Evan Fraser of Dirtwire on developing compassion and authenticity through music
Interview by Parisa Eshrati
Just after wrapping up the first leg of their winter tour, multi-instrumentalist Evan Fraser spoke with T&E in an email interview about all things Dirtwire. We discussed the universal nature of music, creating harmony with songwriting, and what fans can look forward to from the group in the following year.
Everyone in the group is a multi-instrumentalist, and I know you in particular have a collection of over 200 instruments. I’m sure you’ve all had to spend a lot of time learning the intricacies of each instrument – but have you found that there is a common thread between all of them?
Yes -- the common thread between all the instruments I've collected for me personally is that I'm deeply inspired by each of the sounds they make in one way or another. I gravitate towards the organic, vibey sounds that conjure the muse and keep me in touch with the natural world. Each of the instruments remind me of each of the elements of nature. Some ground me, some are like the sounds of water, others give me lift off. They are the tools I use to connect and reconnect to nature
When it comes to improvisation at your live shows, do you feel that the physical environment of where you’re playing dictates which instruments you’d want to use and the sounds you want to explore? If so, are there parallels between that current environment and where that instrument originates?
Absolutely. The room we play in is also an instrument. Acoustically, in my opinion, the best effect is achieved when the artist considers the size of the venue and setting of the performance and makes choices based on these factors including the time of day or night and general mood of the moment. When we played Red Rocks Amphitheater, which is a huge space, I really enjoyed hearing our ambient sounds bounce off of the rocks from the the stage and that inspired the way I played that day.
Since you guys met in college, you’ve been in various bands exploring funk and all other genres. How did you know that Dirtwire was going to be the group you wanted to continue pursuing?
It just worked out that way, really. We've always enjoyed playing together and making music and we've always been great friends. Since we all live in the Bay Area that has made it easy too.
Y’all have been very engrained in the festival circuit ever since the group started. As performers, I’m curious what your perceptions of the festival scene are as its grown and become more of a popularized community. As environmentalists, do you have concerns as these fests become bigger? Where do you hope to see them evolve?
It's been an amazing journey playing at different festivals over the years, watching and participating in their evolution. Each festival has their own way of doing things, the more years go by, the more it gets dialed ideally. That's not always the case but we're especially proud of the eco consciousness that you usually find in the western half of the country. The example needs to be set so that the bar is raised to a level that inspires everyone to follow suite with their habits. If those habits make more economic sen$e that really helps too.
I want to talk a little bit about your collaboration with the late great Kongar-ol Ondar. Aside from direct musical inspiration, what other lessons did you learn from him and how did it influence your outlook on the nature of collaboration in general?
Ondar was a very special human and an amazing artist who we were very lucky to create with. He showed us how to be an musical ambassador and a voice for nature. He never held back and sang his heart out every time
There’s a song called “Lonesome Cowboy Pt. II” by a man named Arthur Miles which has some really interesting and unexpected parallels to your music. It was recorded in the 1920s and mixes cowboy/Americana roots with a style of throat singing that he independently created. I feel like it’s amazing to see similar blends of music almost a century apart.
Yes that's pretty cool stuff! What's so cool about that is that it shows a link between two different horse cultures on two different continents -- Asia and America. Throat singing is such a amazing sound. It's a great thing to do as you ride your horse on long distances I imagine. It's one of those things that really does have more impact in a quiet setting. You can find that in nature.
You guys have stated how you learn a lot about compassion and authenticity through the sound and materials of the instruments you use. How does this translate for how you’re coping with the current state of political affairs on your Bernie Sanders 2020 Tour?
We do what we can. We do our best to remain united and be a voice of hope in these strange times. We try to lead by example and help bring the people together. We dare to say something with our art. We use it for the purpose of standing in solidarity with all those who stand up and do something for what they believe in. We are here to listen and serve the causes of social and environmental justice. We are here to be a voice for nature, create harmony and peace through music, and have a good time doing it!
Let’s talk about the new single, “Shish Kabobs”. How did this song come into fruition? There’s definitely a more straightup cowboy aesthetic in this track (as well as with your newly adopted outfits) – is this something we can expect to hear more of in your next full-length?
Mark Reveley, David Satori and myself all contribute our special musical ingredients to throw on the grill. "Shish Kabob" is a fun mashup of our ideas over a space bandit groove.
Dirtwire likes to try different sounds and rhythms together and see how it turns out. Following our ears all the way of course! The Wild West was a pretty diverse place too so we're having a lot of fun with that. We'll see what happens
What can Dirtwire fans look forward to in the upcoming year?
This next year we'll be dropping tracks and releasing more of our latest music. We'll be touring and bringing the good vibes.
For more information on Dirtwire and tour dates:
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