Opposites don’t just attract; they make magic.
What happens when you combine a classically trained multi-instrumentalist with a knack for off-kilter cinematic soundscapes and a powerhouse singer with a staggering vocal range? The answer is New York duo Satellite Mode—Jess Carvo [vocals] and Alex Marko [instrumentation, production].
A mélange of booming emotionally charged vocal sorcery and hypnotic sonic backdrops, the group has quietly become a phenomenon. Without traditional promotion, they already racked up over 2 million cumulative plays on Spotify, landed on the coveted Weekly Buzz playlist, and crashed the platform’s U.S. Viral Top 10 and Overall Top 10 in addition to going Top 5 on Hype Machine. Early praise came from Noisey and other tastemakers as the pair wowed audiences throughout NYC since their 2016 arrival. You could think of them as the NETFLIX generation’s answer to Portishead, and you’d only be about halfway there…After teasing out singles, 2017’s Wild Excuses EP formally unlocks the world of Satellite Mode.
“We’re two sides of one whole,” explains Alex. “Even though the music is electronic, I try to bring a live feel beyond the glue of synths. In terms of songwriting, I draw from sixties influences like The Kinks, The Beatles, Velvet Underground, and Lou Reed solo. I bring the rawness. Jess is the honesty and vulnerability. There’s something under that voice a lot of people don’t have.”
“It wasn’t until I met Alex that everything shifted,” admits Jess. “At the time, I was writing a lot and recovering from intense vocal cord surgery. I was told I might never sing again and I was in need of being liberated from who I thought I should be as an artist. I bring a lot of longing to the table. As a performer, I believe my job is to expose myself to others who are having trouble showing themselves. That’s what it comes down to.”
Initially introduced via New York City’s intimate songwriters circle in 2014, Jess and Alex didn’t begin creating until almost a year later. Facing an unspeakable family tragedy soon after meeting Alex, Jess yearned for a cathartic vehicle, while Alex, broken from the disintegration of a long relationship and the malaise of corporate America, needed the same.
“When we first met, we were in such different stages of life,” recalls Alex. “I had this epiphany. I was in a corporate job, and I was like, ‘What am I doing with my life? All I want to do is music.’ I completely changed my life to follow my music. Jess became the outlet.”
“Whatever happened with the tragedy in my life ended up being the impetus for forming Satellite Mode, which helped me rediscover my voice” Jess elaborates. “It gave me purpose and direction. This would be our music. It wasn’t something we were going to pitch out. We peeled away those layers of ourselves and became very personal.”
They uploaded “Wild Excuses” online, and it blasted off almost immediately. In under a year, it individually generated close to 1 million Spotify streams and counting. Now, it serves as the title track of their debut EP. Boasting online favorites “Fair,” “Aphrodite,” and “Warm Fire Lightning,” the six-song set elegantly stirs trip-hop expanse, rock swagger, and ceremoniously massive singing into one intoxicating brew. The single “Bad Woman” begins with a delicate croon that slowly crescendos into an explosion of glitchy electronic tones, spacey guitar leads, shimmering keys, and Jess’s stadium-size pipes as she soulfully declares, “Yes, I’m a bad bad woman.”
“It’s about the double standard of being a girl,” she reveals. “I was thinking about a lot of things all at once. You could see this double standard clearly mirrored in the political landscape. I also found it among my friends’ personal relationships. This angst comes out in our songs, as the double standard is prevalent with being a female in the entertainment industry. It’s a mash-up of all of these frustrations and stories.”
Elsewhere on the EP, they breathe new life into Chris Isaak’s “Wicked Game” with a vibrant and vivid cover draped in airy textures and tones. “We really like to put our own spin on things,” remarks Alex.
In the end, the connection between Jess and Alex translates to listeners everywhere via Satellite Mode.
“When people hear us, I’d love for them to get that feeling in their stomach music can evoke,” Alex leaves off. “A lot of our art is about overcoming tragedy or changing your life around. It could hopefully be motivating.”
“I just hope they feel everything a little more intensely,” concludes Jess. “My favorite musicians make me feel like I’m not alone in my thoughts and, in some way, speak a universal truth. I want them to have fun and feel lighter. We’re not so different than they are.”