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Tempe's Simply Three Cover Janelle Monáe With the Help of Her Backing Musicians

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If you have neither heard nor heard of Simply Three, you really ought to start paying attention, or, at the very least, give them a listen. Thousands of others certainly have, as the Tempe-based classical crossover trio, comprised of three local string musicians, has gotten a lot of praise in recent months for their fantastic instrumental versions of well-known pop and rock songs.

In the last year alone, Simply Three has earned a ton of attention (and hundreds of thousands if YouTube views) from covering such hitmakers as OneRepublic, Pharrell Williams, and Imagine Dragons, each time transposing pop bombast into joyous string music in artful fashion.

The trio's latest release, a mashup cover of Janelle Monáe's "Cold War" and "Tightrope" that was recently released, is certainly no exception. And, in an interesting twist, the song features two of Monáe's backup musicians.

Guitarist Kellindo and violin player Glen McDaniel, both of whom have performed with the R&B/soul singer in recent years, collaborated with the Simply Three's lineup of violinist Alex Weill, cellist Zack Clark, and upright bassist Nicholas Villalobos to create the song.

"We have always admired Janelle Monáe and her music, and when we had the chance to collaborate with two musicians in her band, we ABSOLUTELY could not say no!" Simply Three stated on the YouTube page for the song's music video. And according to press release from trio regarding the project, Kellindo and Glen McDaniel wanted to participate in the project in hopes of surprising Monáe.

We're pretty sure she'll be pleased with both the song (which features both Kellindo's riffs and McDaniel's bow-work), as well as its music video, which debuted last week on YouTube and is a feast of art, sound, and dance.

Directed by Clark, Villalobos, and local filmmaker Ovi Balc, it stars the musicians of Simply Three, as well as Kellindo and McDaniel, who both flew to Phoenix to participate in the making of the video. Several dancers from local "street fusion" troupe EPIK Dance Company are also prominently featured, including its artistic directors Sarah "Saza" Dimmick and Luis "Weezy" Egurrola.

The video was shot over the course of two days in mid-April at Scottsdale nightclub Smashboxx and a Tempe photography studio. Scenes of the musicians and dancers performing in front of a stark white background while dressed in tuxedos (an homage to Monáe's fashion sense) alternates with footage of everyone wearing glowing neon black light outfits, which were created by local fashion designed Kelsey Albright, in a dark room.

It's a juxtaposition of black and white with colors and light that Dimmick says Simply Three envisioned when creating the project. She and Egurrola, who previously worked with the trio for a live performance of a mashup of Coldplay's "Fix You/Clocks" at this year's Governor's Arts Awards, came up with the choreography for the video, which she thinks turned out great.

"We were all sold on the vision and worked together really well," Dimmick says. "This is the second time we have collaborated with Simply Three, and adding Glen and Kellindo to the equation made it even more exciting."

Clark, who also edited the video, was also pleased with the end result.

"I think the video is really unique and pushes limits for classical crossover groups and YouTube musicians," he stated on Reddit.

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