What is geek music?
The image of a geek today is hardly the same as Malvolio’s self-proclaimed description of a fool, a “geck,” in Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night. The popularity of geek culture is evident in our present day – one only has to witness the hundreds of thousands of attendees at Comic-con, observe the growing number of geeky onscreen heroes or unabashedly admit to watching hours of a TV science fiction series in one sitting.
Debs and Errol are a Toronto-based musical comedy duo focusing on all things geeky, appealing to that growing audience of soon-to-be-friends with the same eccentric devotions. Their artistic mission is to create and perform a wide range of music genres – acoustic, a capella, jazz, pop, musical theatre, folk – all with a focus on the nerd theme. Debs & Errol pride themselves on being up close and personal with their fan base. Being geeks themselves, they want their audience to enjoy and laugh along with them as the audience responds to the familiarity of the characters, shows and games embedded within their tongue-in-cheek lyrics.
They exploded onto the Toronto improv scene in April 2011 when a mutual friend asked them to perform as musical guests at his show. Their goal in their first year was just to get their name out there. An ever expanding network of creative connections kept them very busy performing regularly at comedy and music clubs. They were musical guests for the Toronto theatre group, Monkeyman Productions, and were the opening band for Toronto comedy improv shows such as “The No Parker and Sevilles Parker and Seville Show” and “The Rulers of the Universe Foster Understanding.” They were also invited to perform alongside other geeky bands at the Toronto “Nerdz Weds” show.
Feedback from their shows has been along the lines of “cleverness and wit mixed with a healthy dose of cute”, “awesome music talent, fun artistry and accessible geek humor” and simply “adorable.”
To appeal to the “techy” geeks, they put on several “Google Hangout Concerts,” allowing fans from across the world to log-in and enjoy a live performance of Debs & Errol in Debs’s living room. They keep busy by being a band-for-hire for birthday parties, work functions, art shows, video game releases and other special events.
Errol: Wait, we did video game releases?
The direction that the band grows directly correlates with the suggestions and requests of their fans. Knowing that involvement is key, they have a collaborative creative process with their followers. To keep the dialogue alive, the Debs & Errol website hosts a forum featuring a range of geeky topics. They regularly release videos on Youtube and experiment with different social media, such as Facebook, Twitter and Google Plus, to connect with their audience. They actively engage fans with a daily online web comic that chronicles their experiences as they work towards becoming a successful music team. At the 100th comic strip milestone, their fans were asked to send in a comic about Debs & Errol with their own artistic flourish and humor to commemorate the occasion. Some Debs & Errol enthusiasts have even been privileged to appear as caricatures of themselves in the comic.
Debs & Errol are advancing their international presence. They are reaching out to the global community through participation in projects like “Sing Me A Story” where musicians put music to stories written by disadvantaged children around the world. To hone their art and grow their network, they are highly active in international music communities. For example, they are prominent collaborators with the February Album Writing Month (FAWM) community, an online songwriting challenge where participants aim to write 14 songs in 28 days. They are contributors within the FILK community – a science fiction or fantasy music writing group. To make their music accessible, they participate in collaborative efforts. They feature their original music on the Funny Music Project (FuMP) website hosted by comedy musicians and they are members of Nerd Mafia, a group dedicated to collaborating and cross-promoting “nerdy” entertainers.
Errol: Ok, admittedly, we uploaded one song to the FuMP and that to the sidebar.
They were thrilled when their song, “Geek Love Song,” was featured on CBC Radio “Here and Now” in February 2012 during its Valentine’s Day special. This song in addition to many other Debs & Errol originals are featured in their first CD, just completed in March 2012. Remaining true to the Debs & Errol’s mission, the creation of this CD was requested by fans and was completely fan-funded. Each donor was awarded different promotional prizes, such as a Youtube music video with Debs & Errol singing a song of their choosing. Engaging fans even further, they featured a CD-naming contest on their website. The contest became quite competitive with fans proffering numerous, creative titles.
They continue to write and perform and are planning a second CD release in the fall of 2012.
In the world of entertainment, the geek theme is alive and growing. Debs & Errol hope to grow a fan base from this niche market. To quote Debs:
“I’d much rather call them ‘friends’ than ‘fans’ because ‘fans’ sounds unbalanced and impersonal and creates an ‘us vs. them’ space which doesn’t really fit us. We would rather have a two-way street…”
A lot of the photos on this website were taken by our wonderful photographer, Bill Ivy. Thanks, Bill! 😀
My name is Deborah, but I usually go by Debs. I sing and write music, mostly on piano, guitar or ukulele, and have a penchant for lush, layered harmonies.
I use songwriting as a means of exploring. I started writing in 2007. Several years and over 200 songs later, I’m no closer to classifying myself in terms of genre and style than I was when I started. I tend to write folk and jazz music most often but you’ll also find rock, electronic, a cappella and even thrash metal among my songs.
