Let's be real here. Live acts can be a hit or miss type of deal. The execution may be lacking, the enthusiasm may be absent, and the liveliness on stage may be dead. But at other times, the band or artists can really reel you into the show, excluding the help of additional substances. Beats Antique is one of those groups that really draw you in both through their music and visual performances. It is a trio, consisting of David Satori, Sidecar Tommy (Tommy Cappel), and Zoe Jakes. Individually, each has a very deep and rich background of music which really shines through.
Beats Antique has a unique style tagged to their name. They have found a wonderful mixture of electronic music elements and worldly influences. They don't rely on drops, nor do they like staying idle in one genre for long. In one song, they can go balls to the wall while the next one transitions into a smooth downtempo groove or percussionless interludes. Since their debut album in 2007, they have been slowly but surely cultivating a colossal following and gaining a reputation across the country. Recently, they went back on tour to promote their newly released album A Thousand Faces Act 2, the follow up to Act 1. Both acts are the culmination of the years of finding and honing their sounds. For those of you who do not have the slightest clue to what Beats Antique sound like, do not fret. Here at EARMILK, we bring you an exclusive first look of the music video for "Puzzle" off of A Thousand Faces Act 2.
It's an extremely trippy music video. Geometric shapes are flying every which way and are evolving into more shapes in a chaotic order. Mirroring, rotations, and fractal-like patterns are only a few elements that make this music video addicting and entertaining to watch. Try not to get lost.
I had the privilege of sitting down with all three of them in a local coffee shop to discuss what's really driving their unique sound and their outrageous live performances. After making some small talk about David's golden fingernails, we got straight down to the serious words.
EARMILK: So how was Beats Antique formed? How did you guys meet?
Zoe Jakes: I was in a touring dance company. The manager was helping in producing with this dance company and I was in this touring dance show and he also has a really large world music label (CIA Records). He was talking about how he wanted music for his label, and he wanted something that was new and cutting edge. I mentioned it's something that I could bring people together for. So then I asked Tommy, then I asked David if they wanted to do this project and it started as a recording project for an album.
David Satori: For belly dance music.
Tommy Cappel: It wasn't really for a genre, really. It was for a bunch of different type things...
ZJ: Well belly dancers were dancing to electronic music, and then they were desperately trying to find music that had Middle Eastern influences with electronic music. So it was a niche that needed more music, badly.
TC: But it also just happens to fit in with what I think for some people who were into electronic music at the time were looking for, something more Earthy.
EM: So you guys already had an idea of what type of style you want go into.
TC: Yeah, kind of. We were also full of experiments.
DS: We were more experimental than just trying to make beats for the dance floor . We were trying to make beats for the performers.
EM: So what kind of musical backgrounds come from or grew up on?
TC: I was in a lot of classical music, and my parents were both music teachers. I played music in church as well, and was in rock bands while growing up. I ended in the College of Music in Boston studying jazz, studio drumming and different things but mostly drums. And a little song writing. I used to play jazz in New York for a while, then moved out to San Francisco and became part of the underground there.
DS: My parents weren't really into music at all. I didn't have a musical family, except my brother. I started playing the drums in a rockband in highschool and was studying jazz guitar at the same time and went to Cal Arts (California Institute of Arts) which is a music school outside Los Angeles, There I studied compositions and world music and got into the culture, like Eastern Europe, Bali, India, Africa,
ZJ: I would usually answer this question by saying, "Oh, not really much..", and its funny because I've been really thinking about what my music background is. I was in piano, my mom put me in piano lessons for like, three years when I was a kid. And then I was in band, where I played the baritone... (laughs)
TC: Really?! Oh wow...
ZJ: In the highschool band for two years, I can totally pick one up and get my lip back in no time, it's hilarious! So I played baritone for two years in band, the big one, not the huge one. And also, my mom put me in classical guitar lessons when I was a kid for a few years, when I was young. And it's stuff that I lost a lot of, but it would come back, I'm sure.
DS: Yeah you picked up the banjo pretty quick.
ZJ: But where I feel like my musical training really started was when I was in this dance company that had a live band, a live Turkish band like traditional Middle Eastern music. And we have to learn all of the songs, and we had to sing them while we were performing. So I was learning the traditional Balkan songs, learning what they meant, learning how they pertained to their culture, and that's where I felt my personal music training really started to kick in.
EM: Well it seems like you all have a really diverse and rich background compared to some other artists who just fiddle with a MIDI in their bedroom, and that's how they start.
