Pnuma Trio: New Groove Revisited
Back in September of 2005 we at Jambands spotlighted the Pnuma Trio (then just Pnuma) for our New Groove of the Month. At that time, the three were a crew of ambitious youngsters still all under the tender age of 21. With aspirations reaching high into the sky, they were tackling a burgeoning live electronica scene overflowing with an increasingly clustered array of both already established and new talent. But neither their age nor “competition” has slowed down the now Boulder-based Pnuma Trio.
Since we first sat down a couple years ago, the band has risen steadily through the ranks of been there’s and wannabes, performing continuously from coast to coast and even headlining electronic music festivals in Australia and a 12-plus show tour in Japan. In 2005 Pnuma (Alex Botwin-bass, Lane Shaw-drums and Ben Hazlegrove-keys) was aspiring but not quite established yet. In 2007, the group is not only established but prospering.
Over the last week, we’ve had a chance to catch up on the happenings of the last two years to discuss some tricks they’ve picked up, how life has changed since that original New Groove article and just what to expect over the next two years.
*CC- For starters, how has life changed since we got together for the New Groove
In September a couple years ago?*
Ben: I've met a lot of great people while traveling to places I haven’t
Been. Plus I’ve seen lots of titties.
Lane: I've moved in a positive direction in my musical exploration
through travelling and performing
Alex: Pretty much everything has changed for us. When we did the last
article we had just all moved to Memphis from where we were in
college. At the time, we had been setting up our first tours and
really trying to get a feel for what playing music for people was
about. It was all pretty fresh to us. Since then we did around 200
shows last year, including: 13 shows in Japan in 18 days, Australia,
Canada, and all over the US. So I guess life has changed in that we
have way less time to do anything except music. I also feel like we
now have a better understanding of ourselves and what we are trying to
do musically. I also feel like we know each other a lot better.
Spending the last 2 years in a van and a studio with 2 other people
(or more) really taught me a lot about patience.
I would have to say the main thing that is different about us now is
completely music related. Playing for 3 hours a night, (not including
the hour and a half sound check) is a quick way to learn a lot about
listening and about our instruments. Playing with the same people
every night also helps you know what kind of page they are on. It just
gets tighter and tighter. Along with that, we definitely feel like we
know a little where we want to move with our music from here. This is
very different from back then because at the time we had just met each
other and we all had something to bring to the table. It was pretty
much like we wrote 15 songs and then started touring. When we were
touring that much it was hard to do anything besides relax when we got
off. That lasted up until this summer pretty much. I think one time we
were on the road for 3 and a half months straight. Now we have time to
make some quality music in a studio that we really put some real time
into. I'm excited for this summer.
*CC- When we first sat down to do that article, where did you guys envision Pnuma
heading? In the less than two years since that story hit, where are you at musically compared to where you wanted to be then?*
Ben: This is the first time in 2 years that we have been able to work
on music while not touring. So I feel like I have learned a lot more
about playing live and improvisational side of music, but I haven’t
devoted as much time as I like to into learning more about the piano.
I really look forward to this summer so that I can learn more about
piano and the computer programming. I've been really happy with where
we have gone, and I did not expect to be doing things like going to
Japan this early.
Lane: At the time I didn’t expect us to expand internationally, so it has
given me brighter hopes for the future. Musically, I’ve gained a lot
more patience. I've also been able to utilize my influences outside
of our music, and applying them to our live performance.
Alex: I didn’t really know what was going to happen back then. I’m
pretty sure we were just doing anything we could to get shows. Back
then we wanted to make people have a good time at our shows and that
was the main concern. Musically I feel like I’ve gotten way better at
bass, mainly my tone. It used to be really bad and then I got some
help from some people that knew a lot more about it than me. After
that I knew more about making my own tone and that is something that I
will probably work on the rest of my life. The main thing I’ve been
working on and I’m getting happier with is my production skills. I
pretty much keep my face glued to a computer and have for almost 4-5
years now. When listening to my old production stuff as compared to my
new shit, you can really hear the difference.
