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EOTO Onward

EOTO’s music can be pretty genre bending stuff. What kinda of stuff are you guys listening to these days, and what do you consider to be EOTO’s biggest influences musically?

Oh wow, that’s a good question. Well you know there’s kind of a thing where I’ll listen to music with EOTO in mind, but I also do solo DJ sets in a lot of the same genres. So I’m trying to keep up with the latest releases, it can’t help but influence the things I do in EOTO. Travis also has his tastes in music that he’s checking out all the time. Before, when we would spend a lot of time together as we were forming the project, we listened to a lot of the same things. I think our tastes were on a similar path. Now it’s pretty cool because he listens to a lot of different things that I don’t and i do the same. Some of the guys that I’ve been listening to now while keeping EOTO in mind are KOAN Sound, Blunt Instrument out of Australia, TriFonic who has one release that came out a couple of years ago. I just started listening to it and wow, it’s so fresh, if it were put out today it would still be amazing. DCarls, DCarls is great. JOBOT, another one that I’ve been listening to. I really enjoy Skeptiks. Also there’s things like Tipper. I’m can’t really thinking of other stuff right now. Oh and Gaudi, and that’s a good roundabout, as far as music in the electronic world. And then when I’m not doing that I listen to a lot of world music and jazz. There’s not a particular favorite that I have, or artists that I need to check out or read a review of, that’s all over the place.

EOTO has toured all across America but electronic music is huge all around the world. Are there any plans to take EOTO international any time soon?

Yeah! We’re right on the cusp, it feels like. We have lots of connections and we have fans in different countries that keep saying “You guys gotta come here.” But you know, you gotta wait til a promoter hears about us and they work to bring us over. Right now it looks like we’ve got a solid offer from Australia and in this past year we got an offer to do Moscow and Israel but we had to turn those down because those were times when String Cheese was trying to rehearse and some shows happened. So it’s give and take, we’re not in any kind of rush but we’re definitely anxious to go worldwide because of what you said. Electronic music is a lot bigger in other places in the world and it would just be so great to go down to South America or out to Asia or Europe and partake in those amazing electronic festivals that they have there.

I saw EOTO at Electric Forest this year and it seems like there’s always another festival on the horizon for you guys. What’s the wildest festival you guys have ever played at?

The wildest! We’ve played some crazy ones. All kinds of adventures go down, and personal adventures, but as far as one festival that stands out. Of course there’s Electric Forest and Horning’s Hideout and those kinds of places. I would say that easily one of our favorite festivals is Shambala in Canada, British Columbia, just above Spokane, Washington. That’s probably been the most influential festival on us, almost 85% of the people on the lineup aren’t even big out there, and the way that they treat the property and leave room for kids to have fun and the way they go about policing it is just everything you’d ever want in a festival. It feels so free out there, as far as people keeping themselves in check and hearing the most unbelievable music that just isn’t going to hit the States for another few years. That’s what influenced us to start doing dubstep, back when we started playing dubstep in 2008 it was because of a performance that we saw at Shambala and it was really incredibly. And dubstep didn’t really catch on in the states til probably late 2009. Shambala Festival is really great in that the DJs and producers bring out their best, latest, newest stuff to Shambala. Along the lines of underground bass and breakbeat and that kind of thing. Europe owns the whole techno aspect of things, but Shambala just opens my ears so much any time I go there. Easily the most inspiring festival.

You and Michael Travis are also members of the String Cheese Incident. Do you think a bit of the EOTO sound has found its way into the new String Cheese sound?

Well that’s a funny question because when we – well there’s definitely a lot more electronic music in String Cheese world as far as we might play two or three electronic bass tracks per night. It’s funny how when a lot of String Cheese fans start to hear String Cheese do a little electronica they say “Oh that’s any EOTO moment” or something like that. But its really a misconception because, in EOTO, Travis is playing all the melodic parts and bass sounds and I’m playing the drums. So when String Cheese does an electronic moment it’s usually because I’ve programmed all the synth parts that might be running in the background and Travis is playing drums. It’s definitely a different thing, there’s a lot of electronic influence but a lot of the guys in the band, like Kang, are alway wanting to do something different with some songs. It’s very influential from Kang, to have these dubstep moments in songs that the fans really cherish, like when we did our cover of “Kashmir” at Electric Forest last year or when we did “Desert Dawn” and put a dubstep part at the end of that. I mean it was gnarly and we’re just loving the fact there’s gonna be a lot of people who really hate it but there’s going to be a lot of new fans who really love it.

