Tim Fogarty and Kristian Dunn are two musicians who hate constricting genre labels.
These two California-based music makers are known collectively as El Ten Eleven and they make super-duper music that's not quite math rock, not exactly experimental, and not 100 percent pop.
Dunn is a wiz at playing his doubleneck guitar/bass, and Fogarty is adept at keeping pace as acoustic and electronic drummer, and when they're together, they create exorbitant echoes and fleeting rhythms that are strangely melodic and enticing. They skip out on all of the computer stuff and instead rely on an assortment of looping pedals to create sounds far beyond what two people would seem be capable of -- so let's just call it magic rock for now.
If you're into this sort of stuff you might want to make your way to Pub Rock in Scottsdale tonight, where El Ten Eleven will be joined by fellow tricksters Vial of Sound and groovy dream weavers Slow Magic.
Up on the Sun: I've read about your disdain for labels, particularly the "math rock" label. How would you describe your music to someone who heard your sound?
Tim Fogarty: I don't know man, it's . . . so hard. It's such a cliche for a musician to not want their music to be labeled, but the labels we seem to get don't ever seem to fit. I can see how one or two songs kind of sound math-y, but in a way they're not the way I look at math rock -- which even that is a label. But we're not trying to confuse people out there. We don't do crazy, odd time signatures, so math rock's not right. We get called experimental all of the time, which to us is like, immeasurable. And we're not doing experiments, everything we play is pretty much flushed out. There's not a bunch of jamming.
It's just hard to classify us. We're basically a guitar/bass, drums, electronic, instrumental . . . band. I guess I really can't blame people that label us, because I don't really know what to call ourselves, so I can't expect other people to know what to call us.
Well, there's an energy for sure, and it's interesting because your latest album, Transitions has been called your most intimate and personal yet, even though you guys don't employ lyrics. How are you guys able to translate emotion into sound? How do sounds take shape in your heads?
TF: Kristian [Dunn] is definitely the one who comes up with the majority of the ideas and the music part of it. Me being the drummer, it's just my interpretation of what he is doing, and how it makes me feel. But there is definitely emotion. Most of our songs are dedications or written specifically about something or somebody. The new record, for instance, is basically a composition of what we were going through in the past year and a half. So there's definitely a conscious way of trying to make the music. But the whole process is pretty much Kristian coming up with the majority of the melody stuff, with me putting the meter or rhythm to it.
How would you describe your live performances?
TF: Lately, we've been bringing along this super-bright state-of-the-art light show. That's new for this tour. It's this whole wall of LED colored squares. We always try to have a good stage show, but there are always financial constraints. We kind of went all out this time around. We want to make it special for people seeing our show for the first time, second time, 10th time, whatever it is.
It might be a medium-size venue, but it kind of feels like you're watching something bigger. What a lot of people don't realize is that it's just two of us so we tend to play more of our energetic stuff; I think that works better live. We try to make it fun with high energy. That sounds dumb, but you know what I'm saying.
What do you guys think of the Phoenix music scene?
TF: Well we've played there a bunch of times. We've always had fun playing Tucson; it's just one of those cities. We started off really, really small, playing in these tiny places there, and then moved into more normal size venues. We're going to be in Flagstaff soon, and that's another place where we've always had a good time.
But then like, Phoenix was one of those places that was hit or miss. We would play these weird little venues that were in weird spots, and it made it hard to kind of feel the town out. I remember one time playing in Tempe, in a weird, kind of corporate-y sports bar place, and we had to hurry up our set because it was reggae night. We had a decent turnout that night, but when the reggae came on, everybody left. So things like that. But these last few shows have been amazing. We've played the Rhythm Room a couple of times and we've had really cool shows there.
So Phoenix took a while to come around but it's actually one of my new favorite places. Especially since they've gotten rid of their photo radar speeding tickets (Laughs).
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El Ten Eleven is scheduled to perform Friday, February 1, at Pub Rock with Slow Magic and Vial of Sound.