Beats Antique is the confluence of three talented performers with very different backgrounds. Zoe Jakes: a classically trained dancer in jazz and ballet, who fell in love with belly dancing. David Satori: who graduated from the California Institute of the Arts with a degree in music performance and composition. Tommy Cappel: a Virginia native, the son of two music teachers, the brother of a drummer and a graduate of the Berklee College of Music in Boston. When Zoe approached the others about collaborating on an experimental project that involved belly dancing for Miles Copeland, they readily agreed and out of that Beats Antique was born. Seven years later, Beats Antique is thriving on the support of their fans. Their eight album A Thousand Faces – Act 1 is currently available for pre-order and the supporting tour kicked off in October 2013.
In 2012, Tommy and David were kind enough to take time out of their day to do an interview before they headed to Egypt, where they were headlining the Great Convergence Festival. This is a re-run of that interview.
Lauren: We are lucky to have you guys return frequently to Tahoe thanks to it’s proximity to the bay. What’s your favorite thing about playing in Tahoe?
David: One of my favorite things is that people have a lot of energy up in that area, people that are there to be active, a lot of people who do a outdoor activities like skiing and mountain biking and all of the above, so it’s sort of a rowdy, fun healthy crowd and then there’s also the Grass Valley/Nevada City crowd that comes out, and the Truckee crowd and the Reno crowd. It’s a real eclectic active community so we have a lot of fun and there is a lot of energy. The combination of all that makes a good crowd.
Tommy: I like the fact that it’s so beautiful up there.
L: Next week, you fly out to Egypt to headline the Great Convergence Festival.
D: We might get abducted by aliens and then sucked into the wormhole.
L: You guys haven’t been to Egypt before, but, Tommy, you lived in Serbia?
T: No, I didn’t live there, I played a festival there and visited there. I had an amazing experience there and it was at a time when things were still a little chaotic for them as a country so it was a little nerve wracking going over there. I assume it will be a bit of the same going to Egypt this time.
L: Your shows have a tendency to get a little wild. What’s the most memorable thing that’s ever happened at a show that you didn’t expect?
T: We’ve had a lot of people jump on stage and do a lot of stage diving when the crowd was not prepared so the stage diver went into a empty abyss and hit the ground: serious stage diving. The most important thing is that you have to acknowledge the crowd and the crowd acknowledged that you’re coming and a lot of people when they jump up on stage they’re like, “oh shit, I’m up on stage, I gotta do something fast!” and it just doesn’t work. It’s better that it’s just the artist that does that, the crowd is there for them. They want you to survive.
L: 2012 has been a busy year for you as a group – tons of touring, the release of an album, a big summer festival circuit – what were the challenges and highlights of such a jam packed tour year?
T: I think that the challenges and highlights are sort of the same thing. Doing so many shows is really exciting but it also takes a lot out of us, just all the traveling involved doing all those shows is intense. But you get out there on stage and you have a responsive crowd and everyone is excited and it makes it all worth it. It’s kind of like the same thing: it’s challenging and fun and just necessary. We’re responding to people wanting us to play and it’s kind of everything into one.
D: I think our most challenging weekend this summer was also our biggest and most exciting weekend at the same time. We played Atlanta at a festival called Narnia and then flew to Red Rocks the next morning but our flight was cancelled so we had to rebook our flight and drive all night and then play Red Rocks sound check the next morning at 11 am but it’s red rocks so it’s super difficult but it’s so exciting. The next night we had to leave from Red Rocks and fly to Seattle for Summer Meltdown. It’s all a blur and it’s all amazing.
L: How awesome is Red Rocks? That place is incredible.
T: Ridiculous. You can’t replace that experience with anything else. It’s such a beautiful place but then all the crowds are always really excited to be there so that makes it more amped up and then all the people that played there for so long. As a whole, it’s amazing.
L: Do you have any routines that you keep in order to keep your sanity and keep a schedule when you’re touring?
T: Honestly, our shows become a routine when we’re on tour. Getting on stage and doing sound check and doing the show. Sound check is a good routine. Occasionally we get some exercise, some yoga.
L: How does touring affect your studio work? Does it make you more or less creative?
T: Touring gets in the way of studio work and studio work suffers a bit when you are on the road too much but at the same time, sometimes we come up with some really great songs on the road. It’s just a matter of making time for both.
L: Do you find that the audience is different between a music festival and one of your regular shows?
D: The festival crowd is there to party and the festival atmosphere is already exciting simply because it’s a festival. The shows have their own excitement but there’s this overall festival excitement that can come over into your set which can be unexpected. There are a lot of variables that you don’t know. Sometimes you can be at a show and you know how the night is going to go based on the crowd but at a festival, sometimes the crowds get big in the middle of the set or halfway through the set it can get small because another act is going on at another tent and people want to see them. When I go to festivals I only stay for three songs. I never stay for the whole show. Things are changing and people are coming in and out.
L: Do you guys find that new fans discover you at music fests?
D: Oh definitely.
T: That’s the place to pick up new fans. We actually as well walk around and see what’s going on around us and find new bands that we like as well. I think that also it gives artists a chance to see what you’re doing. The whole thing is an immersive experience whereas at a show, everybody knows what they are going to see, they might be there with friends, it might be their first time but generally that show is about us. It’s a different feel.