DS: We had a lot of great teachers. We all have been able to study with a lot of great people.
ZJ: AND I think on the flip side, and this is just purely circumstantial, we are all live musicians who stumbled into the electronic world. And I think that has a lot of responsibility for what our sound is. That's why we thought, "Oh yeah, let's take sub-bass, and mix it with a live bass, and mix those sounds together".
DS: It was an exciting time to start making electronic music ten years ago because it was when all the software was finally at a point where almost anybody can figure out how to do it. You didn't have to take a class. You can figure it out yourself, and how to use these programs...
EM: Like GarageBand.
DS: Yeah! Well now it's even crazier how easy it is to make an album on your phone. It's amazing how technology made it so. I never looked at it as it's for electronic music, I just liked it because I could make a full composition. I could hear drums, bass, melody, and just being able to listen to it and not have anybody else needing to do that, you know?
TC: We grew up in the four-track era where multi-track recording was a pain in the butt and kind of expensive...
ZJ: Lots of cutting!
TC: So you could either spend a lot of money, or convince your parents to buy a four-track. And once you got that, then you're like, "Oh my god, I'm the best producer in the world, I'm like a rock god!" But I was 15, so I didn't really know what I was doing. I made some really funny songs, I even had my cat in one of the songs which is funny because we have a cat in our song on this album too. But it was just circumstantial, my cat kind of just walked up and meowed and I just used it.
EM: You guys have put out eight album. Which one would you say would best define who you guys are, or what your favorite one is?
ZJ: Now I feel like the question "Define who you are" can be answered in a couple of different ways, like to define who we think we are or who our fans think we are, or who our West Coast fans think we are, what I feel like that question shows is just how diverse our fans are. Because for the belly dancers, I would say it's Collide. But for the electronic kids we got from Bassnectar that love that kind of stuff, I would say Contraption Vol. 1, but also a little bit of Elektrafone. But then if you ask the kids that are doing this blues, swing dancing thing that's a craze cross-nation where kids are hard dancing to electronic music, I feel like one of their favorite albums is Blind Threshold. It really...
DS: Depends. But I think we've found our sound, as a band, on Collide.
ZJ: My parents are like "We still think the first album is our favorite!"
TC: It's neat, they're all so different. They came at appropriate times for us, it's kind of funny how it all worked. The first album (Tribal Derivations) was a unique one because we collaborated in a way, I wrote four songs and David wrote four songs. And then we all got together and sort of helped guide each track together, but it wasn't until Collide when we actually started really collaborating, reading, and writing songs together from scratch. But each song on each album too, is like a different thing of a different genre. You could make four or five difference sub-albums and take all things that are on them and be like, "OK, here's our beautiful downtempo stuff, here's our orchestral stuff, here's our uptempo stuff". It's interesting.
EM: And at what point in your releases of albums did you realize that you were on to something? When the ball started rollin'?
DS: I think Collide is the one that showed us how our popularity has grown. Like, wow we can keep doing this.
ZJ: Well I don't really define it by the album, instead define it by the show. And the show for me where I looked around and realized that something happened, that none of us planned on, was Lightning in a Bottle in 2008.
DS: And that was Collide we were performing.
ZJ: It was the first time Tommy set up his drums and it was the first time we were set up in a way that mimics how we are doing things now. Because for the longest time these guys were DJing and I would dance to a couple of the pieces. That was the show were people heard the music who came out. It was a Sunday afternoon, it was not a great time slot. And by the end of the set, it was packed. All of our friends were there, and they were like, "Whoa! What was that?! That was so cool!" I feel like that, to me, was the point where we realized that Beats Antique started its own momentum and we really had no control over it.
TC: I agree, I look at our shows and live performances over the years, and that's where I totally feel.
ZJ: It's a lot harder to judge things by album anyway too because of the trade of business.
EM: That leads me to my next question. Your live performances are known to be quite extravagant and outrageous. How did it evolve over time?
TC: All three of us heard of a really unique, artist community in San Francisco and we've all done funny and weird performance art type of things.
DS: Our old band, we did a lot of wild performance art and had a lot of extravagant performances. So we already had it in us, and I did performance art at school...
TC: Yeah David is totally weird and funny and has a whole performance art side but it's cool because each one of us have a different, funny, quirky aspect to us so I think it just comes out in different ways during shows.
DS: But really, it's the dancing.
TC: Zoe is amazing, she dances a lot.
