Local Duo Pato y Pato Swim Into Uncharted Electronic Music Waters

Mark Maynard and John Duffy were established rock musicians before deciding to start an electronic music duo with no synth experience and no instruments.

Kyle A. Miller

Pato y Pato, an electronic duo, were “traditional” musicians before pivoting into a new, electronic style. Now, their debut album, “Staples,” is being released July 25 at Outer Limits Lounge. 

The two, Mark Maynard and John Duffy, are not native electronic musicians — Duffy is a guitarist and Maynard is a percussionist — but foraged vintage instruments like analog synthesizers and drum machines to assemble their rigs. In that way, the duo leans into its name, which translates to “duck and duck” in Spanish.

“They’re beautiful animals and they’re very resilient,” says Duffy of the bird.

Both of them wanted to translate their traditional strengths into the language of electronic music. 

Maynard has been in a handful of bands over the years, usually focused on re-imaging established genres. Notably, he was the touring drummer for Matthew Dear. Duffy has dabbled in electronic music, but hasn’t extensively composed on synthesizers. He primarily works as a guitarist for bands like the Americana-rock outfit Empty Orchestra, which Maynard would later join. The two met during Empty Orchestra’s final tour. 

And then three years ago, they decided to start an electronic music group. 

Their plan skipped past the fact that neither owned any synthesizers or drum machines, and past the problem of neither having attained proficiency with any instrument associated with electronic music.  

“We didn’t want computers to play a role during the writing process or the live performance,” says Duffy “And we wanted all of the sounds to be performed live, without the aid of any pre-recorded elements.”

The learning curve was steep considering they had limited keyboard skills and no instruments. 

“We treat the project as a kind of laboratory experiment,” says Duffy. “We want to create interesting sounds and make music for a different audience and a different purpose. We’re interested in creating moody, evolving music that takes you on a little journey, that accompanies you while [you] get to wherever you’re going.”

They’re influenced by Silver Apples, Sun Ra and Kraftwerk, among others, harkening back to the ’75 – ’85 era of layered, motor rhythm. 

“There’s something about those old records,” says Duffy, “about their simplicity. Chasing that feel, we wanted to limit the number of choices we had while writing. Using Ableton or any music performance software, you have a million options, but my old Crumar [synthesizer] just has 10 knobs. We’re distancing ourselves from that ‘more is more’ rock-song mindset.”

“It’s tough to mute those impulses,” he continues. “But writing this record has really been a fun translation exercise.” 

And as any musician new to an instrument or genre, they had to mute their normal impulses to create catchy songs and instead embrace something new. 

Here’s the premiere of the music video for “High Rise” by Pato y Pato, featured exclusively on a compilation curated by influential local musician Fred Thomas.

Pato y Pato is having an album release show on Thursday, July 25, at Outer Limits Lounge. Admission is $5.



  • Jeff Milo
    Jeff Milo is the host of "MI Local" on 101.9 WDET. He's a longtime music journalist documenting the Michigan scene for 20 years.