Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Interview with Dylan Travis of Some Ember

Some Ember is a band made of binaries. Dylan Travis and Nina Chase, a female and a male, comprise the group. A use of electronic instrumentation but a focus on organic performance. A reverence for nature and a celebration of humanity. That's not to say that these things contradict each other: rather, for our world to function, some sort of conjugal situation is necessary. In an ideal situation, man with woman creates life, nature with human beings creates a fully-formed ecosystem, and electronic instrumentation with organic performance creates resonance. Those previous scenarios occur when the aforementioned binaries are properly balanced, though some of the more cosmic dualities seem to live in elusive obscurity.

So let's stick to electronic instrumentation and organic performance then, something that an individual or small group can have more direct control over, and relate it to Some Ember. Organic is a tricky word - it has a wealth of meanings, though I use it most often in opposition to "contrived." To be organic is to be unhindered, but natural, though with room for system when system calls. Some Ember allows a performance to take on this life-like organic quality, at least as I've experienced through videos and words, though it also reverberates a constant control. Electronic Music, as a microcosm of program, is imbued with this essence of control.

It comes across in all of their early recordings, but especially in their new self-titled album, a more clean-cut, song-oriented piece of work. There's simply more production value, and Dylan talks in the interview about how much time it took to make the record. It totally shows in both actual sound quality and songwriting quality - there's more play between Dylan and Nina. Their voices interweave like playful river otters, making for some absolutely memorable duets.

Jordan Reyes: You all just toured with Body of Light on the West Coast. How was that tour? Any memorable stories?

Dylan Travis: It was amazing - Body of Light are one of our favorite bands and it was cool getting to play places we hadn’t before. Probably the most memorable moment of that tour was certain members of Window and Body of Light inadvertently taking meth.

JR: I've never seen a Some Ember live show, though I totally wish I had. For those of us who have never seen you, how would you characterize a performance? How do you prepare?

DT: Our live show has evolved so much. It’s always changing. The emphasis mirrors the goals of the project - we go for a very personal, engaging performance that can transport people. There’s a balance we try to keep between beauty and darkness. The aim of the music has always been to acknowledge that negative aspect, but also to present the listener with something more than just horror, harshness, confrontation, etc. I like that it can go either way at any given show - it really depends on the audience, our mood at the time, etc. Nina often performs at the beginning of the set, usually something to break people out of their preconceived expectations for an electronic act. She has taken surprise photos of audience members, given people hugs, destroyed various things in the middle of the audience, etc. I usually paint myself silver before every show, the concept being: I am you, I am your mirror, I am not you, I am in-between. 

JR: Taking a look at the tracklist from your new Self-Titled LP on Dream, it seems like your songs deal with beauty, nature, sex, pleasure, and pain. Do these things interrelate to you? Do you find importance in them?

DT: Yes, they’re all interrelated of course! It’s funny because all those themes seem so large, looming. It seems like it would be impossible to capture all that within the context of a single song, or record, or music project. It all comes out when we write or perform. It’s a feeling that we’re after, it’s that same feeling you might get when you go through something incredibly physically traumatic and survive, or have an orgasm, or stare into Crater Lake, etc.  

JR: You guys live out on the West Coast, which isn't necessarily a place that I associate with nature or the elements, but there seems to be a recurring theme of the natural world and elemental power in your work, such as titling a song/album "Asleep in the Ice Palace" or "Flowers Open" or "Riverbed Weeps." What is your relationship with nature? Do certain aspects influence your work more than others?

DT: We live in an incredibly remote place at the moment, and nature is almost all we have. If you haven’t been to the West Coast, you really should - there’s some incredible things to see. We feed off of it, because at the moment, we don’t have any direct physical connection to any sort of music scene. There’s exactly one venue in town, and that’s a 30 minute drive from us. So we are hiking and staring at the ocean literally every single day. We throw shows on sand dunes, stuff like that. It’s maybe not what you might expect from a project so based around electronics, etc. But the instruments are a means to an end for us, not the focus.

JR: Tell me a little bit about the new record. How long had you been working on it? What was the writing and recording process like?

DT: It took forever!  Essentially I had worked on it some of the songs for around two years. In that time, we had become a four-piece band, toured the US, moved to a cabin in Northern California and lived there for several months, moved to the central coast, and then toured the west coast two or three times. So it has been a hectic and unusual couple of years. The whole record is self-produced, so even though some of the songs were written two years ago, I think it’s cohesive. You can definitely hear the journey in it, and us learning how to record ourselves. The next record is almost done already and it has been a completely different experience - a much more focused, singular aesthetic.  

JR: This is your first release coming out on vinyl. Is there a different experience you have making a vinyl record as opposed to a cassette? What do you like about vinyl and cassettes?

DT: I like the physical aspect of owning music, like a lot of people, but of course neither vinyl or cassette is really necessary at this point. We’ve tried to make our music as freely available as possible, but also balance that with releasing things physically.

JR: At the time of this interview, you've worked with four different labels if I'm not mistaken - Night People, Ascetic House, Crash Symbols, and now Dream. How did you decide to release things on these labels? How have your experiences been?

DT: They have all been awesome and supportive, for the most part just good friends of ours who asked if we wanted to release music. I have actually never met Shawn from NP but I am trying to make it happen soon. Dwight and Liz from Crash Symbols are the best and literally put us up for like a week in West Virginia when a bunch of shows fell through a few years ago. Haha. Ascetic House is more of a collective of Tempe freaks that we fell in with after playing with Boys ov Paradise and Body of Light in AZ. I think we just feel a lot of kinship with what they’re doing, especially politically and within the performative space. Dream is our friend Mario from San Diego, and he has really facilitated so much for us, we’re forever grateful. He really believes in the project and it’s amazing to have that in a label.

JR: What do you like about electronic instrumentation and orchestration? Why is your music made with electronic instruments?

DT: We’re from the first generation that grew up with the internet. I can’t speak for Nina, but I have been expressing myself with electronics since I was a kid. It comes naturally. But there’s definitely this desire to subvert the format, to reify the expression within a physical space in a way that isn’t an exact reproduction of a recording. I love the idea of making something completely abstract or hypothetical into something tangible. That’s why we have this focus on performance and engagement with the audience. I can’t stand just twiddling knobs. 

JR: Since you put out a new album, are you guys planning on touring soon (maybe out to Chicago ::hint hint::)?

DT: We’d love to.  

JR: What all is in the future for Some Ember?

DT: New music - maybe another cassette this year. We’re trying to move to Berlin.

JR: Anything else you'd like to say?

DT: Thanks <3

1 comment:

  1. Totally I have read articles it's inspires me a lot of- really nice all songs & article .Thanks for sharing here you will get more relative information if you have time please go what is trance music.