That’s kind of how String Cheese has done it it’s whole career. Starting off as a bluegrass/calypso band with no drums and then all of a sudden Travis starts playing drums and Kang starts playing electric mandolin and Kyle comes into the band with his jazz and funk stuff to where the sound changes significantly and the old schoolers at that time were like “Ahhh they’re leaving their happy bluegrass and calypso place and going all electronic”. Then when they actually started incorporating electronic stuff, which the band has been doing since 1999 or 2000, at least trying to jam that way, there was another transition and people said “Oh my god, they’re bailing on their roots” but I think String Cheese as a band has always been about progressing and working in different styles according to what the band wants to do. A really good example, on the electronic side, is Billy had brought a song to the band. It was kind of a traditional real song and he’s like “so here’s this thing and I wanna do something different with it, so what can we do that’s really different with it?” I suggested that we do an Indian type dub track, and I had produced some music that was like that so I threw that out there and he was like “Well what does that sound like?” I played some examples and he was like “Yeah let’s do that” and that turned into a song called “BollyMunster,” which is one of our more electronic tracks. But you know it just came out of a desire to explore what else is out there and what can we do differently that we haven’t done already and not constantly recreate the same thing we’ve done before.

Well my next question was actually going to be about that Electric Forest “Desert Dawn.” That was my favorite moment of the whole festival. I was going to ask you who was behind the crazy new take on that String Cheese classic.

You know we did our song and then there was some point there in the conversation, I’m pretty sure it was Kang – me and Travis almost never suggest the electronic stuff because we do that thing with EOTO all the time so its expected of us. “What do you wanna do?” “Oh let’s do some electronic” So we almost always leave that open. Kang stepped forward and says “Let’s make this really gnarly” and we hadn’t done it before and people could not see that coming out of anywhere. It was like, “How can we out-Bassnectar Bassnectar for about five minutes?” So I went in and did the programming for the bass sound, the wobble sound and we just knew that the effect that we wanted was a little bit of everything else that’s out there. So we can bring our little groovy stuff but we can also bring just the nastiest of the nastiest stuff that you’re gonna see out here.

With the “Kashmir” and the “Desert Dawn,” the whole crowd went wild, nobody saw those coming.

Haha, it was just so far out of left field. We just thoroughly enjoyed it and smiled about it for the longest of times because that’s shaking things up, doing something different.

Does EOTO plan to continue touring for the foreseeable future What’s next for EOTO?

Definitely touring. This tour is going to effect a lot of things, as far as our approach to the next tour. It’s the first time trying this whole weekend regional approach, with us flying out to the region, touring the region, and then flying home. And we’ll see how that goes. It’ll effect whether or not we get back in the tour bus and go on a full blown playing every night without a break type of tour or if we keep this up. Right now, for me and Travis, its amazing to have any home time at all because we’ve been going so hard the last six years, but really the last five years we’ve been on the road 250 days a year, and with String Cheese rehearsals out in Colorado, since I live here in California. There’s a point where you just have to work on being home and just know that that’s the part that’s going to nourish you for getting back out on the road on the weekends. It’s just really important to get some family time back in there.

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There are 11 comments associated with this post

Josh October 12, 2012, 15:56:06

Best sign I saw on Cheese tour this summer: “Don’t womp my Cheese!!” Amen to that. Dubsteb is a pretty divisive type of music, I don’t get why Hann would be stoked about irritating half of the fanbase by throwing it into songs. Maybe half of them do love it, but for the half that hate it, why go there? There are about a million dubstep acts these days, we can go see them whenever we want, and many of us don’t want to hear it when we’re going to a Cheese show. They busted it out during “Joyful Sound” at Hornings this year. Well, guess what? Dubstep isn’t a Joyful Sound. I love the fact that they’re experimenting, but I’d be just as turned off if they were experimenting with death metal as well. I just hope they get bored with it soon and keep it in EOTO.

peachhead October 13, 2012, 20:20:08

Like you said, dubstep is divisive- meaning some people really like it, and furthermore many DO want to hear it during a cheese show and probably think there are about a million bluegrass acts these days, and we can see them whenever we want and don’t want to hear it when we’re going to see a Cheese show. For all I know, the half that love it hate the old school bluegrass and rootsy music I’m actually more of a bluegrass/jazz/ rock guy myself, but I’m playing devils advocate simply because this is an argument that is extremely old and reminiscent of when Cheese started to get more of a rock sound around 2001 and the old school fans were complaining. Point being, the rock and whomp are here to stay, it is what it is. One of the most defining things about cheese’s fanbase, in my opinion, is how divisive the fans are about the sound and direction of the band. Some of my best friends swear by the grass, some of my other friends think nershi is the weakest link in the band.

