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“I really hope people don’t say that we are a math rock band!” doubleneckguitar/bass virtuoso Kristian Dunn exclaims while discussing his duo, El TenEleven’s, new album Transitions. Acoustic and electronic drummer Tim Fogartyadds, “We get labeled all kinds of things from post-rock to ambient toexperimental... all of those make us cringe. So far my personal favorite labelfor the band has been 'Power Duo'... it's kind of ridiculous but I like it.”
Despitethe absence of lyrics, their latest release, their fifth studio full-lengthalbum, may be the most personal to date. “Tim and I have been through alot in the past couple of years,” Dunn reflects. “We’ve both been divorced, movedto different cities, Tim went through some really dark times, I gotremarried and had a kid … for a while things were uncertain and wethrew ourselves into the new record and it called for more than just shortpop structures.”
Thus,the title track, “Transitions,” which clocks in at over ten minutes long, is atwisting journey of sublime unpredictability. But the band’s ability to writecatchy, emotional hooks hasn’t been lost.
“Theproblem I have with most math rock bands or prog rock bands is that they areusually just showing off for other musicians. ‘Ooh! Look what I cando!’ We’re just not interested in that. We want everyone to come toour shows!”
Andthey do. The band has been touring almost non-stop for the last eightyears. 2012 has already seen them headline their own tours as well as playbig festivals such as Capitol Hill Block Party, Camp Bisco, Osheaga andmore.
Armed with merely a doubleneck bass/guitar, drums and a dizzying array of footpedals, the band creates complex, deeply felt music, from scratch, onstage,with no help from laptops, click tracks or additional musicians. Theyutilize multiple looping pedals to createsongs that sound as though they are being played by at least sixpeople. Most first-timers to an El Ten Eleven show are stunned that theband is a duo.
Since the band’s inception in 2002, the band has always just been two people who produce their own records. That attitude of self-reliance has also manifesteditself in the band not signing with a label, despite numerous offers. “We licensed our first record to Bar None,” Fogarty explains. “And while theywere super cool people, we thought we could do as good a job as they did by ourselves.” Thus Fake Record Label was born. Though the name was originallya joke, FRL has turned into a bona fide label with marketing, distribution andpublicity. And this year signed its first artist other than El Ten Eleven: Girlfriends.
“We’rereally excited about using our success to help out other artists we love,” Dunnadds.
Partof that success has come to El Ten Eleven from the world of television, radio and film. Shows including “The Real World,” “All Things Considered,”“Market Place,” "Chopped," "CSI Miami," “The Glenn Beck Show,” “the MTV Video Music Awards” and a Lexus commercial (to name but a few) have utilized the band’s recorded repertoire. But the most notoriety has comefrom Gary Hustwit’s award winning design documentary trilogy. “Helvetica,” “Objectified” and “Urbanized” featured music from El Ten Eleven and original score from Dunn.
“The reach of those films has been incredible. Our fan base has definitely grown because of them,” says Dunn.
Andthe fans should heartily embrace the aforementioned Transitions. Songslike “Yellow Bridges” (the first single, which is a nod to the yellow bridgesin Fogarty’s hometown of Pittsburgh, with a video made by award winning Englishsurreal animator Cyriak) will satisfy the rabid fans of El Ten Eleven’s firstalbum with its emotional waves and flowing structure. But songs like“Thanks Bill” (a nod to Alcoholics Anonymous founder Bill Wilson) show the bandevolving to include hip hop elements like 808 drums and even more technically difficult looping.
Even ETE’s now expected humorous song titles make an appearance with “No One Died ThisTime!” Dunn explains, “Every time we’ve made a record it seems like someone weare friends with or someone in our family dies. That’s why we’ve haddedications to them with song titles like “Connie,” “Bye Mom,” “the 49thDay,” “Bye Annie,” “Bye Joe,” etc. But this time, no one died!”
Trueto form there’s also a cover song: Duran Duran’s “Tiger Tiger,” “JohnTaylor was one my biggest influences as a bass player,” says Dunn.
ETEwas out on the road debuting some of these new songs at festivals such as CampBisco and Capitol Hill Block Party this past summer. And with the release of Transitions, the band has continued onwith its road warrior approach with a full 6-week national headlining tour thispast fall followed by their annual winter tour of the west coast and Colorado.Now, the band prepares to head out for 2 full months of touring this Springwhich consists of 6 weeks of headlining dates combined with 2 weeks of openingup for British electronic act Bonobo. In many markets now, they are graduating fromclubs to theaters. “More transitions!” laughs Dunn.
April 2013 will see the first release ofofficial remixes of El Ten Eleven’s music in the form of the Transitions Remixed album. Remixers include artists such as Com Truise, Max Tundra, Steed Lord, Amp Live (of ZionI), MAD V (formerly of Villains), D33J, Odd Nosdam, and more…
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El Ten Eleven