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Seattle, Washington, United States | SELF

Seattle, Washington, United States | SELF


This band has not uploaded any videos
This band has not uploaded any videos


The best kept secret in music


"EvolvingArtist.com (Popular Dissent)"

By: Keith "MuzikMan" Hannaleck

Epigene, as defined in Webster's II New College Dictionary means, "Occurring or originating on or just below the surface of the earth," and "Foreign to the material in which it is found… like a crystal.” I am not too sure how that term relates to the band with the same name but on Popular Dissent this pop-rock band’s message seems to be more than just bubbling under the surface of their assorted sound. Their lyrics are biting, satirical, and cynical-like this slice of disdain from the track Generica…

I took the car down, drove around Mall Avenue
This culture is a waste of recycled news
Who’s feeding, who’s breeding culture machine?
To be seen and to sell is the American dream
It gets under your skin through repitition
A sole brand name, we look and feel the same
Do you like what you see? Get yourself on TV
Now baby, if you conform they’ll make you a celebrity

That says it all, and it’s so true, you cannot deny that the words hit home. We have become a generic, predictable and dysfunctional society, with TV and commercialism fueling the fire. Even though their lyrical content is like an angry snapping turtle at times, their music softens you up for the impact of the words with polished rock-pop hook filled guitar lines and feathery keyboards, making for irresistible and toe tapping musical adventures. Sean Bigler’s vocals will recall The Police for some folks no doubt; even the track “Hero Become The Enemy” has the same beat and guitar sound that many Police songs are known for. Perhaps the best example of that is “Inner Figure,” which has a melody and sound that is hypnotic. Bigler’s voice is spot on as the band cooks right along staying right in step…pardon the expression, like synchronicity.

If you cannot get into this kind of music, you probably have no sense of rhythm and rhyme at all in any of your bones. This is fun music with a serious message, and that fits in with the irony of life. Although that may sound like they are trying to fit a square peg through a round hole, it fits who we have become today through overkill of product advertising made available via all the outlets technology has provided. All of my philosophy and opinions aside, this is a solid album that will continually grow on you with each subsequent listen, that is one thing that is clear without exception, whether you can appreciate the words or not. Admittedly, some of these lyrics may ruffle some feathers, but I can guarantee they will make you question who you are and what our society dictates as “normal.”

Check out these words from Bethany:

At New Bethany
We pray daily
On the word of God, can’t watch TV
Living as willing slaves

Rejoice in the love he gave

That is a heavy-duty message that may open up some eyes to other people’s reality and truth. I have to admire them for having the balls to say what’s on their minds and make it all sound so good with great music. This is a good album for a lot of reasons, but the only way to find out is to listen for yourself, I am sure you will find different values and meanings than I did, which is exactly what the creators of the music want to happen for the listener.

P.S. Sean, you should let your wife sing lead more often, she has a beautiful voice!

Evolution Scale: 8/10
- Evolvingartist.com

"George Graham (Popular Dissent)"

Epigene: Popular Dissent
by George Graham

(Epigene Music 5540 As broadcast on WVIA-FM 4/28/2004)

We seem to be in a period where the word "clever" is not one that comes to mind in describing contemporary pop music. By that I mean music that sounds familiar but throws in unexpected good-natured twists, and shows some real originality along with wit. Such qualities in pop music are shunned by the commercial media these days, but they do live on in groups like the one whose CD we have at hand, Epigene, whose new second release is called Popular Dissent.

Like so much in contemporary music this kind of style goes back to the Beatles, who were always experimenting, with a goal of having some different ingredient in every record. Thanks to the classical experience of their producer George Martin and the general good-natured curiosity of the band members, the Beatles' recordings were rife with creative little twists and turns. The tradition continued with the Kinks and a series of mostly British bands and even some of the art rock bands of the 1970s. Probably the epitome of the clever art-pop band is XTC, who were formed in the mid 1970s and raised to a new level the idea of infectious rock music brimming with good natured and highly creative quirks. The style seems essentially British, given the limeys' natural aptitude for eccentricity, but there have been a few such American bands in the past.

But now, Epigene prove themselves to be in that grand tradition with a collection of upbeat, energetic tunes brimming with lots of unexpected twists and turns, appealing high-pop vocals and lyrics that harken back to the 1960s, with their roundabout references to the state of the world.