*CC- Back then, you guys were so young and still fairly fresh to the whole
touring industry, but you always had your heads on strong. How have taken
this collective mentality and utilized it to your advantage over the last
Ben: Musically we have been open with each other’s ideas and have
worked on building off of each other.
Alex: Mainly, we always know that we have other people that are going
to back each other up. If there is a problem on the road we work
together to get it accomplished. Also, when coming up with ideas, three
heads are obviously better than one. It’s nice to know that you have
friends that have your back anywhere in the country.
Lane: It’s made it so I take responsibilities and it helps the overall
group, which helps, get things done. Collectively it’s been easier
communicating with each other because we are so busy all the time.
*CC- If we were to sit down two years from now, what kind of ground do you think
we'd be tackling? Where will Pnuma (or sorry, the Pnuma Trio) be
then? Rock stardom? Coffee shop circuit?*
Ben: Hopefully we can get more involved in the production side of
things. A more produced sound. Growth: pulling in more solid crowds
across the US.
Alex: Hopefully in two years from now we will have developed along with
the time and kept our music fresh. I would like to develop in Japan
and US playing all over the place. We are definitely becoming more
efficient in the studio so hopefully by that time we'll be better at
it. To be completely honest, two years is not that much time we you are
as busy as we are. It doesn’t seem like two years since we did the last
Lane: Lately our music production has been progressing and expanding
into new realms of music, so to predict where our music will be going
is impossible. Hopefully our hard work now will pay off with a taste
of rock stardom in the next few coming years.
*CC- Explain this rather seamless melding of pure instrumentation and post-modern
electronics? When Pnuma first began, your sound was more of a refined,
straight-forward combination of drum n' bass and jazzy funk, today, it's
considerably more. Do you attribute that to the natural maturation process
of a collective consciousness to go bigger and better?*
Alex: Not really, we are just trying to make good music. Right now we
are into better developed and produced music. So that is what we are
trying to do. We are trying to plan our shit out at home until were
finally happy with it and then figure out how to make that same music
live on stage. To stick with the times I feel like you have to be
constantly listening and making music and right now, that includes
*CC- Is there anything in the way of your future success? I mean shit, how many
nights have you played in Japan? Australia? What kind of spots are you
getting at these mega-festivals now?*
Alex: Anything in the way? I am a firm believer in that you can do what you
want if you work hard enough for it. We went to Japan for eighteen days and
I know we are going back for some pretty cool festival spots in
September again this year. Also we are doing Joshua Tree Music
Festival, two nights at Wakarusa, Sonic Bloom Music & Camping Festival,
10,000 Lakes Festival, Symbiosis and Trancegressions.
Some other highlights were playing with String Cheese on New Year’s this year,
doing a tour with Conspirator and playing a couple shows with Bisco,
touring with Buckethead, Michael Franti, Bassnectar and Souleye,
playing with Boots Riley from the Coup, got to do some hip hop
festivals that Slick Rick was playing, and DJ DB.
Also last year we did a Pnuma Trio and Friends set at Wakarusa, which was really fun for us. We didn’t really know what we were doing but a lot of our friends
showed up and played with us. Anyway, as long as we keep trying to
make good music I don't plan on stopping anytime soon.
Lane: I think that everything is running as planned and the new music
will carry us along. We played thirteen nights in Japan and a few in
"The Bush" and were very appreciative of those opportunities. We have
been grateful for all of the festivals so far and continue to get
desirable slots. We look forward to making a big impact at any time in
Ben: I don’t think there is anything getting in our way of greater
success because we have worked hard since the
beginning and we are going to continue to work hard. we have been
very pleased with the spots that we have been getting at festivals and
are very grateful to all the promoters who took a chance with us early
*CC- How has the move to Boulder changed the band's course? What factors were
taken into account before you made the transition from Memphis?*
Alex- I love it here. Don't get me wrong, I have a
lot of love for Memphis but in a different way. I learned a LOT about
music and life that you can only learn if you live in a place like
Memphis. It’s a real city. Now being in Boulder I’m getting to see
music almost every day… and in a place like the Fox and Boulder
Theatre and Fillmore no less.
