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Big Sir, a Los Angeles-based outfit that melds electronic pop with touches of jazz and experimental rock, revolves around the core duo of singer/songwriter Lisa Papineau and bassist/multi-instrumentalist Juan Alderete. Papineau is also an eclectic vocalist-for-hire, appearing on projects including Air's 10,000 Hz Legend and Talkie Walkie, M83's Before the Dawn Heals Us, and the Rentals' final tour; Alderete is the bassist for the Mars Volta and also performs with the Omar Rodriguez-Lopez Quintet and Racer X. Papineau played flute and oboe as a child, but she became a performing musician gradually: while studying anthropology and religious systems of thought in college, she became interested in multimedia and performance art.
The pieces she appeared in and created incorporated more and more music, until she realized that this was the direction her art wanted to follow. After training with soprano Kitty Rowe, Papineau moved to L.A., where she performed with a number of bands until meeting composer Tyler Bates. Together, they formed the group Pet, which also featured Alderete on bass. Alderete, meanwhile, was an L.A. native who began playing music seriously as a teen and was equally inspired by jazz, prog rock, and metal. After enrolling in the Musicians Institute's bass program, he formed Racer X with guitarist Paul Gilbert, who went on to form Mr. Big. Alderete played with the Scream in the early '90s. Pet caught the ear of Tori Amos, who signed the band to her Igloo imprint (which released 1996's self-titled debut album) and took Pet on tour with her.
After the band dissolved, Papineau took a hiatus from L.A., but when she returned, she and Alderete, who had been recording and performing with a reunited Racer X and another band, Distortion Felix, reunited as a creative team. Big Sir arrived in 2000, and was followed by Now That's What I Call Big Sir, a remix album that featured contributions by artists like Dan the Automator. In between working as Pet, Alderete and Papineau worked on their other projects, including Alderete's involvement with the Mars Volta. They reconvened in 2005 for Big Sir's second album, Und die Scheibe Andert Sich Immer, which was released in late 2006 by Gold Standard Laboratories. Papineau also released the solo album Night Moves that year. The group's fourth studio album, Before Gardens After Gardens, arrived in 2012.