Seattle-based Epigene was founded by Sean Bigler, whose musical background was classical piano, but who soon branched out into other styles. He learned the guitar after joining the Peace Corps and being posted in the Middle East, where the guitar's portability was an asset. After returning to Seattle in 1996, Bigler worked mainly as a solo artist, doing acoustic shows. In 1999, Bigler met a couple of former Oakland musicians who were in a group called Salamander, described as a Klezmer, funk and fusion band. They worked on a recording and added keyboardist Bonnie Lykes, formerly of a San Francisco punk band called The Proper Shoes and who would go to marry Bigler. After playing a couple of gigs, Epigene went into recess for a some months, though they did record some basic tracks for a CD, which Bigler worked to complete. That was finally released in early 2002 under the title One Bright Sign. It soon attracted the attention of critics who noted the band's combination of punkish energy and musical sophistication.

Now they are out with a second CD Popular Dissent, with revised personnel, including bassist James Burkman and drummer Steven Harris. And it represents a quantum leap over their already laudable debut release. Like their last CD, Bigler and company recorded Popular Dissent over a period of months in the band's home studio. The result is a gem of an album full of bright energetic pop, laced with lots of quirky musical convolutions, sometimes at breakneck tempos, and appealingly melodic vocals. The parallels to XTC are strong, but one could also conjure the Beach Boys after too many cups of coffee, or the Clash if they got very literate.

Bigler's lyrics are also draw on a similar set of influences, with words that often consider the larger world with songs on the media, the consequences of war, the pressures of society and the workaday world. Some of the lyrics seem straight out of the Woodstock era, and serve as a reminder of how shallow most contemporary pop is.

The CD leads off with The New Voltaire which epitomizes the clever, energetic sound of Epigene. One can definitely hear the influence of the band XTC, but Epigene has a decidedly American flavor. Lyrically, this is not typical commercial pop, either. <<>>

A favorite topic among hippy musicians of the Woodstock era was consumerism and corporate culture. Given the state of consolidation in the media, it's not surprising that this is a viewpoint not often heard on the pop scene. But Epigene goes after it with gusto on the track called Generica, and comes up with a song that proves to be a highlight of this appealing album. <<>>

Channel Zero also takes up popular culture and the media. But here the musical setting is a bit too frenetic and rather scattered, with the group straying from their hummable melodies. <<>>

On the other hand, another highlight of the CD is New Betheny which tells the story of a boy sent off to a strict religious school. <<>>

With some current relevance is Power & Glory about soldiers at war, some presumably mercenaries. Here the musical setting gets a bit too frenetic for my taste. <<>>

About as laid-back as this album gets is Inner Figure described as being about "spiritual/psychological angst." It's rather multi-faceted musically with shifts in mood appropriate for the lyrics. <<>>

The band brings in a couple of additional horns for some of the tracks, such as Pretty Little Noose, another song considering life's possibilities and limitations. One can hear echoes of the Beatles and their evocation of the old English music hall style. <<>>

The CD ends with Twilight 21st Century another song taking up the state of the world, though with a musical setting that lacks the imagination of some of the band's other songs. <<>>

I suppose that some would be tempted to call Epigene and their new CD Popular Dissent "retro," since this kind of clever, intelligent, and complex, arty pop is not heard much anymore. And they do draw their influences from some previous generation bands like XTC and going back to the Beatles. But the sound they create is an interesting and enjoyable hybrid that includes a few more contemporary ingredients, and the fact that this music is so rare makes it a kind of refreshing change from the generally dumbed-down contemporary pop of the day. Sean Bigler, who wrote all the music and is the principal creative force behind Epigene, is a skillful and creative artist whose music has definitely earned the right to be called "clever."

Our grade for sound quality is about an A-minus. The home-made recording competes with anything anywhere, and the use of studio effects, some evoking the psychedelic era, deserves kudos. But as usual these days, the dynamic range was sacrificed in the mindless and pointless pursuit of loudness on the CD. Less ham-handed audio compression would have helped bring out more of the music's shifting moods and sonic layers.

The dictionary definition of "epigene" is "formed or originating on or just below the surface of the earth." I suppose one could say that this band's sophisticated pop is almost underground in a world of homogeneous simple-minded commercial "product." If you like fun music that is also full of interesting twists, then Epigene is definitely worth digging up.

(c) Copyright 2004 George D. Graham. All rights reseved. - George Graham (WVIA FM)


Popular Dissent

reviewed by levavaran

Epigene are masters of the British sound new-wave/pop that was so prominent in the early to mid 80's .Their biggest influence has to be Squeeze. I also sense Howard Jones , Bourgeois-Tagg and a bit of the poppier side of The
Bolshoi. They play their chosen style of music really well.Their lyrics are also quite good considering the genre and the positive nature of their sound is somewhat contagious and refreshing.

