Just a day after the release of its latest album “Electric River,” genre-bending trio Dirtwire is filling EOS Lounge with its unique mix of world music, blues, and electronica, a musical cocktail that band member Evan Fraser dubbed “swamptronica.” While each is a significant factor in the group’s music, when Mr. Fraser and his bandmates Mark Reveley and Dave Satori take the EOS stage on October 19, their sound’s world music aspect may stand out most to the uninitiated, or to anyone who has never seen a band play instruments like the fujara or kamala ngoni.
Incorporating musical instruments of various cultures from around the world, Dirtwire’s performance will feature each of its three members switching from instruments as common as guitar, banjo, and harmonica to obscure as an African harp and a Czech overtone flute. The band’s interest in world music goes back to its earliest days, when Mr. Fraser, Mr. Reveley, and Mr. Satori met as students at the California Institute of the Arts. There they studied different musical traditions from around the world and in the years since have picked up new instruments traveling. Together and separately, they have traveled to places like Kazakhstan, Japan, Mexico, South America, and India.
On top of playing percussion and singing, Mr. Fraser plays harmonica, jawharp, kalimba, melodica, and the African harp kamale ngoni. In an interview with the News-Press, Mr. Fraser said the kamale ngoni is his favorite of the many instruments he plays during the band’s live shows.
“It can be very expressive in a lot of different ways. It can be very rhythmic, groovy, and melodic,” he said.
Mr. Reveley plays the one-string electric bass, twelve string electric guitar, jawharp, the Czech overtone flute fujara, cigarbox guitar, and sings, while Mr. Satori mostly plays the traditional western instruments like banjo, electric video, jaw harp, melodica, and snare drum. This may seem like a plethora of instruments, but according to Mr. Fraser it isn’t even close to the total number of instruments that he and his bandmates possess. As the group picks up different instruments during its travels, the members attempt to figure out a way to incorporate the new acquisition into their sound. However, there are plenty that don’t make the cut.
Determining whether or not a new instrument is right for Dirtwire’s music requires consideration on whether it is a supporting instrument or a potential lead, as well as how it fits into the overall sound. If a new instrument is added, it is important to the band that the addition is given enough space to stand out.
“We try to give that unique sound its own space in the music,” Mr. Fraser said.
However, even if an instrument makes it onto an album, that is not a guarantee that the band will bring it on stage for live performances. In addition to considering how the instrument fits into the group’s overall sound, concert instruments have to be easily transportable and be in a key that fits most of the band’s live set. Of all the instruments in the trio’s arsenal yet to experience stage time, Mr. Fraser said Mr. Reveley’s bagpipes are the one he’d most like to find a way to incorporate into live shows. But that won’t be easy.
“They are temperamental, to say the least,” Mr. Fraser said.
Dirtwire’s EOS gig will feature songs from its soon to be released album “Electric River,” due for release on October 18. The new material includes the band’s latest single “Talking Bird” and the track “Cannonball,” the latter described as Mr. Fraser as a new audience favorite. According to a press release, the former features guest vocals from singer Aya and an appearance by Mbilou, a musician from Gabon who plays mungongo, a mouth bow. As Mr. Fraser recalls, the collaboration with Mbilou came about when the Dirtwire members saw a YouTube video of the mungongo player and “fell in love with it.” All proceeds from the “Talking Bird” single are being donated to Mbilou’s tribe to benefit education efforts in Gabon. Dirtwire’s performance at EOS Lounge begins at 7:00 p.m. and tickets can be purchased on the band’s website www.dirtwire.net. EOS Lounge is located at 500 Anacapa St.