Interview with EOTO: Live Electronics Wizards (ON TOUR NOW)
EOTO is an amazing live electronics duo whose all-impromptu performances of dubstep, house, electro and then some are inspiring audiences to new heights with their spontaneous artistry and heady organic sound. With nothing pre-recorded and a wild set-up of electronic instruments, guitars, keyboards and a wicked drum kit, EOTO delivers an inspiring experience of live musical wizardry.
On tour right now, EOTO hits LA, San Diego and Santa Barbara this weekend; scroll to the bottom for tour information. I caught EOTO at Sea of Dreams up in San Francisco on New Years Eve, and out of a fat-stacked lineup of West Coast talent, they were my very favorite! The group EOTO is made up of Michael Travis and Jason Hann, percussionist of the String Cheese Incident who took some time to answer a few questions for interested fans:
How long did it take you guys to get to the point where you can do such an amazing all-improv set?
To do it is one thing, and we’ve been doing that since we first got together. To do it well, really getting our transitions together and being finely aware of our pacing took a couple of years to work out. There’s also no way to work that out in a practice room. You have to play live and take chances in front of a crowd and pay attention to the feedback from the people.
This is a weird question, but do you ‘practice’ improv? Or are your frequent performances enough practice for you?
For what we’re doing, the performances are essential for our style of improv. It’s all about keeping the people dancing. That’s what inspires the flow of our set. If you’re just practicing improv for the sake of musical improv, you can set up in a rehearsal space and address the moods and feelings that you want to cover. It’s a different thing because those situations are mostly for a sit down audience, so you don’t have the pressure of whether you empty the dance floor, or keep it raging.
How much does the energy of the crowd and the environment of the venue determine what direction your set takes and what music you play, if at all?
Initially, the audience sets the tone. If there’s a crowd pushing up against the stage with anticipation before we even start, it’s kind of a no brainer to drop some nasty dubstep to feed the frenzy and let it fly. If it feels more subdued and we’re going on earlier and people may not know us as well, we tend to go mid tempo house, or glitchy funk around 100 bpms (beats per minute) to bring them in. After we get the people on our side, then we like to guide the journey a bit more.
Your music inspires the dance floor to new lows- which is a good thing. Do you dance?
I love to dance. I’ve got 2 or 3 “go to” maneuvers that keep me in the vibe. If I’m feeling it, I’ll go low, swerve the hips, and work the floor a bit 😉 When I was studying a lot of traditional percussion from different countries, I would learn the dance as well, so I could be further inside the music and know what the dancer goes through when they hear the drums, and what the drummer goes through when they see the dance. It’s all the same in the context of “music” – one is expression with the body and the other is expression with an instrument.
Which other producers inspire you? Who are you listening to right now?
I like Excision, SPL, The Bassist, Nero, Rusko, Tipper, Bassnectar, Datsik, DZ, Vaski. Mostly dubstep guys right now. When I’m on the road, I like to try and work towards something new to be inspired by so I can try stuff out at the next show. When I’m away from touring I dive into all of my World Music, Pop, R and B, Neo Soul, and Jazz collections to keep a wide palate of styles near my ear.
EOTO travels a lot, and you guys have just set off on another nationwide tour. How are you received in other parts of the country besides the West Coast? Where is your favorite place to play?
The West Coast has been this steady build for us since we started. Always solidly growing, but not by leaps and bounds. The Mid West has really blown up for us. We play a few 1,000+ person theaters and fill them up and get lots of kids who tour the whole region with us. On the East Coast there are pockets of frenzies here and there – same with the South. Our last New Orleans show was slammin. All of our recent Texas shows (Austin, Dallas, and Houston) really took off for us. We’ve played quite a bit of Florida in the past year and that area feels like it’s growing fast for us. No favorite place to play, but Colorado, as a state, comes out very strong for all of our shows, whether it’s a ski town or a 1300 person venue in Denver.
What festivals do you plan on performing at this year? WMC? SXSW? Lightening in a Bottle?
We’re doing a late night show for the Ultra Music Fest down in Miami in March. Our Summer is filling up with festivals such as Wakarusa, Summercamp, and Sonic Bloom. Lots of other things waiting that are, as of now, unconfirmed
What is the best compliment you have ever received on your music?
The two compliments that get me are: “your music inspires me” and “I’ve never danced harder than tonight.” It’s sort of “game over” at that point.
Do you like the label “jam band?”
Not to describe our band (EOTO). Yes, we’re probably the ultimate “Jam Band” in that we only “jam” and have no songs and no setlists, but we’re by far, an electronic dance band that’s way closer to a DJ nightclub experience.
EOTO IS ON TOUR! Catch this incredible live act this weekend in California:
Feb. 26 @ The Roxy in West Hollywood w/DLX, Jupit3r & OO7
Feb. 27 @ Winstons in Ocean Beach, San Diego w/my friend Osal8
Feb. 28 @ Soho Restaurant & Lounge in Santa Barbara
EOTO’s tour hits the whole West Coast and much of the nation!