EM: That one thing that really sticks out because no other band has that type of dancing.
ZJ: Something I think too that has affected my relationship with the audience is that I personally get kind of annoyed when I feel like people aren't participating. And I don't mean literally. I just mean it's really important for me to engage the audience because I feel like art is actually a much more important thing, especially nowadays where we have these little media devices and it's really easy to get locked into your little world. People, they get stuck in there, I mean, we do at shows, you know? A lot of the times people are filming or they're texting. I feel like it's kind of our job to be like, "PFFT. Come on, pay attention! This is your life. Right now. This is your fucking life." And so I feel like some of the stuff that we do, it's an extended effort. I love stage diving, because then motherfuckers have to put their phones down and they have to help you NOT die! You know?
TC: I didn't realize that's why you did that!
ZJ: Yes! I do it and I'll literally be going like this *hand gestures* and someone would be filming and I would be like, "Put your damn phone down, or I'm going to fall!" It gets to the point where you literally have to be in people's faces sometimes and I feel like the other stuff like confetti cannons, we have inflatable monsters, we have this real shit happening at the edge of the stage.You just have to work harder to really shake people up.
EM: So you are looking more for some audience feedback?
ZJ: It's not about feedback, it's about people just being present
DS: Having that experience.
ZJ: Having an experience, whatever that means.
DS: I remember seeing The Flaming Lips for the first time. I was blown away on how creative they were. A lot of bands are self-conscious but they were just looking at it as an opportunity to experiment.
ZJ: The best thing that has ever happened is... have you seen The Flaming Lips?
EM: Not yet.
ZJ: You should see them! Wayne Coyne, he went into this hamster ball and they pushed him out into the audience. And he was singing, in the middle of the audience with a remote mic and they were pushing him around in a hamster ball.
TC: He was like walking on top of the audience.
ZJ: They landed a friggin' spaceship on the stage, a UFO. And then they would all get out superhero costumes. I remember my festival show at Bonnaroo, and The Flaming Lips was performing there, and me and Tommy were performing with the Yard Dogs. This was about eight years ago. You would have to put on a clown outfit or a Santa outfit and hold a light, and stand there for a song. It was great, but I didn't want to do that so I pretended I was going to do it and snuck under the stage, and hid under the stage. And right before the show went on, I popped up in front of one of the subs, monitors on stage and watched the whole show like it was my TV. Like I was literally sitting there tucked in the corner watching this entire show, it was the most amazing I've ever seen. And that's I got to see the show. The aliens, him going out in the ball, and all this crazy stuff. I think that changed my life.
TC: I think it's always fun when a band does something, you know?
ZJ: Anything for crying out loud!
TC: And it could be something really small, just something that shows their personality...
DS: Or shows that they care.
ZJ: And using media in an unusual way. It's awesome that people are doing visuals, I love it, but don't get stuck in the whole TV trap. It's like you're going to an IMAX with dubstep, you know I'm saying?
ZJ: That's what it could be!
DS: IMAX WITH DUBSTEP...
ZJ: It's already happening. I'm not bashing it, all I'm trying to say is when an artist takes that and is like "what else can I do with that to reach into the audience and not just make it another television show, another spectator sport? How can I include people into this wackiness?"
DS: We like to bring our fans up to dance with animal heads sometimes.
ZJ: People are interesting, it's fun to mess around with them. I mean, I can see us artists being scary and you like having your wall and you don't have to deal with it but people want to get on stage and act stupid and they love it.
TC: That's part of the animal masks for me. When I'm playing and I put a mask on, I can be anyone I want, anyone I didn't want to be.
EM: I'm seeing a lot more artists these days, putting these masks on.
TC: It actually makes a lot of sense. It takes the person out of it, and puts in a character and that's super fun to mess with
EM: With your live performances, I know you have a lot props and you have to build your stage. Does that limit the venues you can go to?
ZJ: We actually don't fit on the stage, and we're not going to be able to put all of our stuff on it. We're going to have to take out some of the front boxes which doesn't affect the show much, but there's just not enough room. So yes.
TC: We need a stage that's the size of more of a theater-sized stage, as opposed to some rock venue. The rock venues that will fit us, the capacity is too much, we get filled out, something like that. There's a lot of different variables that go into it, but our crew and staff have worked really hard to figure out which ones we will be able to do.
EM: So you are at least able to adapt a bit.
ZJ: We are very good at adapting. You should have seen some of the places last tour, it was amazing. We have to tilt like that *hand gestures*. Remember that place?
