Written by: Mikala Lugen | Photo(s) by: Via El Ten Eleven's Facebook
Travel Through The Stages Of Life With El Ten Eleven’s ‘Tautology’ [Interview]
Experiencing an unexpected tragedy or loss often provokes a period of self-reflection, a time to contemplate one’s own place and purpose in the world. While most of the world was navigating a global pandemic last year, El Ten Eleven’s Kristian Dunn found his own reflections on life emerging after his grandmother-in-law passed away. What transpired led to the creation of the post-rock duo’s most illustrious release of their career, Tautology.
Conceptualized as a sonic meditation on the arc of human life, Tautology is composed into three discs or “parts” that represent a life from teenage years, middle-age, and the end of life. Listening through the collection, you can hear the duo’s instrumental expression of each stage of life – veering from aggressive metallic riffs on disc one, to mid-tempo, melodic compositions on disc two, to closing off with sonic, ambient soundscapes for the slower, ending years of life on disc three.
Though both Dunn and bandmate Tim Fogarty have yet to reach the third stage of life, Dunn pays tribute to his loss for his inspiration for the ethereal story of music produced at the end of the collection.
“I don’t know what it’s like to be elderly. But my grandmother-in-law Frances McMaster was a very inspiring person. She was an amazing person and when she died the ideas just started flowing out of me,” Dunn told Volume.
While Tautology showcases the latest inventive arrangement from the duo, Dunn and Fogarty are just getting started. Since forming in 2002, the two have went on to record and release eight original full-length albums among four EPs. Tie that into their 750+ live shows and genre-defying ideology, the duo is at their most innovative and creative peak of their career.
At a first listen, you may assume four or five members make up the group, but the big, rich sound is both just Dunn and Fogarty utilizing all the bells and whistles in today’s music production software. Though placing an emphasis on the bass, Dunn will break out his double-neck guitar in the live performance setting, looping between the six-string guitar and the four-string bass. But while most of the duo’s sound is guitar-heavy, Dunn admits that there is actually little involvement from the guitar on the albums and attests that his bass grants him a plethora of sounds.
“Not having a singer is a big help to allow us to experiment with our sound,” Dunn says. “And since the only instrument besides drums is bass (mostly), I can really, really, really push the boundaries of what a bass can do. It wouldn’t be appropriate for me to be this crazy on bass in a ‘normal’ band. But in El Ten Eleven, I can go for it. I was pretty determined to play the double-neck at our shows so I just kept trying. Honestly, I’m a terrible guitar player. Early on I was just adding some guitar into our songs to get different tonalities. I haven’t used the double neck hardly at all on the past several records because I have the bass VI and a lot more effects. Really I’m just much, much more comfortable playing bass.”
After spending the past two years in solidarity together recording Tautology, practicing their reshaped sound and pushing the boundaries as a duo, Dunn and Fogarty are excited to get back on the road and sound the journey of Tautology in a live setting. The duo is celebrating the kickoff of their first tour in two years and will make their way to Salt Lake City, UT’s Urban Lounge this Wednesday.
“We really think of ourselves as a live band that happens to also make records. We are finally back to doing our thing. We have 13 records from which to choose a set list, so there’s just no way we can play every song every fan wants to hear. But we’ll do our best to cover most of our career and we’re excited to play tracks off of Tautology to our fans,” Fogarty and Dunn said.