Monday, 12 March 2007
The TD Q&A: Escort
Following a string of superb self-pressed singles, New York’s ESCORT are the disco sensation of the moment. But how much do we actually know about them? In a bid to get the gossip on the ‘Starlight’ sensations, we sent them a load of questions. Luckily, they replied…
OK, so here in the UK we know of Escort through records like 'Starlight' and 'A Bight New Life', but we don't actually know anything about you. So who are Escort, then?
Dan: “There are about seven or eight core people, but the last time we played live there were fifteen musicians on stage. Initially, it was more of a studio project. But after "Starlight" was released we started getting booking requests, because we don't use samples. It sort of took us by surprise and at that point it sort of coalesced into a proper band.”
How did you guys first get together, and what was your inspiration?
Dan: “Eugene and I have been working on production together since college. But it really took off after we started working with Darius, who plays bass. The other important thing is that all three of us DJ and have relatively similar tastes. We started jamming and writing a bit, and naturally, the sort of records we like informed what were playing. Darius introduced us to Zena, our lead singer, as well as Chauncey, one of our two percussionists. Bit by bit, as we started recording more stuff, in particular, our drummer Benny, we realized there was no reason why we couldn't do an entire record that way.”
Eugene: “Dan, Darius and I all knew that there was something hitting today about the records we were spinning. The wave of re-edits that started to come out confirmed it. So the timing of it all has worked out really well.”
Your sound is kind of like classic NY disco with a twist. Is that a fair observation? Are you all massive disco heads?
Dan: “That's pretty close to how we think about it. Although, we're not about simply making something that sounds "old". We definitely strive to make the records relevant rather than do something that's just deliberately retro for the sake of it. But at the end of the day, yes we are huge disco heads, and the sort of stuff we listen to the most is going to inform what we write.”
Eugene: “We want to make tracks that we would play with all our other disco records. Although spinning disco today is pretty different that back when it was all being made. Our taste is different, we'll play different part of the record, and the way we perceive them is different.”
If disco is your thing, what producers and acts – past and present – would you say were your inspirations?
Dan: “A pretty obvious group I guess: Rinder and Lewis, Gino Soccio, Kid Creole, loads of records on Prelude, West End, and Salsoul.”
Eugene: “We also can't ignore the fact that hip-hop and R&B is going to influence most dance artists coming out of New York.”
'Starlight' had a mix from Darshan Jesrani and 'A Bright New Life' came with an edit from Morgan Geist. Are you good friends with the Metro Area/Environ guys?
Dan: “Yeah, they're good friends. Eugene and I met Darshan in college –his family's from the town our college was in. Morgan we met after moving to New York City. Darshan was the first person we knew with a proper studio – I remember being blown away by how many keyboards and synthesizers he had. And of course, we love their records.”
Speaking of 'Starlight', that was a bit of a hit with DJs across the globe. Were you surprised by its success?
Dan: “Yes, and no. Yes, because it's relatively slow – like 112 bpms, and of course, because it's pretty much an unrepentant boogie track. But no, in the sense that we don't put anything out unless we feel very confident that it's a song that we would play ourselves if we were DJing. A lot of material gets thrown away. We're not precious about what we write.”
I'm guessing it was 'Starlight' that led to you getting a chance to remix Tracey Thorn's 'It's All True'… or was that your links with Darshan? Either way, how excited were you by the prospect? How happy are you with the finished mix?
Dan: “I assume it was a combination of both Darshan and "Starlight" that got us the gig. We're really pleased with the result. With all of our remixes so far, we basically strip away everything but the vocals and then write a new instrumental that we think suits the vocal as much as possible. I should mention Mark Tewarson, a superb guitarist we work with often, who played bass and a lot of the guitars and keyboards on the remix.”
Eugene: “With Tracey Thorn's vocals it would have been pretty hard to put something bad together. We're really happy to do it.”
Over here in the UK those of us into disco look at New York with jealous eyes. Is there really as good a contemporary disco scene as we think?
Dan: “A ton of our friends are DJs who play lots of disco and there are lots of parties where you can go out and hear great DJs playing disco records. Certainly more so than when we first moved to New York.”
Perhaps what seems so impressive about Escort from afar is the live aspect to your work. Do you do a lot of live gigs? How do they go down?
Dan: “We play relatively infrequently because it's hard to coordinate a show since there are so many people involved. We can't afford to do smaller gigs because they won't be able to accommodate a band our size, and well, even though it's all friends we still need to pay everyone for their time. Most of the shows have been at more "dance" oriented events like the show we played at PS1/MOMA. We're playing at Barnard in March with Fujiya and Miyagi – that's actually the first show where there's going to be another band on the bill, rather than DJs. So far the response has been great. People seem to respond to a dance party with an enormous live band on stage.”
Eugene: “It’s really a treat to play with so many talented musicians, and to see all of our jams realized on stage. I feel like we will be playing a lot more shows once we get some more songs together.”
Do you plan to do any gigs outside the US any time soon?
Dan: “We'd love to but again, because of the size of the band, it's difficult. I imagine at some point we'll tour.”
Following your three singles so far, what can we expect from Escort in the near future? Any plans for an album?
Dan: “We've got a fourth single coming up shortly. We're really excited about it. The Rapture did a really great remix too, that's very much not at all disco. But after that, no more twelves for a while precisely because we're putting together an album.”
You can find out more about Escort at www.weareescort.com and www.myspace.com/weareescort