Growing up, my musical mosaic was choral and classical with a dash of the theatrical. My parents both come from musical families so piano lessons and Royal Conservatory exams were a given. Guitar piqued my interest later and though I took a few classes in my early teens, I am largely self-taught. I also picked up the flute because I wanted to join a concert band and that’s what my father happened to have lying around.
On the vocal side, I had musical theatre. I also jumped into every ensemble my school offered including girls & mixed a cappella, vocal jazz and of course, traditional choir. There is an art to blending with other singers requiring a wide awareness, a lot of listening and a keen attention to detail. Much of what I’ve learned has shaped my approach to performing solo. I find that doing both is balancing, and my women’s choir, the Penthelia Singers, is an important and vital part of my musical life.
I am the more pragmatic half of Debs & Errol, our geeky, musical comedy duo. I perform as a solo artist in Ontario and in the United States and am licensed to busk in the City of Toronto. Several of my choral compositions have been performed by the Penthelia Singers Women’s Choir, with support from the Toronto Arts Council.
My name is Errol and I have been a practicing geek for over 30 years. I don’t agree that Debs is the more pragmatic half.
I grew up in a musical family in which singing and performing was not encouraged… it was forced. I started playing the piano when I was eight years old and completed the Royal Conservatory Practical Examinations at the grade 8 level because of Asian guilt. Throughout my school years, I sang and played piano on an amateur level for festivals and competitions. For over five years, I was a member of Voices, a Toronto a capella band, honing my skills as a vocalist and entertainer competing in amateur music competitions and singing for weddings and birthday parties.
My sister wrote this bio, which is why I sound like a complete tool.
Since my discovery of FAWM in 2009, I have been writing songs, collaborating and recording with other artists, self-producing music CDs (such as Binary for Babies), recording music videos for YouTube and having too much fun along the way.
Professionally, I have worked as the Music Director of Church of the Resurrection in Toronto for over 8 years. In this capacity, I plan the repertoire for weekly church services, organize and oversee weekly practices with the band and direct the music for each service. Out of necessity, I have taught myself guitar and drums in order to replace sick or absent band members last minute and, in turn, this job has cultivated my improvisation and creative skills.
Ok, I still can’t play the guitar. But I can play the F chord now. That was a huge step.
OLD ABOUT PAGE BIO:
A Toronto-based musical comedy duo focusing on all things geeky. Their music has been described as ‘nerdy showtunes’.
After meeting through the local chapter of National Novel Writing Month in 2007, they began to sing duets and write songs together and have performed at a smattering of gatherings. Both are highly active in the February Album Writing Month community, an online songwriting challenge where participants aim to write 14 songs in 28 days.
When not together, Debs focuses on writing serious things and Errol works on becoming tactful in public.
A lot of the photos on this website were taken by our wonderful photographer, Bill Ivy. Thanks, Bill! 😀
totoro, star wars, star trek, battlestar galactica, geekdom, creativity, geek, comics, larping, anime, songwriting, performing, comedy, totoro, improvisation, piano, guitar, ukulele, arguing, water consumption, miyazaki 
What Others Say
A hilarious musical duo
– Adam Collier from Mooney on Theatre, 2012
geeky-fantastic musical duo
– Kelly Bedard from My Entertainment World, 2012
…absolutely adorable duo…
– Dorianne Emmerton from Mooney on Theatre, 2011
We love us some D&E: It’s like D&D, but sometimes, inexplicably, geekier and one letter better.
– Martin Chodorek (founding member of Monkeyman Productions)
Debs has successfully merged her awesome musical talent with her driven desire to help people. Not only does the ‘Debs & Errol’ project showcase her fun artistry by incorporating her accessible geek humour…she is helping to keep our aging population mobile. As his first stand up RPG, Errol is getting some needed exercise. It’s important people his age stay active. Way to go Debs!
– Devin Melansen
You may have heard yaks yak—but do they really have the knack? Whereas Debs and Errol will have you taken aback with their knack for yakking (and singing) smack about jetpacks, iMac hacks, AT-ATs and Cylon attacks. What the frak!
– Jeremy Woodcock
Debs has the phenomenon called “nerdgirl hawtness” going for her, which is attractive to geek guys, because we like cleverness and wit mixed with a healthy dose of cute. The part that is not immediately obvious, is that having a geeky asian guy with glasses sidekicking partnering with her, automatically gives her bonus geek points to her nerdgirl stat, that is, Errol’s presence makes her more appealing by contamination, even before his personality and wit is added to the mix making the duo truly more than the sum of its parts. (as a side note, having a cute girl sitting beside Errol automatically adds to Errol’s ‘cool geek’ stat, because look, a cute girl is hanging with him, so he must be cool)
– James Eden