It’s a great place for inspiration and for practice. I built a studio in our basement and I don't think wehave been this productive … ever. I have time to sit in my studio
and get stuff done! I'm working on our album, on some remixes for DJs
and bands over the US. Our management Madison House is here which
is nice to be close to them. Also, a lot of kids here really keep up on
their music, so when trying to learn about new shit all the time it’s
nice to have people to talk to about that kind of thing. I will always
use what I learned in my previous homes though.
Lane- We have been more relaxed then ever and have been able to hone
our crafts and focus on new aspects of production. Being able to have
a clean and fun environment off the road is key to sanity of this
lifestyle. We looked forward to the coming to a place where people
make a huge effort to support music from many genres. We have been
here for two months now and I have seen so many amazing performances
and look forward to settling here for a while.
*CC- This summer you guys are slowing down the touring quite a bit, will this
time be set aside for song writing and producing? Can we expect your debut
album [as Pnuma Trio] this year?*
Lane- We are currently working consistently and as much as possible
when we are off the road. As of late, production has increased and we
are pleased with the progress. It is a learning process. This being
our first album, we are working diligently and trying to making an
great impression with the album in its entirety. We can hope to see
the finished product by the fall of this year.
Alex- Some of the material we are putting on the first studio album is
stuff I have been working on for a couple of years now. Now that we
have time this summer we are working in the studio all day every
day… .then we go out at night. Anyway, were refining some of that
material and working on new shit at the same time. I'm really excited
with what could happen soon.
CC- What new tools and gadgetry have the three of you picked up of late?
Ben: Currently using Motif 8, Alesis Ion, Korg ms2000, Limited edition
blue Moog voyager, Virus Access TI (black model), Laptop with Novation
X station running LIVE
Lane: Gretch Drum kit cherry maple custom.. Macbook pro with battery by
Alex: I recently got some Studio Event 8's monitors for my studio
running lots of different software. Mainly I use Ableton Live with
Native Instruments Komplete 4 and KORE rewired into Ableton. This is
my favorite set up right now. Kore is a great tool for sound creation
and layering. All of the sts and audio units that come in Komplete 4
are pretty top of the line. You can get them sounding pretty sick.
Battery, the drum program, is ridiculous. I definitely recommend, check
Anyway, I also got the new 8 core Mac pro with 12gb of Ram
and 2000gigs of hard drive space. It allows me to use my software to
It’s fullest running a bunch of vsts at the same time. I use a Novation
x station for on stage, DJ'ing and in the studio because of how midi
assignable it is. It has a bunch of faders and buttons, which are all
individually assignable, which is key. I also use Trilogy for bass,
Reason for some random sounds and Pro tools for mix down. I use a
trigger finger for DJ sets and for hip hop production. Also we have
turntables to listen to vinyl. Currently using a modulus Quatum 5
string bass, which I also use in the studio. My main thing is really
Ableton Live though. I have been studying it for a few years now and I
have learned a lot of tricks from a lot of different people. That is
my favorite. I also use a Macbook pro on stage. We also hook up Ben's
keys in the studio. This is really my question because I love computer
CC- What lies ahead for Pnuma? Where is all this momentum heading?
Lane- I would have to say we are trying to make sure that our music
is always evolving and us as well through all we go in the next few
years. I think we are motivated enough to get to a higher spot in the
scene and hope to collaborate with as many artists as possible. Sky
is the limit, son.
Alex- Who knows- I just want to put out a good album.
As Botwin says, who knows what will become of the Pnuma Trio. In a rather brief time, the three have taken their music the people, and the people have responded in kind. Maybe in two more years, we will revisit them again and maybe then, they’ll have a thirty night run in Japan already under their belts. Maybe.