L: I really respect artists that have the courage and inspiration to bring something new to the stage in their live show and really build upon their album, which is something that you all excel at. What dictates how your live show morphs into what it is over the album itself and how much of that is improvisation and how much of it is planned?
D: We definitely plan our sets out pretty carefully and we like to pick from a lot of our albums. When we come out with a new album, we don’t necessarily just play all the stuff off the new album. We really gravitate towards what we’ve been playing over the years and what works for the crowd. We take some new songs. A lot of the time when an album comes out, we’re working on music that hasn’t even been put on an album, and when it does come out we’ve been playing those songs already for a year. It’s a weird cycle, for us, at least since we’re not a pop band playing hit songs that everyone needs to hear. It’s a strange process.
L: How has your process of writing changed from your very first album to now?
D: I think it’s changed drastically. The first album we did we were really just experimenting and didn’t know exactly what we were going to do. It created a really experimental atmosphere whereas now it’s maybe not as experimental in that way but it’s experimental in the way of, “so what are we going to do next?” The process of it too: the last five albums we’ve had to be writing a lot of stuff on the road and working on it in between shows and tours. It is a bit chaotic. With this next coming album we’re going to be working on this winter is going to be the first time since back in those days with the first two albums that we’ll be writing at home, in the same place, and being together, and working on it in an extended format.
L: You recently said in an interview that Vol 2 is “an answer to volume 1…” that you are “tracing your roots back.” It’s more acoustic whereas your last album had a little bit more electro based sound. Are there feelings and emotions that influence and guide you at the start to where your albums head each time or is it something that happens more subconsciously and you realize it later on that it’s gone in this different direction?
D: I think for this album, we found what songs we had. It was sort of collecting the songs we’d been working on as opposed to being really conscious and saying let’s make an album that sounds like this. It was more of a compilation in a way. We have a whole electronic side of what we do and we have the full acoustic side and we’re always trying to balance it out and I think this was a way of balancing it out a little more.
L: I saw you open for Les Claypool here in Tahoe a few years ago and at the time I had never heard of you. It was an absolute delight and there were so many wonderful surprises for me throughout your set. One of the things that definitely sticks out in my mind, and probably with a lot of your fans, were the animal masks. Now that they’ve taken on such an individual nature and personality of their own, it’s almost like they are another member of the band. Can we expect them to stick around?
T: If David has anything to do with it, we’ll be wearing them the whole show.
D: Be careful what you ask for.
T: We sell them at our merch table so fans can go to our merch table or you can get them online at our website. One of our goals with the animal masks is to have the audience participate a bit with us. It’s really funny. At every show, at least once person at almost every show has one: wearing an animal mask. We really want to see the whole crowd wearing different animal masks.
D: We have one fan from Michigan who wears a baboon mask and he wears it the whole show. It’s one of the impressive things I’ve ever seen in my whole life is this guy wearing this latex baboon mask for hours – two hours. You gotta realize, that those things are not comfortable.
T: They’re hot.
D: It’s really …. it kinda sucks when you wear it.
T: It’s a labor of love. We’re doing it for the people.
D: It brings out a character in you that you might not have other. When the guy with the baboon mask is there, he dances differently and he’s really fun to look at. And then throughout the show you see the people around him start to interact with him and get more comfortable with the baboon.
L: So Beats Antique’s collective dream is an entire audience full of animal masks?
T and D: YES.
L: You’ve worked with a lot of really talented collaborators: what dream collaborations do you have on your list for the future?
T: We have a list of a lot of people. It would be fun to do something with Bjork, with David Byrne, Peter Gabriel, Metalica.
D: I would take Tool as well.
T: I’ve always wanted to collaborate with some more pop artists as well, just in general.
D: Katy Perry.
T [laughing]: That’s David’s dream. I’m more like lets work with Bon Iver, the Weekend or something.
L: Greatest accomplishment of 2012?
D: Yes, Suriving.
T: Not breaking up. The band not breaking up. Funny but true.
L: Provided that you don’t get swept away into the wormhole on the solstice, what’s next on the horizon for 2013?
D: The first part of the year we’re going to work on our album and then start touring like crazy again.
T: International – Europe, South America, hopefully.
L: Last but not least, what act are you each most looking forward to seeing at Snowglobe?
D: Deadmau5, he’s always fun to watch. Wiz Khalifa.
L: I’m really looking forward to seeing Chromeo.
D: Oh yeah! Chromeo! I forgot they were playing. I axe all of the rest. I just want to see them.
L: Thanks guys! I really appreciate you taking the time to talk to me and we’ll see you at Snowglobe.
FOR MORE ON BEATS ANTIQUE:
BEATS ANTIQUE returns for the 2nd year in a row to Snowglobe and will be on the Main Stage on Tuesday, December 31st at 8:00 PM. Beats Antique is an eclectic mix of modern technology, live instrumentation, brass bands, string quartets, glitch, and dubstep accompanied by belly dancing and animal masks. Frankly, it’s a not to be missed show. Check them out: if you want to go down the rabbit hole. Animal masks not required, but suggested. Skip it if: just don’t, you will regret it.