Dirtwire: Not limited by a recipe

By Caitlyn E. Glinski

Fusing the sounds of traditional instruments made from organic materials with electronic production, Dirtwire has enabled listeners to rethink the limits of a piece of music. Their deep appreciation for different music cultures and their aptitude for experimentation have led them to open up a new realm of experience through their music.

Dirtwire began when David Satori (Beats Antique) and Evan Fraser (The Dogon Lights) combined their diverse musical palettes into a project where they are not limited by a recipe. They met while attending school at the California Institute of the Arts (Cal Arts). Dirtwire started shortly before Beats Antique, but has been put on the back burner at times after Beats Antique started gaining momentum – though the duo has always returned to the project when it’s time to try out new musical ideas.

After moving to the Bay Area they decided to make a new project utilizing the new technology available to them (namely, Ableton Live). “It gave us unlimited options and new exciting possibilities for recording and editing,” Evan said. “David has grown a lot as a producer from Beats Antique, and me guesting in Beats Antique has been really influential on both sides… after Beats Antique took off, our time for Dirtwire was limited, but we kept at it.”

From the electronic influences of Beats Antique to the African influences from The Dogon Lights, Dirtwire’s eclectic sound is the result of a deep understanding of various forms of music combined paired with a genuine fascination and obsession with unique instruments and toying with new sounds. For Evan, this began as a child digging through his parents’ vinyl collection.

“[My parents] were avid collectors of all genres so exploring their collection opened a lot of doors and windows to different cultures in the pre-YouTube era when I was a kid,” he said.

His knowledge of music expanded to an even greater level when he attended Cal Arts. “I learned even more and more about music cultures of the world, the cross-colonization of rhythms and instruments, and styles between genres. Being exposed to great teachers from different music cultures really shaped my musical expression.”

His interest in collecting organic instruments stems from his love for nature and wanting to take small portable instruments outdoors. “I didn’t want to sound like everyone else, I didn’t want to play guitar like everyone else, I wanted to find new sounds…which led me to the mbira (thumb piano)…that was just the beginning of me starting to collect and teach myself how to play instruments.”

He now has a collection of 100 different instruments—along with David’s expansive collection— which he carefully chooses from to make the sounds of Dirtwire.

“I have keyboards but I really gravitate toward organic sounds—instruments made from plants, animals, instruments with skin on them, gourds, bamboo… I take a lot of pride in choosing each of the instruments that makes Dritwire.”

The duo combines elements of different musical realities to create a world with an new set of possibilities. This theme of combining different worlds is what led them to choose the surrealist artwork of their friend Brin Levinson for their album art. “We connected to his art because our music is a blend of the organic and the electronic, and there’s the juxtaposition there. And his art is a blend as well…he loves to put animals in these run-down, post-apocalyptic urban areas…we thought it was really beautiful and it also mirrored our aesthetic of showing two different worlds as one.”

Choosing the instrumentation and album art are just two parts of what Dirtwire is all about though. They carry out their reputation for combining two worlds into one in their performances as well. For them, performing is about combining the experience and energy of the audience with the experience and energy of the performer. “There’s an exchange between the audience and performer when you play a show and you’re both giving and receiving energy and when there’s mutual love in that, it makes things really high.”

They released their newest record, RipTide, in May and look forward to sharing it on their upcoming tour along the West Coast and the Southeast.

“We like sharing music with the people [that we play for]. It’s awesome, after you’ve been in the studio with just each other, to take your music to the people and see them dance to it and see how they react to the sound that you spent so much time creating.” Their immediate plans, along with touring, are to continue making great music and release more music videos. Eventually their goal is to take their music to South and Central America because they have been especially drawn to the music cultures in those regions.

Their June 7 show at the Wild Buffalo is a particularly special one. Evan grew up on Orcas Island and this will be the closest show to home that Dirtwire has played.

Published in the June 2015 issue of What’s Up!