An experimental industrial noise trio from Denver, Echo Beds is currently working on their first full-length release, Colony Collapse, expected to release later this year or in early 2015. Performing this Saturday at Eslinger Gallery for the UMS, Echo Beds’ bass player and vocalist, Keith Curts, shared his insights into the local music scene and the band’s career to-date in this exclusive AXS interview.
AXS: Are you all Denver natives? If not, where is everyone originally from?
Keith Curts: If you have ever spent any length of time with Tom (Nelsen - metal drums/ assorted percussion/vocals) you know that he is most certainly an alien. I can't stay still for too long. Ben (Krajenke - reserve member/metal percussion) is 100% Detroit.
AXS: What brought Echo Beds together?
Keith: A few years ago our other bands (Glass Hits/Vicious Women) played some shows together and we got to talking about experimental ideas and politics. I was coming home from a month tour with another project and had one more show to go. He called from Kalamazoo and told our friend booking it that he was gonna do it alone under the moniker ECHO BEDS. When he got home he then begged Tom to play the show. We practiced for 25 minutes.
AXS: Where was your first show in Denver, and what was the experience like? Who else did you play with at the show?
Keith: After our initial 25 minute brainstorming session we played that same night with MjolniirDXP, Speedwolf, and The Body at Rhinoceropolis. Fast forward over four years later, and we're still making outsider art from the inside.
AXS: Have any Denver musicians inspired Echo Beds?
Keith: The landscape of Denver's musicians/artists changes so much from week to week...when we started we had a lot of support (and still do) from a few bands/individuals. As time has gone on we feel a kinship and shared admiration with bands such as Pythian Whispers, Sterile Garden,Page 27, Hot White, MjolniirDXP, Deth Spa, Itchy O, Tripp Nasty, Snake Rattle Rattle Snake, In The Company of Serpents, Kevin Costner Suicide Pact, Swells to name a few.
AXS: What projects is Echo Beds currently working on?
Keith: We are getting ready for a week up the West Coast in August. We're playing with some great bands and can't wait to hit the road. There is also a two-week stint through the Midwest in which we will play Terma Festival in Minneapolis. our good friends in The Funeral and The Twilight booked this---check them out cuz they're awesome!)
We are also working diligently on our first LP titled Colony Collapse, which we hope to release on vinyl before the end of the year or early next year on our own imprint, Temporal Decompression. Truth be told, we are always working on something.
AXS: What else is Echo Beds involved in locally, either as individuals or as a group?
Keith: Ben and I are bartenders. Tom is working on an algorithm that will one day make a Mars landing possible for humans. We play in other bands around town as well (Munly and the Lupercalians, Glass Hits, Deep Satisfaction) and we do assorted things like screen print posters for local shows and help to set up shows for touring bands. We are activists in our daily lives and aware that every decision is a political one so we make choices accordingly. We also lend our support to political organizations, mystery schools, and secret societies. been doing this DIY thing since way before the invention of the hashtag. #notourfirstrodeo
AXS: Does Echo Beds have a goal in mind for the sound the band produces? Are there certain influences or themes the band tries to inject into its own music?
Keith: Our sound was originally dictated by necessity. Meaning, we didn't have much in the way of instrumentation- and we didn't desire a guitar, bass, drums, vocals set-up. It started on the floor and quickly evolved to having legs of it's own, literally and figuratively.
In that time we have made a concerted effort to remain in control of what sounds are created and where they come from, often leaving room for unintended mistakes to flourish within the context of a piece. (Accentuate the accident- a lesson learned from Brian Eno)
It's great to see people's reactions when we are setting up at a show...like the recent Westword Showcase ...you could read the bewilderment in the would be audience's eyes...and they were slack-jawed at the 50-gallon oil drums and hanging sheet metal placed unapologetically on the floor inches away from them and in front of two massive bass cabinets. It's not the normal way of doing things. In fact, it's harder to do it this way...harder that 24 years of being in bands has ever been...and worth every minute of it. It's taking the truest definition of the word "experiment" and throwing it all against the wall to see what sticks (a lesson learned by an early incarnation of PIL when unexpectedly their bassist quit- see Flowers of Romance).
We have no sequencers or samplers or drum machines. It's all created by us. The possibilities are limitless. More innovation less duplication.There is a raw quality and feeling of never really knowing what could happen. We grew up watching bands like that in small rooms..some of those shows have since become the stuff of legend and there was always a sense of something going haywire at any moment. It was dangerous, exciting, and above all unpredictable. We aim to keep that spirit alive in a purely authentic way.
AXS: For the UMS attendee who has never seen or heard Echo Beds, what would you tell them to entice them to watch your set?
Keith: I will let our wonderful friend and peer Tom Murphy say it for us: "Echo Beds is to noise or the avant-garde now what Suicide was to the New York underground scene in the 1970s. These are not percussive sounds and textures for the sake of a cheap startle; they work in the context of unconventional songs and compositions. With its distinctive approach to rhythm, Echo Beds is effectively creating a new industrial music to reflect the harsh realities of the current era."
You might also want to bring ear plugs.
AXS: What would Echo Beds’ ideal live show look like? Where would it take place?
Keith: We really tried for the upcoming Swans show...but that didn't pan out...so I think we'd be just fine going back in time and helping Missing Foundation start the Tompkins Square Park Riots in 1988.We also would have loved to play with Death Grips (RIP).
AXS: Besides your upcoming performance at the UMS, what other shows are you looking forward to this summer?
Ben: Swans will be great. Curse are coming in October and they rule! As does Styrofoam Sanchez - they're like nothing you've ever seen. The problem is no one knows about these bands...or shows..Denver needs to get it's collective head outta the sand. You miss a lot when you walk around with your ears fixed to the eternal hype machine.
AXS: What has Echo Beds learned in its four years together?
Keith: You cannot trust anyone else with what is important to you. It will never be as important to them.
AXS: What do you enjoy most about Denver’s music scene, and why?
Keith: Some of the people here are really genuine and authentic. We really enjoy those people and have a lot of love and respect for them. We don't have much use for scenes. We do what we do because it's part of our DNA. It's been more than half a lifetime at this point. We don't know anything else. Eternal gratitude to Tom Murphy for doing all he has to champion the real underground. He's the best thing Denver has going for it.