Telepath is poised for big things in 2009. After less than three years of constant touring, the release of two full-length albums (2006’s Fire One and the recently released Contact), a remix album (_The Remixes_) and a steady increase in positive press and show attendance, the future looks bright for the Asheville, NC live electronic trio. Their tasteful concoction of world beats, from West African and Jamaican dub to Indian and Middle Eastern hues, form a rather seamless sound that’s catching fire all over the East coast.
While there maintains to be a plethora of up-and-coming acts vying for that coveted recognition amongst the masses and critics alike, Telepath capably covers an entirely different swath of style and music than most. More along the vein of Thievery Corporation and Fela Kuti, they take the listener on a globe-trotting adventure into the depths of the universal culture that is music. Though only three members, Telepath produces a sound much more full than its parts, a mnge of dance-inducing music from all stretches of the globe, combined into a colorfully cohesive style, offering a fresh departure from the same old sound.
Currently on tour in support of Contact, Jambands caught up with bassist Curt Heiny to discuss the band’s blossoming sound, their trademark “Reworld” sound and just what it takes to get noticed in an overcrowded scene.
So let’s delve right into the meat of it. Tell me about Telepath, who you are and what you’re all about.
From the bigger standpoint, we’re trying to create this community-minded sound and a scene where we can bring in many different voices from all different genres of music from different parts of the world and consequently make that into Telepath.
Essentially just cover the globe, huh?
I guess you could say that. Musically, it’s important for us to be able to bring different cultures and different styles of music and incorporate that into this Western style of music. We see all the beauty of music in other, differing cultures. In doing so, we want to create a place where people can come knowing that they come to our show and gain from it and leave with a better perspective.
After listening to both your first album, Fire One and your new album, Contact, as well as your Remix album and a couple lives shows, I really gained a true sense of the band’s quick maturation process in the last two years. Did you make a conscious effort to redefine your sound or is it just a simple act of maturation?
I think it’s both. We’ve only been together for two and half years. That first year was all the process of feeling out the music and defining it. For Contact, we made a conscious effort to streamline that into a fluid Indian, Arabic and Jamaican style dub album. Our first album, Fire One, is all over the place and not as refined. This album was way more cohesive.
It’s been definitely a learning process for us. How do we get the songs from the CD and incorporate them into the live setting type thing. That tends to lend to the overall sound and a little more of an organic feel.
With the live electronic scene boasting an overabundance of bands all vying for the success seen by the likes of STS9, The Disco Biscuits and Pnuma, how do you differentiate Telepath from the rest?
We are just three of us. We don’t sound like of them. We want mostly to bring the live show even stronger than the actual album so that our fans away with more respect for the music.
Let’s discuss the dynamic of the trio sound. To me, more often than not there seems to be a void left by the absence of that fourth or fifth member. How do you manage to fill the holes and spaces that plague the fullness of many trios?
We have no guitar, no vocalist so the burden falls completely on the three of us. We found out a way to delegate the overall sound responsibilities. Whether it be Mike (drummer) triggering samples and loops or Michael (keyboards) using Abelton Live and MIDI triggering while also playing melodies live. He’s this crazy kind of wizard guy when it comes to that. Then there’s me playing the bass and having to balance my bass playing with synth and Ableton on my lap top. We all have little things that we do to throw in extra stuff here and there.
What kind of impact does touring and the music business and the life that all entails have on a burgeoning band like Telepath’s personal lives?
I think we all feel extremely blessed to be in the position that we’re in. So many of the people that have supported us and allowed us to be able to make a living on what we love to do. It’s an amazing thing.
This is a serious thing in the fact that it supports families and it supports lives. We believe that conscious music needs to be out there for the public. So to us, it’s a dream come true. We’ve all had music in our lives for a long time (Curt is the youngest member of the group at 31). Since the fifth grade for me. Ironically, I failed music class in college to go out and play shows. Music has been a huge part of everyone’s lives since the beginning.
You guys do spend a large chunk of time on the road each year. Discuss the trials and tribulations of being an up-and-coming band that needs to do whatever it takes to get the word and sound out.
We all like touring and it’s important to us to have people hear what we’re doing. The first year of Telepath was a lot rougher than it is now. Life on the road isn’t all partying. It’s a business and you have to treat it like that. It’s hard being away from our families, but at the same time there’s also the Bigger Picture.
On Contact, you have such a huge cast of guest players. How did you hand pick who’s going to play on the album and where?
We know most of the players on the album. Most are local or playing in others bands we know. The way we do it is put the songs together and then we create this sound for this part.
Something I’ve noticed with you guys is the deep political undercurrent found in much of your work, especially songs like “Chaos Theory” and “Global Rights.” What’s your take on music as a platform artists can use to make greater statements about the state of the world we live in?
Music is a universal language and it transcends race, color and religion. It has been and it will continue to be. We are using the beauty of other cultures and molding this into a melting pot of sound. There in beauty in so many other cultures and other music. The last eight years have a lot of people thinking that we’re supposed to fear these other cultures, Iraq, PakistanThat’s not what the music is all about. Music is a platform to showcase the beauty of culture and dispel those fears.
How did the band’s interest in Indian and Middle Eastern sonic textures come about?
Michael played in a Middle Eastern ensemble a while back, so it all started with him. We all individually listen to a whole range of music, so it was kind of like, this is where I’m coming from, check it out. Michael was probably the biggest component and leader of bringing in the Indian and Arabic sounds to the band.
To finish up, a few of the articles I’ve read about Telepath touch upon the definition of your sound as “Reworld.” Tell me about the term “Reworld.” What exactly does that mean?
Reworld refers to taking the world approach and spinning it back to Western music. In other words, taking the Western style and reincorporating it back into what we do and the music we make.