Jason Hann keeps an open mind — especially when it comes to music. He’s a sonic experimenter, toying with rhythm, sound, and textures. And with his electro-improvisational duo EOTO, Hann isn’t afraid to get a little adventurous with elaborate stage sets.
“We knew that we wanted to amp up our production in general,” Hann says. “Between Daft Punk introducing their stuff, Deadmau5, and that kind of stuff — plus acts in our scene, like Pretty Lights, Big Gigantic, and Bassnectar — you have these grand productions that audiences are starting to expect. We wanted to do something a little different. I always liked the 3-D map-producing thing with LEDs [light-emitting diodes], because you can set up a flexible, bio-illusional type of setting that’s a little easier on the eyes. It’s really involved, with a big mix of shape-shifting, space-traveling visuals.” So Hann and bandmate Michael Travis came up with a 3-D lotus flower-esque stage, unveiling the new design at a show earlier this year.
Based in Los Angeles, Hann grew up in Miami playing rock, funk, and Latin music. In the mid 2000s, he joined Colorado jam band String Cheese Incident as a percussionist alongside Travis, the band’s drummer and a founding member. Along the way, Hann dabbled in turntablism and electronic music, but eventually he and Travis took their electro-based ways of making music and formed EOTO (pronounced “E-OH-toe”).
The band initially began as a two-man multimedia “dance/rock duo,” melding breakbeat, house, drum ‘n’ bass, trip-hop, and disco. Since then, Hann and Travis have developed quite a bit of chemistry, playing off of each other and guiding the dynamic and rhythmic direction of the music with ease. They demonstrated their loose approach on their debut album, Elephants Only Talk Occasionally, recorded live in the studio in Boulder, Colo.
“We had no clue,” Hann laughs. “All of the songs on Elephants were made up on the spot. We didn’t know how to play them again. The sonic possibilities become pretty endless when you’re in this mode where everything is open.”
After the release of Elephants, EOTO became more focused. The band toured relentlessly, performing scores of shows a year, from intimate in-store gigs and club shows to massive festivals. Meanwhile, over the course of their next two studio albums, 2008’s Razed and 2010’s Fire the Lazers, they incorporated elements of dubstep and heavier backbeats into their music.
“Our early recordings were more on the chill side,” Hann says. “But we have an aggressive side on stage. It’s hard to capture that in the studio. On stage, we might stay on one theme for 12 or 15 minutes, but in the studio, we might do something like that and use only five or six minutes of it in the final mix. We’re really a live, in-the-moment act.”
Last month, EOTO kicked off their cross-country Bass Invaders Tour. Musically, they stuck with the improvisational method, working from a battery of MacBooks with Ableton Live software, midi keyboards, samplers, amps, and drums. The tour supports the fourth installment of their live tour compilation, K-Turns & U-Turns Vol. 4, an album celebrating their best recorded tracks from 2011.
“We’ve gone from touring by ourselves and taking little risks on small stages to building a set, hiring a road crew, and taking little risks on big stages,” Hann says. “You never know how it’s going to work out, but you always want to put your best foot forward.”
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