out of the instrument remains the same, making it ill-suited for classical music or jazz.
“But then again, why not,” added Seb. In the end, the iPhone is very similar to other instruments, according to the three musicians, who founded a punk group 10 years ago.
“Like with other instruments, you have to practice until you get the sound you want,” said Roger.
“We’re digital but in terms of melody, rhythm, we adapt to one another, these are not samples we play by clicking on a link,” added Marina.
Playing with only two fingers can also be physically demanding but according to Seb “the fingers are like drumsticks, to play well, you have to really relax your hands.”
Despite this unexpected publicity for its leading product, Apple hasn’t contacted the band. “We’re not looking to make money off of our services either,” said Marina, although the band is in touch with a music software maker for iPhones. The trio, which does not yet have a record label, wants to finish writing at least a dozen songs before planning any concerts, but performances are definitely on its agenda.
And “they will not be conventional concerts,” Seb warned. Despite benefitting from the Internet buzz, the band advises web surfers to live life outside the virtual world.
“Many youngsters spend most of their time on the Internet, playing online games for example. Perhaps we can get through to them because we play on iPhones,” said Roger.
“We mustn’t forget that life is out there,” added Marina. iBand has been invited to perform by the University of Melbourne, but for now, the trio will interact with its audience via a screen.