At first it appears that LA-based duo Skin Town – aka vocalist Grace Hall and part-time Zola Jesus keyboardist Nick Turco – make the kind of gloopy dripfeed R&B that makes the blogs wet but usually fails to arouse the wider world, but there’s something deliciously tactile about their debut album, The Room. “Ride”, for example, is built around soft drum claps that sound like fingertips tapping skin as Hall’s Kelis-esque vocal huskily coos: “Wanna ride him like a bike / I’ll do anything you like.”
“I think you can tell what inspired the album by what the songs are about,” laughs Turco, who won’t confirm or deny whether the pair are a couple. “We wanted to make sexy bedtime R&B and dark pop.” Turco draws inspiration from the likes of Keri Hilson, Max Martin and Akon (“his Freedom album is one of my favourites”) and first met Hall at a Zola Jesus gig last summer, where they bonded over a mutual love for The-Dream, who was also on the bill. “Nick and I didn’t start hanging out properly until I started stalking him on the internet,” Hall says. “I knew he was into R&B but I didn’t know he actually wrote R&B music. He had a music project called Rory Kane and I googled the name after The-Dream show and saw all these sort of T-Pain, New Jack Swing kind of songs.
We wanted to make sexy bedtime R&B and dark pop
Having spent years fronting punk bands, Hall knew she could sing, but also knew she was wasting her talents screaming in knock-offs of The Slits. “I was doing the wrong style of singing. I did all this crazy noise-punk stuff and then when I met Nick it all fell into place.” The first song they recorded together was a gauzy cover of Craig David’s seminal “7 Days”, renamed “7 Daze”. “It sounded exactly how we wanted to sound,” Hall says, “like a dark R&B project.” Synth-led, melodic and dripping with penetrating pop hooks, The Room manages to sound both warmly familiar and oddly alien. “We really don’t listen to current R&B at all,” she giggles. “We check out the underground shit to see what’s going on but the top 40 stuff just sounds weird.” Fingers crossed that it’s about to get a lot weirder.