On the downside, musically this is pop, which many many people obviously dig, but those who desire more depth and complication in their music might feel somewhat lacking after listening to Popular Dissent. But all in all, quite a
good spin.

Genre: British/Indie Pop
Released: 2003 - SouthofMainstream.com

"All Music Guide Review"

Epigene is a solid, Brit-rock influenced pop band that owes a strong debt to the blue-eyed soul of Level 42, Paul Weller, and Paul McCartney. Guitarist/vocalist Sean Bigler has a crisp guitar attack not unlike a pre-13 Blur's Graham Coxon and delivers his vocals with an assured clarity the harkens back to the Fixx's Cy Curnin. Significantly, Bigler has a knack for writing story songs with a personal bent that nonetheless express universal truths. On "Lonely Together Forever," a witty portrait of convenient love, Bigler sings, "Bitter Rogers, Fred Despair afraid of dancing solo/At first a desperate affair no love from Cupid's arrow." This, combined with Epigene's ability to marry their more modern rock impulses with an uncanny sense of R&B makes for an invigorating listening. Case in point is the brilliant "You Bring Out the Best in Me," a reflective, keyboard-driven number that could work equally well on both a Jamiroquai album as a Gene release. One Bright Sign is a stellar, if somewhat derivative debut that showcases the band's '70s AOR mentality. — Matt Collar - All Music Guide

"Delusions of Adequacy Review"

Though Epigene is a Seattle band, they surely do not have that "Seattle sound," if that even still exists today. Instead, the band mixes a variety of sounds, with, to my ears, mixed results. One Bright Sign is essentially a Sean Bigler project, who plays the majority of the instruments, including guitar, Rhodes, synth, piano, organ, and clavinet, depending on the song. The album's 14 tracks run an hour long and cover much territory. Some of the music on One Bright Sign has that jam guitar sound to it, most notably on the first few tracks. "Lonely Together Forever," about a married couple that lives unhappily together, with its extremely jammy wah-wah guitar, is simply a song that I will never grow musically accustomed too. But of course I cannot speak for a fan of Phish (particularly Farmhouse). "You Bring Out the Best in Me" has an almost soft-rock feel, if not a Stevie Wonder feel. "Troubled Man" is another slow rocker, which sees the introduction of trumpet, trombone, and sax. You can imagine that it is a sexy song.

After the first three tracks, One Bright Sign starts to rock. "Night Rally" is the gem that I really needed at this point in the album. Lyrically about a protest, the music shows off the new-wave influence that Bigler grew up on. Indeed, it has that Go 2-era XTC sound. Bonnie Lykes' backing vocals, though used sparingly, add a lot to the song. "Mr. Action Fast," continues to rock, though in more of a modern-rock radio way. Actually, I take that back. My clock alarm just went off, exposing me to the kind of trash that I forgot is played on radio. "Mr. Action Fast" is decidedly not brainless enough to make those airwaves.

Following the crooning and hopeful "Big Provider," "Living in a Hypermarket," returns to that new-wave sound that I favor. Here, though, the combination of jumpy guitars and trumpets and trombones draws from early Oingo Boingo (you know, when they were good). "Pearl out of the Shell," brings the listener back to their soulful and jammy sound, before again rocking out with "I Only Want Everything" and "Citizen Low." On both tracks, Bigler shows off his angular guitar skills. "Citizen Low" is especially rewarding as it alternates between jittery guitar fun and slow piano. "Factoria" serves to further progress the dance party. Bigler sings mockingly, "Won't you come down to the cookie cutter town and wear our manufactured fashions 'round?" "Specialized Experience Man," reintroduces the synth, for one last go at new-wave. About how you cannot be successful unless you have a background in computers (and are thus a "specialized experience man"), the song succeeds in the way that "Night Rally" did. Two slower numbers bring the album to a close.

One Bright Sign wore me out with its cover of so many styles. It's hard to get through the last two songs, after the barrage of rocking new-wave. Perhaps I would have enjoyed the album as a whole more if it were shortened to nine or 10 songs, shaving off the two ends of the track listing. As it is, though, Epigene have more than a handful of strong tracks. Anybody that is more accepting of all musical styles will thoroughly enjoy One Bright Sign, whereas the more musically-specific will surely find something rewarding to sink their teeth into.

- Patrick, 4/22/02 - Delusions of Adequacy

"Indie Music Review"

As explained in the liner notes, epigene is a word used to describe something on the surface, or just below the surface of the earth. The Seattle based quintet Epigene takes a similar approach in its songwriting. The music on One Bright Sun, the band's debut LP, holds elements of depth and design while still being sing-along pop friendly.

