Cadeaux gets the dance party started

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Linking dance moves to pop songs is a risky business. More often than not it reduces an artist to one-hit-wonder status, íƒ   la Chubby Checker or Men Without Hats. Regardless, Katie Lapi, one of the two singers in local quintet Cadeaux, puts down her yam fries in a half-empty Broadway eatery and shows off the dance she created for her band's song "Show Me the Moment". Her gestures are part Skidamarink and part Hand Jive, but if hip-hop can get away with new moves like the Lean Back, who's to say post-punk can't introduce a dance of its own?

Guitarist Rob Andow explains that Lapi created the routine with the group's other vocalist, Dani Vachon, as a joke, but it managed to find its way into their live show.

"I don't know if we talked them into doing it at a show or if they did it spur of the moment," he says. "At every show we notice more and more people that actually know the moves."

The dance was helpful to Lapi, who had previously played guitar in Operation Makeout. "Dani and I had never just sung before," she says. "We had always played instruments, so having something to do with our bodies while we were singing helped us to be less nervous until we were comfortable enough to be moving around on-stage."

The band is aware it needs to be careful that what started out as a joke doesn't become a gimmick. "We have to tone it down," Lapi says, noting that Cadeaux doesn't want to be labelled as the group with the hand-motion song.

Either way, the musicians' live antics fit into their playful persona. On this day four of the five members sit at the table goofing around, talking about getting their own Monkees-styled pad called Chateau Cadeaux. Their good spirits are helping fight the contention that this isn't a fun city. "There's been a lot of talk about Vancouver in terms of people saying the crowds aren't good enough or that the crowds aren't into it," Lapi says. "I think the city is great; I'm pro-Vancouver."

Andow adds: "The whole 'No Fun City' thing is bullshit. Instead of waiting for things to get better why not enjoy yourself and have fun?"

Cadeaux, which includes drummer Devon Clifford and bassist Rick O'Dell as well, formed in 2003.

"Our first inclination was to be a dance band," O'Dell explains. "All of us were playing instruments at the time and it was the furthest thing from dance. We just looked at each other and weren't digging it at all."

Things went smoother once the singers dropped their instruments for full-time microphone duty, helping to develop a sound that Andow believes strays from the now-trendy Gang of Four clichés. "We're not dancey in the conventional way, like the bands that play the disco beat for their entire set," he says.

The group's recently released Physical City, on Vachon's Sound-Document label, does have its share of ass-shaking rockers. The disc opener "Cashing In" sets the pace for most of the record with Andow's frantic single-note runs tossed on top of O'Dell's minor-key bass melodies. Vachon's lyrics, which compare relationships to investments, follow a general theme of personal politics. The two singers share lyric-writing responsibilities, usually with one coming up with the theme and the other with the melody.

Lapi's fixation on the human body fuels much of her writing and also inspired the CD cover art, which depicts a city made with torsoless bodies and tooth-encrusted asses for buildings. "I've had an ongoing fascination throughout my life with comparing emotions to different body functions," she says, "and a lot of my lyrics refer back to the body."

Cadeaux's vocal harmonies are by far the group's strongest asset. On "I Can Wait" Lapi's booming voice quivers with nervous tension, while the smoother-sounding Vachon suggests a young Nico fronting a modern Dischord act. Their strongest song, "Fiction and Blues", abandons the usually upbeat tempo for midpaced military drum rolls and early-'90s shoegazing keyboards before Andow's angular six-string work takes over. The combination of coiled-steel guitar lines and lush vocals cements Physical City as one of the best local releases of the young year.

The five-piece leaves this week in its minivan for a Canadian jaunt that will take it to Montreal and back. The group hopes for the best, but if shows go sour the singers can always break out a new step for the crowds.

"I'm looking at the whole Britney Spears/Janet Jackson thing," Lapi says sarcastically. "Maybe I could just not sing at all; concentrate more on the dancing and less on singing." -