“‘+/-' is a hockey term. It's a hockey statistic that measures ‘on ice' performance. It measures what the contributing players do with the scoring players.”
James Baluyut, the sonic architect behind New York City's bedroom pop group +/-, explains how this expression “symbolizes” his band.
“Having been a sideman for a long time, there is a lot of value in just being a contributing player and not necessarily the lead,” he says. “The band that I've put together is a band of people who've had secondary roles in other bands.”
Sideman is a familiar role for Baluyut, having cut his teeth playing guitar with indie-rock champions, Versus. Versus gained a devoted following in their roughly 10-year existence, releasing numerous albums on notable labels like Merge and Caroline. After Versus called it quits last year, Baluyut went back to drawing board-or rather the bedroom-and started recording.
“In New York you don't have much space,” he explains. “It's good because I can roll out of bed and record something. Sometimes there are those cliché moments where something strikes you as you're drifting into sleep. I have a short attention span, so the shortest distance for me to go from [an] idea to something on tape is generally beneficial.”
The end result was the functionally-named Self-titled Long-Playing Debut Album. The album pulses with dreamy chamber-pop that combines warm, fuzzy synths with acoustic guitar and multi-layered drum samples. Add to this Baluyut's soaring falsetto and you have a remarkable solo effort that puts him in “scoring” position.
“I think that record is essentially folk songs,” he says. “But sort of like what folk songs would be in 2040. Maybe that's what it's going to sound like sitting around the campfire.”
Now officially a “band” for about a year, +/- is ready to embark on their first national tour. For the live show, Baluyut has enlisted the help of former Versus bandmate Patrick Ramos, along with friends Margaret McCartney and Chris Deaner. Baluyut personally craves the uncertainty that only a live show can produce.
“I like the excitement, the possibility it could be different every time or that someone could fuck up really bad,” he says. “There's a danger involved.”