Timur and the Dime Museum is the delightfully demented Los Angeles-based gender-bending/genre-defying hybrid post-punk glam performance band led by the fierce, classically trained Kazakh-American opera singer (Timur) and a cunning and sardonic songwriter (Daniel Corral). The band, like their name, is a blend of haughty style, galactic personalities and flamboyant theatrics, and they're coming to Miami Light Project this weekend.
"When I was attending the New England Conservatory, studying classical opera, I was also hanging out with many bands on the underground scene," Timur says. "I became good friends with Dresden Dolls and singer Amanda Palmer, who in some way encouraged me to pursue projects outside the box. After I moved to Los Angeles to study at California Institute of the Arts (CalArts), a lot of creative, interdisciplinary, off-the-wall projects followed. CalArts profoundly influenced how my different experiences in classical voice, contemporary and popular music and theater were falling into place."
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In the 19th century, Dime museums were lowbrow centers of moralizing entertainment for working class immigrants in major cities, such as New York and Chicago. These centers spread culture to the masses in site-specific performances catering to the local population. Turko-Mongol ruler Timur, on the other hand, conquered most of Asia and consolidated culture under one roof -- the Timurid Dynasty.
What brought Timur and the Dime Museum together was another dynasty of sorts and a 21st century form of lowbrow entertainment for the masses -- America's Got Talent.
"After graduating from CalArts, I received a phone call from one of the casting directors," Timur reflects. "She saw my music video, and wanted something similar as a performer on the show. I mentioned that I had a band -- which I did, albeit for the fact that we only played twice together -- and described it as a goth-vaudevillian fantasy with dancers, for the lack of better words.Though, at that time, the group was acoustic, without drums, and we played covers of Russian cabaret songs, Kurt Weil, Klaus Nomi, and David Bowie."
On opening night at the Light Box at The Goldman Warehouse, Timur and the Dime Museum will debut Collapse, a post-ecological requiem that uses the conflict between empirical evidence and political debate over climate change as a source of inspiration for song. Written by Daniel Corral, the songs explore universal themes in global issues.
"The environmental theme of Collapse was conceived in the dissonance between that empirical evidence and the multi-generational cultural habits that fuel those debates -- compounded by the existence of a seemingly overwhelming global problem. Much of my recent music has included some sort of social commentary, and I needed Collapse to examine a larger, more universal cultural issue."
Despite the thematically dark and seemingly nihilistic nature of their work, keep this in mind -- Timur and the Dime Museum is insanely fun! They produce intelligent, binary breaking, issue-driven entertainment that breaks binaries and reforms them into a multi-verse of music.
"Some songs are darkly satirical, while some are more direct," says Corral. "The panoptic stylistic leaps and bounds of Collapse may at first seem incongruous with the morose nature of a requiem, but they attempt to portray a richer, more complex relationship to mortality, and the mortal limit we seem to be bringing this planet to. The libretto and staging of Collapse continue to follow the purpose and ritual of a requiem, though it will be a much wilder ride."
In the end, Timur and the Dime Museum is a spaceship ride to the other side. And they're only here for two days.