all photos by Jessy Plume for TRAffIK
The darlings of our Summer Soundtrack, Silverlake based Robotanists enjoyed a whirlwind season full of sunshine, radio airplay (KCRW), and lots of new friends. Two of the band members Sarah Ellquist and Daniel de Blanke have taken a few moments to bring you firsthand some of the highlights of their summer, as well as how they feel they’ve grown as a band. They even let you us in on what songs they wish they had written.
Daniel de Blanke – guitars, keys, songwriting
Sarah Ellquist – vocals, keys, songwriting
Preston Scott Phillips – percussion, drums, iphone
Keith Boyarsky – bass
TRAffIK: Where can we learn more about your band?
DANIEL: Google “robotanists” or go to http://robotanists.com
TRAffIK: How did you come together?
DANIEL: We were all in other bands, and then left those bands and formed this one. The social lubricant was alcohol and a fondness for screaming at the television. That, and Dostoevsky.
TRAffIK: How would you describe your sound?
DANIEL: Up-tempo sad music for amoral intellectuals
SARAH: Make-up sex
TRAffIK: How does the songwriting process work for you? Where does the inspiration come from?
SARAH: Dan and I are a song writing team, but every song is born in a different way, from a different place. I write all of the lyrics, but sometimes, I write the melody and Dan builds harmony from there, or vice versa. If either of us ever thinks that we’ve written a complete song, the other is there to edit and refine. We take everything to the rhythm section for the final seal of approval… and the rest is history. Lyrics come from a very personal place, but I try to craft them in a way that the listener can interpret as they choose. Music is a personal thing, I want listeners to make our music theirs.
DANIEL: I have three thousand song ideas that are half crafted at any given time. I generally force Sarah to listen to them until she starts singing melodic material.
TRAffIK: Lately you’ve been performing acoustically a lot more than we’d seen previously. Do you have a preference for either performing unplugged or plugged in?
SARAH: I think we all prefer the energy of playing as a full band, but performing with just an acoustic guitar is a great way to really showcase our songwriting. It’s liberating to strip things down and just let the melody and harmony dance with each other.
TRAffIK: What started this trend for you?
SARAH: I suppose you could say that most of our music starts out “acoustic” during the demo phase, but we started performing them that way after some friends of ours (the band Vanaprasta) asked us to come to the Bond St. Lounge at the Thompson Hotel in Beverly Hills over the summer and play a few songs. The next thing we knew we were getting weekly invites to perform all over LA. (more…)
all photos by Andrea Carroll courtesy of Robotanists
Unlit was a somewhat exclusive traveling night time house party started by British singer/songwriter Jont that I was lucky enough to attend a couple of times back in 2005 when I’d first moved to LA, before it’s lengthy hiatus set in. Since the parties featured live acoustic musical performances, I would imagine that it was thought best to keep the guest list to a minimum and therefore only invite core supporters of the movement to ensure that they wouldn’t be shut down. These parties have taken place not only here in the states, but also regularly occur in London, England where Jont spends much of his time.
Last Saturday Lady Di and I went to a daytime installment of Unlit.
When I got the invite, I was glad to see it coming back and even though I had been under the weather I knew I had to make it. Most of you know I am a strong supporter of creators in any of the arts collaborating with their peers and building their own communities that offer support to each other. Communities of this sort serve as incubators to great talent and sadly there are never enough of them.
The return took place poolside at the home of Tony Berg in Brentwood, who graciously lent his home to the event. People sat around the pool drinking, mingling, playing catch up, and enjoying the special acoustic performances as well as dj-ing by friend Jon Hershfield (www.isgoodmusic.com. Jon credits the original Unlit parties as being “where he learned to dj from the closet of Jont’s apartment.”
(click on images to enlarge)
Jont and Jon Hershfield alternated mcing/hosting duties saying a few kind words about each artist (which included Jont, Robotanists, Marvelous Toy, and Jay Matsueda, among many other guest appearances) prior to their performances.
The great thing about shows like Unlit, where the artists are forced to perform completely stripped down versions of their songs, is that true talent is easily identified. It is always great to see bands like our old friends in the Robotanists translate over well acoustically (which is not always the case with bands that have such a full live musical sound when plugged in). However, Lead singer Sarah Ellquist had no problem projecting her voice to the audience.
This was Lady Di’s first Unlit, and I think she came away with the same appreciation for it as I had after the first time I’d attended one almost 4 years ago.
Cheers to many more Unlits!