EM: Right now, you guys are touring and promoting Act 2, of A Thousand Faces. For anyone who doesn't know, can you describe the Acts and what they're trying to convey, if anything?
DS: The whole A Thousand Faces album and show is a concept album that's us following Joseph Campbell's The Hero's Journey as a structure for each track. So we made 19 songs, and we split it into two acts. The whole show is Act 1 and Act 2, and the music we just call it Act 1 and Act 2 so we can get by with two releases. We put out Act 1 in the fall, and Act 2 just came out for free. You can get it on BitTorrent or BandCamp. It's an adventure, the whole show is an adventure too. It's sort of what it's been about for us, to create an adventure for the audience to go through and have their own experience. It's been our biggest piece of work we've ever done.
TC: It's the first time we've all headed into an album like this. It's the first time we've ever headed into a concept album, something that has like a saga attached to it, a story. It's also the first time we made an album that's a show, so it's meant to be played this way. We will be able to take these songs and put them into different sets, but it's really neat to actually go and perform the show from the beginning to the end through the journey.
EM: For Act 1, I personally loved the song "Beelzebub". I understand that you guys teamed up with Les Claypool for that. How did that come to be?
TC: My buddy was in his band for awhile and that led to my band opening up for them on tour. And then Beats Antique for Les on tour at a later time. We were doing this album and we thought, "We need a double character, who do we want to collaborate on that?" Les Claypool came up, I had his number so I texted him.
ZJ: He did one pass through for his voice. He sent a file for his voice for the music, and it was just one thing that he was just kind of riffin' ...
DS: He didn't listen to the song when he did it...
ZJ: It wasn't two-timing at all, and it was so amazing.
TC: It was really cool because it doesn't go with it, but it does. It works really well.
ZJ: Of course, it's perfect. I"m sure that's how he works.
TS: His bass playing in the song itself is so rhythmic, and his voice sort of out of timed, so it works really well. He's just making all these statements in it like he's got horrible breath...
DC: Breath smells of barnacles.
TS: Yeah! He's the devil.
ZJ: You're gonna love the video!
DS/ZJ: Have you seen the music video? The clay animation one?
EM: I don't think so!
ZJ: You should check it out on YouTube!!
EM: Is there anyone else you are trying to collaborate with?
ZJ: We've been trying to collaborate with Björk since the beginning of time.
DS: We have a very long list.
ZJ: Reggie Watts...
DS: We got to collaborate with Alam Khan, who is an amazing sarod player. He's not that well known in the pop world but his father was the guy who helped bring Robbie Shankar over here and studied with him. He taught The Beatles Indian music so he was a influence to Indian music. But yeah, we hope to keep reaching out to a bunch of different artists we respect.
EM: Act 2 dropped not too long ago, will there be an Act 3?
DS/ZJ/TC: (laughs) Noooooooooo
TC: Who knows what's in the future honestly. It definitely feel like a whole piece of work. You really want it to all sit together as one thing and make sure the people understand that it's a beautiful thing.
ZJ: Yeah, it's been a beautiful ride to see it, too. It's completion, and I think it was a really big, intense burst. I think we're ready to sit back and let the art speak for itself for awhile and figure out where we want to go next.
EM: Well that about wraps it all up. Anything else you want to say? Comments? Shoutouts? Announcements? Favorite color?
TC: Grey, black, blue, and brown.
DS: You can download Act 2 (A Thousand Faces Act 2) for free...
TC: Or you can donate to our BandCamp page, support the artists. Otherwise we're fully giving it away for free on BitTorrent and on there you'll have a bundle that you can download stems to remix videos, a bunch of pictures, and a deeper explanation of what it is that we're doing. And yeah, shoutouts to Montrey!!!
Well, there you have it. As you may have learned, all three of them are full of personality and life which most definitely shows in their performances. Later that night, I caught their act, and they performed true to their words. In addition, David recently launched a new project called Golden Lips Of Silence (GLOS), which is a much more eclectic compared to the works of Beats Antique. His latest tune "The Unforgettable" can be streamed below, as well as some handpicked tunes from A Thousand Faces Act 2. Be sure to check out additional pictures of the show! They are still touring, and I highly suggest you see them in action if they happen to trek across your home turf. I sure as hell did.
Time to get weird.
*All pictures photographed by Allison Gutierrez
- Beats Antique Tour Schedule
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- Beats Antique on SoundCloud
- Download A Thousand Faces Act 2