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EOTO improvs its way into Columbia

Electronic group brings 'The Lotus Experience' to The Blue Note.

Published Nov. 29, 2012

When: Saturday Doors: 8:30 p.m. Show: 9:30 p.m. Tickets: $15 in advance, $18 day of show

In a day and age where electronic dance music is on the rise, it’s hard for just any old house or dub-step group to differentiate itself. However, electro duo EOTO is doing just that. Composed of members Jason Hann and Michael Travis, EOTO runs entirely on live improvisation. Sound impossible? We thought so, too. MOVE chatted with Hann to find out the secrets behind EOTO’s live spontaneity.

[MOVE]: EOTO makes its name by giving performances that are 100 percent live improvisation. How do you do it?

[Jason Hann]: We have all kinds of gadgets on stage that help us out. Ultimately, we play everything live, just the two of us. Travis plays guitar and bass and synthesizers, and I play drums and percussion and sing. We use the computer as another instrument. It’s a lot of work that we’re doing up there, but we’ve played about 800 shows since we started in 2006. That’s a lot of messing up and trying to get better at it.

[M]: What happens if you just can’t think of anything on the spot?

[JH]: We don’t have that problem anymore — there’s not even a worst comes to worst. We’ve been in pretty much every situation. We just keep going. At this point, we never run into a situation where we can’t figure out anything else to do.

[M]: You and Travis have to be pretty in sync. How do you stay that way throughout your sets?

[JH]: When we first started, we would have a lot of hand signals to say what the other person was going to do, or what we were getting ready to do. As we added more and more gear, we were both really busy on what we’re doing, and we just got good at listening to the other person and not needing hand signals.

[M]: How does it feel to have recently put up your 500th live recording?

[JH]: That was pretty awesome. Our archivists go through all of those files and they break them down to what they think are songs. It comes out to about, I’d say, 20 or 25 songs a night. After that many shows, you have this giant catalog of music. We’re really excited to have those archived. It shows off the history of our progression.

[M]: You’ve been playing percussion since you were 12. What eventually attracted you to electronic music versus, say, rock or pop?

[JH]: I still love all those other styles of music. Back in the early ‘90s, they would hire me to play percussion for DJs at raves in the San Diego area out on Indian reservations. At that time, I wasn’t necessarily into dance music, but I always listened to it and always sort of stayed up on it just for playing music’s sake. As the 2000s rolled around, I started leaning more towards it and, you know, being all about it. So it was a pretty long evolution before I was like, “Let’s start a band that just does EDM.”

[M]: EOTO plays nearly 200 shows a year. How’s life on the road?

[JH]: It can be really long and wearing, but the thing that we have to do every night is play like it’s our best show ever. I think something gets into both of our minds where we just really go for it every night. This is the first tour that we’re doing where we’re playing mostly weekends. We fly out to a region, play a couple of days, and then we fly home. That’s been really nice, having some sort of home life during touring season.

[M]: So what exactly is The Lotus Experience?

[JH]: The Lotus Experience is a sculpture that we project images onto. Travis and I are set up inside of this sculpture, which looks like a lotus flower. Our projectionist fires off all of these images onto the flower that make it look like we could be sitting in a flower, or we could be sitting in some shape-shifting spacecraft. It’s really a super-piece for the eyes. So many people come up and say, “I saw a video of it on YouTube, and I know it’s cool, but seeing it live is a whole other level.”

[M]: One final question — what does the name “EOTO” really mean?

[JH]: EOTO stands for End of Time Observatory. That was a name that Travis came up with. Eventually, it just became that End of Time Observatory had this sort of theory that went with it, (but) that always became the focus of interviews. It was cool, but then we’d never get around to talking about the music. We started calling it EOTO just because it stands for that, and then pronouncing it as “ee-oh-toe.” Eventually some fans from Japan said that EOTO means “good sound” in Japanese, so we started running with that.

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