Sean Bigler, the group's singer/ guitarist/ keyboardist and all around main man, fuses wah guitars, modern rock production and 70's era soul sensibilities on tracks like "You Bring Out the Best in Me" and "Lonely Together Forever." With the help of backup singer/ keyboardist Bonnie Lykes, the bubbly bop of "Pearl Out of the Shell" helps center the band's sound before it takes off in various other sonic directions.

The decibels and tempo heat up on "Night Rally," a tune that pushes the rock beats and new wave-esque synth lines while detailing the drama of a protest march. To mix up the sound even further, horn blasts and erratic beats set the background for the riddalin pulse of "Living in a Hypermarket." Then "Mr. Action Fast" questions the validity of a certain big budget Hollywood entertainer. Bigler sings, "Exploding cars, karate chops/ You're the natural at playing the bad cops/ We see you comin' on with the band/ Now who would listen except your movie fans?"

One of this disc's finest moments is "Troubled Man," a tune inspired by the Jack Nicholson character in the movie Five Easy Pieces. Although this song pushes its songwriting style further from the core, this dark jazz pop track swirls a near perfect hook through a dizzy haze of self doubt.

Epigene's One Bright Sun rocks, bops and grooves with easy melodic lines suspended over sophisticated musical ideas. Bigler and his band understand how to meld the nuances of radio friendly hooks with engaging, interesting tunes. And they do it consistently through the fourteen songs on this impressive independent release. - Indie Music Review


One Bright Sign (2001)
Popular Dissent (2003)

please visit our website for mp3 song samples


Feeling a bit camera shy


Epigene is a word used to describe a formation occurring just under the surface of the earth; like a crystal found in bedrock. Epigene can also describe the music and lyrics of Seattle based songwriter Sean Bigler. His songs contain a lyrical depth and melodic sophistication rarely found among today's modern rock/pop contemporaries. His elastic tenor recalls early Sting or Freddy Mercury and adds it’s own electrifying element to the music.

In 2002, All Music Guide gave the bands debut album, One Bright Sign a four-star review and wrote: “…Epigene’s ability to marry their more modern rock impulses with an uncanny sense of R&B makes for an invigorating listening…significantly, (Sean) Bigler has a knack for writing story songs with a personal bent that nonetheless express universal truths.”

Epigene was originally formed by Sean and Bonnie Lykes (keyboards, harmony vocals) in 1999, and the band released their self-titled debut EP the same year. The band played many local shows before playing an MP3.com/Angelcity showcase in LA. Following this experience, Epigene went into hibernation for a while but not before laying down drum & bass tracks for a new album. Several months of painstaking home recordings followed and after mixing and mastering the songs at Rainstorm studios, in Seattle, "One Bright Sign" was completed in November 2001.

The album's 14 immaculately arranged songs covered a lot of ground both emotionally and musically, from the frantic melodic punk of "Night Rally" (think pre-orchestral XTC) to the languid, trance-like "Sleeptime." The song “Troubled Man,” inspired by the film Five Easy Pieces, was a finalist in the 2002 American Songwriting Contest. Indie Music Review wrote that: “One Bright Sign rocks, bops and grooves with easy melodic lines suspended over sophisticated musical ideas…Bigler and his band understand how to meld the nuances of radio friendly hooks with engaging, interesting tunes.”

In the spring of 2002, new bassist James Burkman and drummer Steven Harris joined Epigene and the band became a four-piece with a highly dynamic live sound. The band also hired The Planetary Group for national radio & press promotion and over 55 college stations added One Bright Sign to their playlists. The album charted as high as #16 and had several CMJ adds.

Epigene recorded their 2nd LP, entitled Popular Dissent in their home studio during the summer and fall of 2003 and the album was later mixed by both Jack Endino and Gary Reynolds at ElectroKitty Studios. Inspired by recent events and loosely a concept album, Popular Dissent is an attempt to reflect popular concerns by everyday people living in 21st century society. Issues such as empty consumerism (Generica), political leadership (New Voltaire), loneliness/infidelity (Sugarwater), war (Power & Glory) and spiritual/psychological angst (Inner Figure, New Bethany) are explored with a vulnerability and razor-sharp insight.

Musically, Popular Dissent is more focused and aggressive than One Bright Sign, combining the propulsive rhythmic energy of post punk with adventurous, art-rock arrangements. The album has a similar feel to albums from UK bands such as: Manic Street Preachers, Pulp’s Different Class, Supergrass and Blur’s Parklife. It also sits well next to the political punk/pop of The Clash’s London Calling. Popular Dissent is a major musical statement and Epigene are poised to make a significant impact in 2004. Stay tuned!