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Published: 2011/02/24
by Mike Greenhaus

Big Gigantic: Blame It On Travis

In the past two years, Boulder, CO livetronica duo Big Gigantic has jumped from playing STS9 after-shows to packing marquee venues like New York’s Bowery Ballroom and Boulder’s Fox Theatre. The group, which is comprised of onetime Motet member Dominic Lalli (Production/Sax) along with Jeremy Salken (Drums), Big Gigantic is one of a handful of groups that walks the line between the jamband and rave crowds thanks to a series of carefully produced beats and a knack for old school organic improvisation. In January, Jambands.com spoke with Lalli and Salken about their new recording A Place Behind the Moon, the rise of the Boulder electronic music scene and why Big Gigantic is really Michael Travis’ “fault.”

Let’s start with some background information on how Big Gigantic first came together in 2008. Dominic, some readers may be familiar with your work in The Motet but when did you and Jeremy first start playing together as Big Gigantic?

D: The first time we actually played together was on Jam Cruise a few years ago. We were also roommates for a while and, after the fact, I started making electronic music. I was playing some electronic music with Dave and Garrett from The Motet but I wanted to get a whole new thing together. Jeremy was this killin’ drummer around town, and we’d play a bunch of funk gigs around Boulder. He was the perfect guy for the job because he didn’t have a fulltime band. We just started rehearsing and got our first gig with Rootz vs. Murph at Trilogy in Boulder over two years ago.

J: Yeah, I was doing merch. for The Motet and I was Dave Watts’ drum tech-ish—basically just following The Motet around. They also played in Kyle Hollingsworth’s band and I came on Jam Cruise with them. That was the first time Dom and I actually played together—in the Jam Room with Kyle Hollingsworth. It is all [String Cheese drummer Michael] Travis’ fault, really. Michael Travis didn’t want to switch the drum kit around in the Jam Room so he said to me, “You should just go and sit in.” I was like, “I get to play with Kyle Hollingsworth?” It felt like the coolest thing ever. And then Dom and I started a band. Now I get to play with Dom all the time [laughter].

Big Gigantic’s live approach falls somewhere between a DJ and a livetronica band. How much of the band’s show is pre-recorded?

D: It’s basically a mix between a straight DJ setup and an electronic band. I have a DJ setup where between tunes I can play a little bit and then we can seamlessly jump into a jam and we are a jamband. Then we can jump into a remix of some a cappella track and then back to another jam with some saxophone or keyboard solos. Jeremy really helps the ebb and flow and helps move everything along.

The last six months we’ve been touring a ton—we put the album out, A Place Behind the Moon, and we did a bunch of shows or after shows with Sound Tribe this summer. Then we sort of put the album out in the fall. And then we’ve just been touring pretty much all over since then.

In terms of the studio sessions that yielded A Place Behind the Moon, given that, as you just said, you are halfway between a DJ and an improvisational band, how do you capture the live/jamband feel of your sound in the studio?

D: It’s just captured in the production. I do a lot of the production work myself so I really try to capture the blend of that DJ type music with our live sound. I feel super lucky because we’re just different. So many people just DJ but we are also band.

Though Big Gigantic is touring nationally, you grew out of the Boulder, CO electronic music scene. Boulder and Denver have really emerged in the past five years as the hub of the livetronica circuit. When would you say that scene really started to take shape?

J: You know, that whole thing started coming in when Michael Travis and Jamie Janover were doing Zilla back then—all these little, little side groups started forming and people started going for this jungle or house sound. DJs started coming in and becoming a big thing and then I think musicians were like, “Let’s do this too but let’s add what we do—the acoustic instrument aspect to it.” That’s what we’re trying to do—kind of make it a blend of the two worlds.

D: It is crazy if you look at someone like Pretty Lights, who started out in that Colorado scene and just blew up. Some of it comes from U.K. when dubstep got big and everybody started latching onto that—Pretty Lights started playing in our buddy’s place in Four Mile Canyon. My buddy used to have this canyon house, and he’d have these house parties. It was three years ago—Pnuma Trio and the Motet played a New Year’s show in Fort Collins, and he played a late night show at the bowling alley and then, six months later, he was selling out every room. In Colorado there’s a huge audience for that type of music—everyone’s on that train and loves DJs. You can go out and hear that type of music every night.

J: A lot of it is after-shows. That whole circuit started, and I think that spawned it. Sound Tribe did a five night run in Boulder in 2007 and there were after shows every night. That was the first time I remember that vibe and that became a staple in a lot of band’s touring schedule. That’s how we got a lot of fans—playing a show after Tribe. All these kids that were already pumped would come and dance ‘till 3-6 in the morning. That got the scene going.

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