I had the opportunity to catch up with Jason from EOTO, in between trips from one hardware store to the next, in an attempt to use any of their fleeting time off to gather supplies for a new home studio they’re building in L.A. “It’s about that time,” Jason said, “A couple friends of mine have really pro studios at their place, so we’re just trying to get it done the right way and diving in finally. There’s one version of DIY studios where you’re cutting up egg cartons and putting rugs up on the wall, but then there’s a whole other level of sound isolation with pretty advanced solid drywall and isolated rooms within rooms. We’re excited about doing this after holding off for so many years.”
Before anyone gets too excited, EOTO is not releasing a new record any time soon, and why would they? With a steady schedule of touring and building a dedicated and dance-crazy following, EOTO has managed a highly impressive collection of shows that are guaranteed original and created from the ground up before our very eyes. Therefore, they are different night after night. “We’ve been on the road for so long, usually when we get off, we’re right back to practice with String Cheese,” Jason said.
Calling EOTO’s nightly offerings “shows” is an affront to all things live entertainment. EOTO offers an experience which is unique to each individual in attendance and every audience member leaves having seen a truly once in a lifetime happening.
Jason and Travis keep their finger on the collective pulse of the rapt watchers as they make DJ set-like transitions in and out of their musical offerings that keep the crowd on their feet and thoroughly engaged. This in no small part is attributed to both of these seasoned musicians emerging from the wildly popular jam scene dynamos, String Cheese Incident, as well as paying close attention to live reactions of the most important people in the EOTO formula, the fans. While a lot of bands are grateful or even in love with their fans, rarely do you get an entire evening wrapped in a bow with a personalized message vibrating at the same frequency as the fortunate onlookers. Jason explains, “As Westerners, we can really compartmentalize artistic methods, where music, dance, and art are all sides of the same coin instead of segregated into separate schools of thought or different expressions of the same notion”. This idea is most aptly symbolized by the giant flashing lotus awash in psychedelic projections, lined with machines, computers, and Oz- like musical proclamations. ‘DANCE’ chant the wizards.
Never mind the classic video game projections on the lotus starship stage, if you’ve seen any stills or video shots, you’ll see a huge crowd move, shake, shuck, jive, amble and nod to songs they’ve never heard but have always known. It’s no doubt testament to EOTO’s attention to ‘now’, presence of mind that makes any live improv situation electric and entertaining. Whether it’s 3am post-festival, or a blistering two-hour main stage set, these two sound masters never cease to find more arrows in their quills.
“While I can’t account for the sweaty masses in front, Jason mused, “I prefer to be sober while we play so I can act as a barometer of how the show is going. I want to remember the whole thing from start to finish and to give the show its proper weight.”
It’s a good thing we’re not talking about a six-man army complete with brass accompaniment; EOTO is two guys and a meticulously coordinated series of sound-bots. “There’s so much going on technically that it makes a lot of sense to keep wits about you, and if I’m not on top of it, I get bummed or it gets more frustrating to have to battle myself and something that’d normally be pretty easy to fix.”
This is not the kind of team that takes mistakes lightly, of course, but they do approach this inevitability from a jazz perspective, which is to say…they go with it. One of their finest points of progress came from leaving an essential piece of gear in another city and, in attempt to find a way to fill some of that void they discovered that they can fill a lot of space in a new creative way by looping their processed amplified vocals. Much to the delight of the audience, they added it as a full time feature to their set. EOTO have the distinct privilege of not being locked down to one musical timbre. Jason explains, “I’m full A.D.D. Favorite style? I don’t have one…in the moment, if [some genre] is hitting me the right way, that’s my favorite.”
Even though they go with the Japanese meaning of their name “Good Sound,” it was originally an acronym for “End of Time Observatory.” I couldn’t help but ask about their take on the Mayan’s most publicized missed appointment. He said that he didn’t ever really subscribe to that notion, comparing it to Y2K with a bunch of ill-advised panic.
With all the constantly changing imagery and formlessness that EOTO presents during a typical evening, I was curious to find out more about their spiritual sides. Jason shared with me his belief that while we’re here on this planet for such a short time, it’s hard to say what the most purposeful part of our existence is or where we were, where we are or where we’re going, and it’s probably a good idea to make the best of what we have and live in this moment. Not a radical position, but an apt vantage point for a band that shoots laser beams of love and good vibes out of a giant space lotus.
Despite my overzealous ranting about wizards and live music cheat codes, these guys are only human. I tried to pry Jason with Tiger Beat themed questions about heartthrobs and bad boys, but he didn’t bite. He mused, “Depending on the night, each one of us will take over. We’ve had some difficulty with that. I’m more of the loud after party guy and Michael’s a bit more particular when it comes to hanging out. I’m a big reader, and Travis is more into movies.” Jason admits to reading news and politics unless he comes across a poem. But if he has his druthers he’s going to spend the time diving into a music or instrument tutorial. I guess I shouldn’t be so shocked after learning that Jason’s very first show was Chuck Mangione (do your self a favor and investigate the muzak-ally familiar title track from his ‘Feels So Good’ record. As a matter of fact, do it now as you read on… I’ll wait).
Jason’s dad was a big influence on him and he was also friends with some pretty heavy hitters. As a teenager, waiting for his dad’s pal Jaco Pastorious to arrive at a bass clinic, Jaco rolled in (literally, across the floor atop a road case), jumped on stage and immediately started melting faces. I can imagine what a huge influence this must have had on a future “face melter”.
I ended our interview feeling energized, intrigued and wanting more. They’ve reawakened my love for the search of new crazy music to break the mold of the old man, “getting stuck in your own think”, as Jason put it. “Sometimes you want your own identity and you can’t let the new stuff get in, like, ‘that’s not real music. But they said that when the electric guitar came out too.” It’s true. I read it on the internet.
If you’d like to get to know EOTO a little better or get a taste of what I’ve been raving out, please take minute to visit: http://www.eotolive.com Get brave and find out what they’re all about.
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