Harry October 13, 2012, 21:14:22

This year at Red Rocks Cheese opened with a great version of Rosie. They then jammed into Party Rock Anthem, which is fine, except for the fact that I looked at the stage and noticed that Hann and Travis were the only ones playing, while Nershi and Moseley were just sort of standing there disappointed. That was the first moment when I wanted to slap Hann in the face.

Josh October 14, 2012, 16:54:57

I’ve never really been critical of their musical direction before. I’ve never seen them as a bluegrass band, and I’ve enjoyed their transition into electronic music. I have NOT enjoyed their transition into dubstep. Yeah, maybe there are a lot that like it, but until SCI decided to toss it into the mix, not a single person went to an SCI show to hear dubstep. Not one person. Nobody was out there wishing and hoping they’d play it. So I think your devil’s advocate bit falls flat, really, because the dubstep kiddies will go see them whether they play it or not, whereas those who hate it will simply stop going to Cheese shows if they keep it up. Also, to be clear, I don’t actually hate dubstep, but I definitely have to be in the mood for it, and the time I am least likely to be in the mood for it is when I’m listening to SCI. It sounds like ass in their music and I frankly think it is beneath their level of talent.

honeynoats October 15, 2012, 18:42:47

I agree with a lot of what’s been said here. I truly love them pushing the envelope and taking risks that they know might be a surprise to some people, and I don’t ever want them to stop that. One thing that I love the most about Cheese is that there’s no way you can categorize them. They’re not bluegrass, they’re not rock, they’re not electronic, or jazz, or afro cuban, or calypso, and on and on; they’re all of those and then some. It’s amazing, and I love them trying new things. But that said, Desert Dawn, for me, is one of the most happy cheesiest songs there is, and when they brought that darkness it was a very unpleasant surprise. Bollymunster, for example, is a song that’s very unique, and strange, and the first time I heard it I was surprised, but then thought, “well damn, I can really get down to this,” and I like it. The thing that I didn’t like about the dub in Desert Dawn was not only did it totally pull me out of happy cheeseland, but it sounded the same as it did at the forest. That’s why we listen to jam bands, to get different tastes of songs every show, and it just sounded bland and lame. I get them wanting to just throw a huge curveball, I’m into it, but I want it to be a unique curveball, not just “okay, here it comes, hit play….now.” That’s why I also disliked party rock anthem a lot, it was just like, okay, and go. It wasn’t like, let’s take this a new direction and cover something that’s totally uncharacteristic, it was hitting play. If they had actually played the song I would’ve found it hilarious and danced hard, instead I just stopped dancing and was really sad for a couple minutes. That’s really my main point. As Josh said, it’s below their level of talent. If you wanna throw dubby stuff in there, do it, I’m open to it, but play it, get weird and funky and PLAY the music, I don’t go to a Cheese show to have them just hit play and go to a recorded track, I want to hear them improvise and jam and explore.

Alex October 15, 2012, 17:15:09

Have to agree with Josh’s post. Don’t alienate the folks that go see the boys because they love THEIR sound. I understand the band has always been about pushing their boundaries forward and constant evolution, but a direction that infuriates easily around half of the crowd doesn’t seem like the way to go. Such a downer, IMO, when they dropped off into desert womp at red rocks….. couldn’t wrap my head around the why behind that one Just my two cents.

Cheesestep October 15, 2012, 17:33:54

I wasn’t at Red Rocks but I really enjoyed the womped out Desert Dawn at Electric Forest. Sure it would be lame as hell if they did that kind of thing all the time but once a festival or once a 3-night run is totally fine with me. Catches everyone off guard and blows the lid off the party for 5 minutes, so I’m down. How many other bands can go from playing bluegrass to latin jazz to rock to dubstep in a couple of song? None but the Cheese my friend. Like he said, these guys are always evolving and songs like Bollymunster and Bumpin Reel and are the next step. I could really do without the Jason raps though, that has no redeeming value.

