By Tommy Diestel
Not familiar with Beats Antique? First of all, shame on you! Second of all, here’s a quick primer: a tribal/world/electronic fusion powerhouse that walks the line between band and performance troupe. Synthesis caught up with the band before their gig at Coachella to talk past, present and future. Dig it.
How did you all first meet?
Zoe: Tommy and I first met in a group called The Extra Extra Marching Band. Tommy, why don’t you tell him how you and David met.
Tommy: David and I met at a friend’s farm up in Northern California, up near Yukia. We played music together, sat in for each other’s bands, and we jammed out a lot. Me and Zoe were in Yard Dogs Roadshow and Extra Extra Marching Band together. Plus we all had a lot of the same friends, and got to know each other that way.
David: We’re really rooted here in Northern California. It’s like another home away from Oakland.
How did you come up with Beats Antique as a name?
David: Me and Tommy were brainstorming for a name after we had finished an album together, and we were going to call it Antique Beats. But our friend whose farm we had been staying at suggested that we should swap it around, and we stuck with Beats Antique.
Your name says a lot about the music that you play. No one else really blends different styles together quite like you do. Who, or what, influences the way you play?
Tommy: I’m heavily influenced by old style trip hop. Really the whole abstract hip hop world around 1996.
Like early underground electronica, pretty much.
Tommy: Yeah, and I also play jazz and studied all sorts of world music. Basically anything rhythm-orientated I’m really inspired by.
If I’m not mistaken, it says on your site that you’re both classically trained. Yes?
Tommy: Yes, but more so trained in the classical sense. Trained in a traditional sense, like took classes and went to school to study music. Not so much studying classical music. I mean, I was in symphonies when I was younger, and I almost went that route, but I decided to play rock ‘n’ roll instead. But I did play classical when I was a kid.
Wow, well I guess it couldn’t have hurt, huh?
Tommy: Oh yeah, it definitely helped.
You guys just put out a new album, Elektrafone. What can people expect from it? Does it differ at all from Collide or Contraption?
Zoe: I feel how it differs is mainly in how it was recorded. It has more of a live feel to it. We went into the studio to record live drums, and did a lot of the album live, but I’m sure Tommy could tell you a bit more about it than I. And it really influenced the sound quite a bit. There is a more organic feel to the album. Almost all of the samples that are on there are from us ourselves making all the sounds in the studio, which help add to that live sound aspect.
Tommy: A lot of the songs that are on Elektrafone, we played some of them live as they were being developed, which changed up the way that they sounded and were played out. And like Zoey said, we recorded the drums live in the studio, which was different for me. It changed things up for me as far as having some help in the studio, and also having really clean, good sounding drums all the way through the album. Usually we would record like a hit on the bass drum or on my snare or a cymbal roll or something, and we would do the whole thing in parts, unlike now, where it was all done in one session, as opposed to on the fly. But all the other instruments we recorded ourselves, and either played ourselves, or had our friends play instruments they were good at.
A while back, I had a chance to meet Graham from the Sustainable Living Roadshow. He talked highly of working with you guys. What can you tell me about your experience with SLR?
David: I’m actually one of the founding members of Sustainable Living Roadshow. In 2005 me, Jonathan Youth, who’s like the current torch holder keeping the whole thing going now, and Zach Carson started the whole thing. I’ve stepped back a lot the last couple years though, since Beats Antique has been so busy. But we’ve done some collaborations such as tabling with SLR, we’ve used the Roadshow’s bus as well, and we’ve had some people show up at our shows and talk between sets, or have informative booths, so it’s been a real cool collaboration and we wish to have more organization and tabling and coordinated events with them, be it on this tour or a future one. We’re still trying to set something official up. It’s a passion to try to keep environmental awareness and consciousness at the forefront of going throughout the country and playing music. It’s also about showing people alternative ways they can live their lives. Not shove it down their throat by any means. Just show them the options and try to spread that knowledge.
What does the future look like for Beats Antique? What’s in store?
David: Well, we just put out some free music the last couple days. That’s really all right now. Other than that the future looks like Mayans and aliens for us. We did a whole New Year’s extravaganza with this Mayan pyramid and some aliens landing, and we put out the music for it. It’s on our Facebook, and there’s also a video of the New Year’s show right below it. That’s some super new stuff that just came out.
Tommy: We also just did a new Bassnectar remix. This time we mixed some of his stuff. It was the first time that we had mixed any tracks of his. It’s the other end of the spectrum. There will probably be more collaboration in the future. I think a lot of our audiences cross over, and we’re also pretty good friends. He’s rocking it and we love what he’s doing. It’s nice to be a part of that mayhem every once in a while and hang out with our buddy.