The '80s-inspired, funk-enthused electro from Mystery Skulls didn't start in the studio. Long before Luis Dubuc, the artist behind the band name, knew how to play a guitar or even speak English, he was unknowingly learning to love music.
Dubuc was born in Venezuela, where he lived with his mother and father in a neighborhood that had few cars or televisions. When they moved to Toronto when he was 8 years old, Dubuc was introduced to an exciting new pop culture scene.
"I remember becoming instantly enamored with music videos and pop, R&B and dance music at the time. I took it in like a sponge," Dubuc says.
He taught himself English by watching television and listened to tapes of Black Box, Boyz II Men and Deee-Lite. But just as he was getting used to Canada, his family moved to a strikingly different area: Dallas. With a slower pulse and a lacking electronic music scene, Dubuc discovered his surprising love for heavy metal.
He learned his first instrument, the drums, and began playing in a garage band with a few friends.
In 2007, he started his own band, the Secret Handshake, a simplified, keyboard-heavy pop project that showcased his writing and vocal skills. Four years and three albums later, Dubuc's influences and passion for house and dance music inspired his most recent project, Mystery Skulls. Finally, he gave in to the '80s and '90s jams he played on repeat for years.
He explains Mystery Skulls as "an equal mix of Michael Jackson, Prince, Slayer, Wu-Tang Clan, Boyz II Men, Daft Punk and the general French house scene. It's a bit of a melting pot."
The young artist moved to Los Angeles to further his musical career and began working on a debut Mystery Skulls record. The cool, trigger-happy songs off the 2014 album, Forever, introduced stair-stepping keys, thumping electro beats and cuts and fuzzy vocals similar to the futuristic soundtrack for Tron: Legacy.
His sophomore album, One of Us, delves even deeper into the dance realm with vibrant choruses, club-worthy melodies and Auto-Tuned vocals that twist and bend. Written as a soundtrack to a film, the record tells a sci-fi-inspired story of a camera-riddled world where everything is seen and heard. One of Us debuted Friday.
Dubuc says he originally planned to film a full movie and dissect the scenes into 10 music videos featuring the tracks on the record. But it didn't materialize, so he completed the record instead and released one music video for "Music" as a preview.
"I've never made a story album — all of my other songs were completely autobiographical. In this one, there's a fight scene, a chase scene and a resolution," Dubuc says. "Even the song 'Music' is meant to be at the end of a performance when the cast comes back out and bows."
Although the cinematic storyline isn't completely clear, the record is both eccentric and graceful. Tracks like "Endlessly" and "Losing My Mind" feed into the high-energy experience, while "On Fire" decelerates the pace, giving listeners a moment to catch up. The addition of Zack Ordway on electric guitar brings a grounded realness to the distorted tunes, delivering a sleek, '80s vibe that's on brand for Dubuc.
Along with an upcoming album release, Dubuc says he has another exciting project on the horizon with a friend and fellow Dallas artist: He's working with Sarah Jaffe.
"She came out to L.A., and we worked in the studio for a few days," he says.
His work on One of Us is a beautiful mashup: retro R&B and rock, sci-fi and video games that make this sexy album destined for the dance floor.