Chris October 15, 2012, 18:06:01

I’m all for musical exploration. I went to my first rave about 5 years before my first Telluride Bluegrass, and have a special place in my heart for both electronica and bluegrass. What attracted me to the Cheese in the late 90s was the freshness of their sound, which I still often hear in their music (in fact more so this year than from 05-07). However, there have been occasions where I’ve felt like Cheese was trying too hard to emulate somebody else and ended up falling flat. The best example is the 2002-03 timeframe where I first started hearing STS9-style electronica creep into sets. I’d heard Travis talk about his great respect for that band, and around that time Cheese started taking more and more jams the electronic route. At first i didn’t mind, because experimentation may not always be pretty at first, but when I felt like every 3rd jam went electronic I was turned off. The problem is Cheese is not an electronic band, they don’t have the roots or the chops to lay down the same level of electronic music as other players in the scene. For example, Billy is totally lost on stage during an electronic jam. So, instead of seeing a band creating incredible music unlike anything else I’d heard, I saw a band creating mediocre music much trying to sound like a lot else I’d heard. The electronic stuff they play today is quite a bit better, and I fully agree with Cheesestep that if it happens every once in a while it can really blow the doors off. (I was OK with the electronic section of Joyful Sound at HH). But, I also appreciated the version of the sticker I saw at HH which said “more grass less womp”.

Josh October 15, 2012, 20:28:10

I didn’t mind the earlier transition into electronic music (a la Sound Tribe, as someone else commented) at all. The reason is because they can jam in it. I kind of disagree that Billy doesn’t do much during the electronic jams. I’ve been front row at many SCI shows (not bragging, just trying to illustrate that I could see very clearly what he was doing on stage quite a few times; I spend plenty of time at the back of the crowd dancing as well), and I think he fits in just fine, at least at the shows I’ve been to. The EOTO style of dubstep is a harsh, disphonic, and frankly annoying sound that doesn’t fit in with the style or quality of the rest of their music. When they go into dubstep, the transitions sound forced because the style of music simply doesn’t fit. It’s not that I hate dubstep, it’s that it doesn’t work in their music. Thus, I like some dubstep, but not when it’s the EOTO womp womp womp womp mixed into SCI jams. Look, some things just don’t work. Who would be stoked if they played Howard and turned it into a death metal jam? Nobody, that’s who. If they had done the dubstep thing once at Electric Forest, I would’ve been OK with it as it sort of fit with that festival, but they’ve done it 3 times that I know of, and that looks disappointingly like the beginnings of a trend. Just knowing that at any time I may be subjected to that harsh, grating, disharmonious, EOTO style button-mashing makes me not want to go anymore. To a lesser degree I have problems with songs like Rosie. Although I like that song, I cannot comprehend why they need to lay down a pre-set drum track over the song when they have two fantastic drummers right there on stage. Maybe at the next show they can have Billy lay down some pre-recorded guitar tracks so he can try to crowd surf without having to stop the music. I’m kidding of course, but if you wouldn’t play a fake, recorded guitar piece live, why in the hell would you do it for the drums? I love this band, I really do, but it’s things like that and the dubstep nonsense that have me really wondering how much of a future this band has (well, that and the fact that they don’t do real tours anymore).

Jake October 15, 2012, 21:11:48

SCI is easily my favorite band to see and they can play just about whatever they want to for all I care. Bluegrass electronica bhangra bluegrassiness awesometastic. And I think its great Hann and Travis can have an awesome side project playing whatever the hell kind of music they want to. It would be totally boring if all the guys SCIde projects sounded just like SCI. I Like music. Pretty much all of it.

Jake October 15, 2012, 21:13:02

SCI is easily my favorite band to see and they can play just about whatever they want to for all I care. Bluegrass electronica bhangra bluegrassiness awesometastic. And I think its great Hann and Travis can have an awesome side project playing whatever the hell kind of music they want to. It would be totally boring if all the guys SCIde projects sounded just like SCI. I Like music. Pretty much all of it. October 15, 2012, 22:22:05

I enjoy reading these comments and tying not to offend anyone, but I must say that some of you are taking this too serious. Its just music, but you can view as a metaphor if you wish. For an example, I see bumper stickers that read, “Co-exist” all the time. Now, you know it’s meaning is for respecting different religions, believes, life styles, or just celebrating differences in people. I believe that most people would agree.
Let’s us try to apply this same philosophy to this particular topic. I am a big Cheese fan and have been for years. I would even go as far as to say that I’m one of the “Old Schoolers.” One of the reasons that I love this band is because I think they are bridging the gap of genres and generations. So many people get caught up in their genre of choice, and bash others. I’ve been at this for a very long time, and it’s the same conversation over and over. I try to approach life with an open and accepting mind.
I like everything this band creates. The dubstep doesn’t bother me, in fact, I like when they throw those curve balls. The problem that a lot of my friends have with it though is that the younger fans don’t get want its like to love and respect one another. They’re too concerned with getting blasted. So, I approach it as a teacher, and teach kindness through my actions. What I get out of Cheese’s music is that it’s OK to “Co-exist” in EVERYTHING. So, I say go to their show and relax, smile, love, dance, enjoy, and get cheese all over your face!

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