EOTO will bring improvisational electric jams to Park City | ParkRecord.com

EOTO will bring improvisational electric jams to Park City

Michael Travis, left, and Jason Hann are EOTO, an improvisational electronic-dance music duo that emerged from the Colorado-based rock and jam band String Cheese Incident. (Photo courtesy Tsunami Publicity)

When String Cheese Incident fans heard the band’s percussionists Jason Hann and Michael Travis were forming a side project called End of Time Observatory, now known as EOTO, they initially thought it would be a tribal rhythm group.

It would seem logical since SCI has nurtured a following by playing jam-inspired compositions with acoustic, electric and lap-steel guitars, mandolins and violins.

But Hann and Travis wanted to play improvisational electronic-dance music.

"Early on, there were all kinds of misconceptions and people couldn’t figure out what we were trying to do," Hann said during a phone call from Springfield, Ill. "I mean, I play drums and Travis plays keyboards, bass and guitar in String Cheese Incident, so right away, EOTO busts any notion of what we do in that band.

"Then we add computers on stage and basically set ourselves up to fail with certain String Cheese fans that might have wanted to see us do something more earthy," he said. "Right out of the gate, we lost a lot of people who might have wanted to support us."

Hann and Travis will see what Park City fans think when EOTO comes to Park City Live tonight, March 13.

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EOTO, which can either be pronounced "ee oh tee oh" or "ee oh toe," started as an outlet for the two rhythm men to indulge in their whims, Hann said.

"We got together mostly to play on different instruments and we would do that after we would do String Cheese practice," he said. "It was mostly for us to get these musical urges out of our systems musically."

However, the two found they enjoyed the music they made.

"As we progressed, we added more toys to the equipment and began recording ourselves," Hann said. "At some point, we decided to play the music in front of people, so we started booking some shows."

That proved to be an interesting chore.

"We don’t have really any songs or a set list, which makes us different than many bands on the planet," Hann said guffawed. "So, the first thing we had to do was see if we could actually pull off a show.

"I mean, since we did a lot of late-night jams, we knew we could play improvisational music for hours at a time," he said. "And while we felt pretty certain we could do this, we needed to see if other people liked what we were doing."

The goals for the first club show was to test the music and see if the two could hold an audience’s attention.

"We wanted to see if we could keep people dancing the whole night," Hann said. "If we look out and see people not getting down, then we knew we weren’t doing our job."

But people caught on, which made the next step in EOTO’s evolution easier.

"At first, no one really knew who we were and that was kind of challenging, because it’s hard to get people dancing in an empty club," he said with a laugh. "Once people saw us once, they liked us, so we just figured we would just tour a lot and people would get to know us a little at a time."

Looking back, the idea of an electronic-dance band emerging from the ranks of the String Cheese Incident isn’t that far fetched, Hann said.

"Travis and I have both have been around electronic music for quite sometime," Hann said.

Also, Travis and String Cheese bassist Michael Kang have known electronic musician Lorin Ashton from Bassnectar since meeting him at the Burning Man festivals in 1998.

"He and other producers like (David) Tipper, and Sound Tribe Sector Nine, were all artists who we have listening to since back then," Hann said. "And for Travis and I, it was fun to make music that other bands didn’t want to recreate."

Hann said he likes that playing electronic music on his acoustic drum set is challenging.

"For me, imitating the drum parts that were originally programmed music, is still pretty hard, because when I originally listened to electronic music, I took those beats for granted," he said. "Now, I have to pay attention and then keep that relentless rhythm. But it’s so cool to hear a regular drum set in the midst of the electronic stuff."

"In fact, we have a lot of fun setting up our own loops to jam over," he said. "That lends itself a lot more to playing electronic-dance music rather than jazz-fusion or straight-up funk."

These days the live shows include improvisational beats and soundscapes, and laser light shows.

"We wanted to add something to the production that weren’t the typical lasers that shoot green beams into the air," Hann said. "The ones we have make a lot of designs and, at some points, make the audience look like it’s under water or in some other atmosphere.

We just wanted the visuals to be different and in the moment."

EOTO will perform at Park City Live, 427 Main St., today, March 13, at 8 p.m. Tickets are $17.50 and available at http://www.ticketcake.com . The concert is open to adults ages 21 and older. For more information, visit http://www.parkcitylive.net.