El Ten Eleven discusses the dynamics of the duo: The Vista interviews instrumental rock duo who performed at UCSD’s The Loft

By Joe Aleshaki
Blanca Torii

El Ten Eleven never gets boring, whether live or recorded. The band is an instrumental rock duo consisting of Kristian Dunn as double-neck guitar/bass player and Tim Fogarty as acoustic/electronic drummer. Two Saturdays ago they played a sold-out show at University of California, San Diego’s The Loft. The duo’s music is easy listening that never results in the urge to tune it out as background. Catchy rock with blissful timing and technical loops equates to a band whose music pops in eardrums.

Dunn and Fogarty took the time out of their tiring schedules to discuss double-neck guitars, their newest album “Transitions” and Coachella secrets with The Vista.

The Vista: Why did you want to keep your band to instruments only?

Kristian Dunn: Because neither one of us can sing. Out of necessity.

V: How did you form the band?

Tim Fogarty: A friend of a friend. I didn’t know him. He was trying to put a band together, so that’s how we met. That was it and we’ve just been trying to figure it out ever since.

V: What is math rock? You guys are math rock, according to that poster.

KD: We hate that. It’s music that has lots of time signature changes in it. So to us math rock is, generally, music that musicians make for other musicians. They’re kind of showing off. We find it not very listenable. We don’t know why we get that. We use odd time signatures now and then, but we think we use the odd time signatures in sort of a soulful way.

V: What’s the story behind your Carvin double-neck?

KD: I’m really a bass player; I’m not actually a guitar player. I had my bass and it seemed like it was kind of working out. I had a guitar at home and I thought at the next band practice I’d bring that too. So I looped a bass line, unplugged the bass, set it down, picked up the guitar, plugged in the guitar, looped a guitar line, then unplugged the guitar, set the guitar back down, picked the bass back up, put that on, plugged that in and looped another bass part. And that whole process took a really long time. Then one night I was watching VH1 Classic, and an old Genesis video came on. The guy had a double-neck. I said, That’s it. I could have a double-neck, because then I could just flip a switch and go from the guitar and bass. So I went on eBay, and there happened to be a Carvin double-neck. It’s still my main instrument. I got really lucky.

V: What was the biggest challenge trying to match his style with yours?

TF: First it was trying to play to the loop and making sure that it kept together. Then the whole thing was just trying to figure out if I should be busy since there are no lyrics. Should I be doing more stuff to keep it interesting, or is that just annoying and should I just let the song kind of speak for itself? That was at the beginning, trying to figure out how much space to take.

V: On your first album there’s a song called “Fanshawe.” Is it based on a book by Nathaniel Hawthorne?

KD: It’s actually a character from a book called “NY Trilogy.” The author’s name is Paul Auster.

V: What is the significance of the title of your album “Transitions”?

TF: We both went through a whole bunch of crap in the past year and a half. We both got divorced. He got remarried, had a baby, moved to San Diego. In the past when we were making it we were going through a bunch of crazy stuff in life.

KD: The song “Transitions” has a lot of time signature stuff and a lot of tempo changes, which are initially a bit jarring, but then you kind of ease into it. And it sounds symbolic of a lot of what we went through. Now everything kind of worked out.

V: Have you considered adding any classical instruments to it?

KD: It’s funny you ask that because—I didn’t want to talk about it—the idea that I have for this record, not the next one but the one after, is to play with an orchestra. I’m scoring out all the parts for it. Right now it’s really a 50 piece orchestra. I’ve been pushing that back as far as when we’re going to do it, because I want us to be as big as possible. It’s going to be expensive. I want to do it live and videotape it. So the answer to your question is yes; maybe in the future.
V: What are you guys listening to right now?

TF: I listen to whatever Chris (their manager) listens to, because in the van he’ll drive and put music on. Mostly electronic dance music and hip hop.

KD: Kendrick Lamar’s “Section 80.” Cali Swag District’s “Teach Me How to Dougie.” It’s a lot of hip hop, a lot of comedians, a lot of electronic dance. It’s never rock bands, although there’s a band we toured with called White Arrows, and one of their songs we’re into. Local Natives, they have a new song out that we really like a lot.

V: What would you say if you ever got asked to play Coachella?

KD: Our agent’s been trying. Paul Tollett, the guy who books Coachella, said he likes us but not yet. We found out how Coachella and all the huge festivals like that work. Tollett will go to Phoenix’s agent and say we want Phoenix, what do you need? And their agent says that they need 2 million dollars and these five baby bands. It’ll end up being that Phoenix gets 1.5 million dollars, and three of the agent’s baby bands are on Coachella. Our agent doesn’t have a gigantic act like that, that we can use as leverage to get us in. So it’s political, and it’s a bummer because we look at that lineup and it seems that we’re bigger than a lot of those bands.

V: El Ten Eleven is from the name of an airplane?

KD: I’m a helicopter pilot, so I’m really nerdy about aircraft stuff. We started a list of band names and got it down to a short list. Then we were ready to book our first show. We said, that one sounds cool, shall we go with that? I wish there was a better story.

TF: And we don’t hate it ten years later.

KD: Which is true, I used to be a band called Freak Scene, just to show how embarrassing it could be ten years later.

El Ten Eleven will be touring with Bonobo.