EOTO — “Thorp” from the album Elephants Only Talk Occasionally
Those music fans familiar with the organic jams and tunes of veteran Colorado act String Cheese Incident may be shocked-shocked-shocked by the electronic and percussive experiments conducted by the band’s two-man percussion section. Under the band name EOTO, (pronounced “E-oh-toe”), Jason Hann and Michael Travis are on the road with the new “dance/rock duo” show — a mix of live-action breakbeat, house, drum ‘n’ bass, trip hop, and vintage disco.
“It’s just the two of us … a power duo,” Hann says. “We’re using quite a bit of technology, but playing everything live and in the moment, improvising. Every note that you hear is happening live. There’s nothing pre-recorded. It’s sort of like what Keller Williams does with looping and stacking things up, although our thing is more like a live recording session where we have access to recording all of our instruments while we play.”
Hann and Travis have total control over each individual track, so they can drop something in, take something out, add multiple tracks, and mix to fit the dynamic or rhythmic direction. Musically, it’s completely wide open as demonstrated on their debut disc, Elephants Only Talk Occasionally, improvised live in the studio on Boulder, Colo., in early 2006.
“We have no clue,” Hann laughs. “All of the songs on Elephants Only Talk Occasionally were made up on the spot. We don’t know how to play them again. The sonic possibilities become pretty endless when you’re in this mode where everything is open. It has to be a certain kind of texture to fit well, sonically, so we really have to listen to each other carefully. Travis handles all the harmonics and tonal instruments — keyboards, bass, guitar, and some percussion, as well — and I’m handling the drum kit and an electronic pad on my left side. I can punch certain things in and out.”
EOTO began innocently as a fun side project. Hann and Travis started jamming at home in late-night sessions, gradually adding various instruments, loop recording devices, and electronic pads and samplers. As technically proficient players with wildly creative minds, they managed to crack each other up with odd musical mash-ups right away. Things easily developed into something much more serious.
“The fact that we felt we could entertain ourselves for hours and hours on end was a motivating factor,” Hann remembers. “When we actually listened back to it, some of it was really bad, and some of it was really good. We just tried to do some of the good stuff more consistently. We eventually felt like we could do it in front of people [laughs].”
“They really haven’t made gear to be totally fool-proof,” he adds. “When we started out, we weren’t quite sure of the gear. On stage one time, Travis hit the Midi control dial and nothing happened. He looked at me like, ‘Oh no! What do we do now?’ I just kept it going. There are so many things that can go wrong with our setup. It’s a labor of love.”