Mile High Music Festival: One eskimO on its bare-bones, stripped down approach to music

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Creating music that alternately recalls shades of John Mayer and Jack Johnson with a strong soul music influence, One eskimO and its song "Kandi" have slowly been infiltrating eardrums since the release of the act's debut last fall. Starting with a casual mention of the band's name about six months ago on the popular Lefsetz Letter, the band's popularity has grown exponentially through word of mouth, a prime appearance on the Ellen DeGeneres show, and by virtue of increasing spins on all important Triple A radio stations around the globe.

The U.K.-based act, which is making it's second trip to Colorado this weekend (the first being a KBCO listener appreciation show at the Soiled Dove a few months ago), is becoming something of a favorite here on the Front Range. In advance of the band's appearance at the Mile High Music Festival this Saturday, we spoke with bassist and horn player Jamie Sifton and got to know the band a little better.

Westword (Dutch Seyfarth): What's it like where you come from back home, musically speaking?

Jamie Sifton: Where I'm from, Wales, people are very passionate about music. So much that our neighboring nations call us "the land of song." Yet I think it's the melting pot of London where musicians like myself travel across Britain and the world to get together and share ideas.

The U.K. is teaming with wonderful acts and musicians that form very left field and abstract ideas. Go to any small music venue and you're likely to hear future music in its raw and embryonic stage. One year down the line, you'll invariably hear it again -- or sounds similar -- on your radio. It really is a city rich with musical talent.

Ww: There seems to be simplistic, stripped-down, bare bones approach to your band when it comes to songwriting and instrumentation. Can you elaborate?

JS: The core instrumentation of our album was recorded live, [with] the four of us in a room after weeks in a rehearsal situation honing and tweaking the sounds of our acoustic instruments. Its a wonderful thing for us, as a band and as musicians, to have been given the time and funding, especially in the days where so much editing and autotune is out there as a crutch -- to know that it was a moment in time captured on tape.

Honesty and simplicity were definitely words within our ethos before we sat in the live room and set the tapes running. Of course we all had tons of ideas melodically and sonically that we wanted to paint all over the core sound but we always came back to delivering honest life through simple sounds. It takes time, control and patience to keep music simple.

Ww: Why do you think it's took so long for people to discover your band and its breakout song "Kandi"?

JS: Our album came out September '09 -- though you're right; it had taken some time from the day we completed the album. That was mainly down to the fact that we didn't want to short-change people from our ideas and to give enough time to the world we were trying to create to invite people into. We wanted everything to be right.

We were given the opportunity to animate our whole album after winning a British animation award for our animation that accompanied "Hometime". Our animations took two years to complete! As soon as everything was feeling right, we started touring. It was amazing when we finally got on stage and started growing support.

Ww: Does American music hold any influence to the band's sound?

JS: Big question! One for musicologists and musical historians, I reckon! But I feel we definitely must be. With a Candy Station sample, we can't say "no." All of us in the band enjoy music and art from across the globe we feel inspire us. As musicians, our ears are never closed. Although we feel our album sounds very British, American music has had an enormous role in forming us as musicians.

Ww: Rythmically, One eskimO seems to embrace a hypnautically precise, driving, tribal folk sound rather than bombastic rock and roll drum fills and cymbal crashes. Where did this sound come from?

JS: The inception was down to us all wanting to do something different and taking some sense of maturity to our approach. With the omission of heavy hard-hit distorted drums and cymbals it gives the music breathing space. The pen is mightier than the drumstick! Hearing the words of a song is important to us. Playing wooden, acoustic instruments can have much more of an intensity too.

I feel it's easier to hear the subtleties, nuance and emotion of the player. We feel this can have more power. Instead of kicking and punching the life out of our listeners ears and emotions, we like to suck them in by hypnosis and then carry them willingly. But it's not just down to how or what we're playing; the arrangement gives all the words and subtle timbres their space, too. I believe this approach gives a longer-lasting, more intense impression on one's ears and emotions.

Ww: Is there any connection with the Gorillaz and One Eskimo? If so, can you talk about that relationship and how it came to be?

JS: We do share the same animators, [but] none personally or musically. "Passion pictures" completed and followed on the work that Kristian and his friend's company "gravy media" started, but that is the only link.

Ww: Name three things from Colorado -- besides the mountains -- that are memorable, that don't exist back from where your from:

JS: Number one: Fat Tire Ale. It's our favorite! Number two: Oxygen tanks backstage! Number three: Four beautiful seasons! There's plenty more, of course!


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