NoiseTrade One-on-One

Interview with Beats Antique

In addition to streaming their brand new album Shadowbox, check out more of Beats Antique’s story with our newest NoiseTrade One-on-One featuring all three members: Zoe Jakes, Tommy Cappel, and David Satori. Dig in to discover the concept behind the term “shadowbox,” where their truly unique musical mixture comes from, and what it was like to record part of the album in Israel and Russia.

NoiseTrade: Shadowbox is not just the name of your new album, but also the name of your new tour and your store in Berkeley. What significance does the word hold for you as a band?

Zoe Jakes: One of the choices we have made as a visually dynamic performance art group and band, is that we wanted to create a look using organic elements. So instead of an LED screen, we have giant geometric lanterns that glow and pulse with our music, and a shadow screen that we use with cutouts and our own bodies. Just like a shadowbox, the show concept is about creating worlds within worlds, but using a more “analog” approach.

NT: While a lot of bands try to claim they are an amalgamation of genres, you guys come by it honestly. How does the songwriting usually play out for your eclectic sound?

Tommy Cappel: Each of us has our own life experience we bring to Beats Antique. It’s always fun experimenting with how a song idea unfolds. A lot of times we let it grow organically to see what comes to the song. I think the important part of it is that it’s not forced. Our songwriting process usually begins with a sketch beat or a performance idea, and then we decide what elements are involved, including instrumentation, production style, vibe etc. Once we have our heads wrapped around something solid, we talk about collaborative opportunities (Alam Khan, Preservation Hall Jazz Band, Lafa Taylor, Tatyana Kalmykova). We draw from a local and international community of musicians that we’ve developed over the years.

NT: While the majority of Shadowbox was recorded Oakland, you guys also recorded some in Israel and Russia while on tour. What drove that decision and what was the experience like?

Cappel: While we were in Moscow, we were introduced to Tatyana Kalmykova, a Russian traditional folk artist. The idea was to create a sonic bridge between Russia and America. The song “Three Sisters” is the result of that collaboration.

In Tel Aviv we were able to link up with a few musicians of different traditions and backgrounds and got some ideas down for the track “Le Refuge,” which asks the world for peace in French and Arabic.

While in New Orleans, we had the opportunity to go to The Preservation Hall and record there for three days and came up with the song “Let It All Go.”

Taking time to connect with local musicians in other cultures is one of the highlights of touring. We take all these recordings back to our studio in Oakland and add all the bells and whistles!

NT: Your upcoming tour promises “shadows, light, Indonesian shadow puppetry, custom-created lanterns, dance, storytelling, crowd participation, and more.” How does all of that come together to make a Beats Antique show and how has it grown from your earliest days as a band?

Jakes: All three of us – myself, Tommy (Cappel) and David (Satori) – have a history with performance art, and we all feel that what we create for the stage is visually as engaging as our music. So we borrow from our earlier experiences: shadow screens, crazy props, interacting with the audience, telling stories…it all starts with us sitting down and talking about what interests us and how we can do something unusual and fun

Your new album Shadowbox is your 10th album and it comes during your 10th year as band. In what ways is your new album different from your debut and in what ways is it similar?

David Satori: We definitely feel like Shadowbox touches on our older styles while pushing our boundaries with new collaborations. Over the past 10 years we have experimented with so many styles and fusions and we still feel like we have barely scratched the surface. We like to bend genres and mash-up cultures. We feel like we have developed a signature sound but we are always looking to push out side our comfort zones.

NT: Finally, both your music and your live show are incredibly cinematic and theatrical. Where did those audio-visual influences originate for you individually and are there any other bands/performers that do the same for you from a fan’s perspective?

Satori: We wanted to work with shadows on this tour so we explored a couple different avenues with this theme. Shadowbox became the most open ended interpretation of this idea and gave us the freedom to explore. We found these amazing sculpture artists in Oakland called Hybycozo. They make these beautiful geometric future space lanterns that look like they are from another planet. We thought these artists were perfect for the Shadowbox tour so we asked if they wanted to collaborate on our stage design and they said yes.

Over the years, we have been influenced by many bands. We love what the Flaming Lips have done. Primus is a big influence. We have been blown away by Florence and the Machine’s set design. In the electronic scene, we have been influenced by our friends Bassnectar and Amon Tobin. We love it when any artist pushes the envelope.

When writer Will Hodge (@will_hodge) isn’t shadowboxing, baby (I wanna be ready for what you do), you can find him running off at the keyboard about music, concerts, and vinyl at My So-Called Soundtrack