By: Meghan Chancy
R/D and ill-esha were not about to let the last-minute cancellation by Heyoka diminish the excitement of performing at one of the most legendary venues in Colorado, Boulder’s Fox Theatre. Los Angeles-based electronic artist R/D and Vancouver native and edgy vocalist-turned-producer ill-esha put on an intimate show for an eager, young crowd last week. Nestled between shops and cafes on the hill of Colorado University’s main campus, the glowing red “Fox” sign lit up the night as anxious fans waited in line for the will call window attendant to pass out the free tickets that accompanied the preordered tickets—a concession made by the venue due to Heyoka’s absence. Ready to begin the summer concert season with a bang, the excited audience spread loosely across the two center platforms, dancing from one place to the next as the funky bass grooves blared from the speakers. Sitting on benches along the walls, groups of friends mingled as a couple enjoyed the view from the balcony. Fans yelled, “I love you” up to each solo artist through the wash of multicolored rays. Ian Ker-Seymer a.k.a. iONik, a local DJ who describes his music as “shrug-tronica,” warmed up the crowd with new remixes. Ill-esha (born Elysha Zaide) came on full-force, dancing and singing to her drum ‘n’ bass beats. Looking relaxed in a tight purple tee and skinny jeans, she threw up her arms, pulled back her headphones, and laid down some hard-hitting rap to set the table for some even harder-edged dubstep.
Her set was full of new tracks from her forthcoming album, slated for release later this summer. Mixing traditional vocals with a hip-hop sound, the smiling crowd cheered every time she took to the microphone. Since most of her songs haven’t been released yet, I could only guess at the names. During one crowd-pleaser, ill-esha sang the chorus “Blowing Kisses” and proceeded to kiss her palm and blow a kiss on beat to the crowd below as she looped her voice and sang another part before dropping into a glitchy remix of the same song. She closed her set with a powerful vocal performance, taking on her melodic single, “Only Fair,” which she recently developed into a music video for Simplify Recordings. With his setup further back from the edge of the stage, multifaceted music producer and long time friend of The Glitch Mob, R/D came out asking the crowd, “Are you ready?” beckoning them closer. He opened with “Neck Bites,” the first cut from his new album Liquid Heart Keeper, and fell into his trademark front-to-back sway. R.D White positioned his gear so his fans could see his every move as he switched from hammering out melodies on his keys to flipping knobs and switches on his hardware, and back again.
The audience swayed forward and backward with him in the darkened room as R/D seamlessly transitioned into his remix of The Glitch Mob’s “Starve the Ego, Feed the Soul.” Speeding things up, he dropped into an LHK highlight, “Ghosted Lover,” prompting the crowd to raise their arms in unison. Next, he introduced the brand new “Bay Crush”, which I later learned includes his own vocals. The crowd responded warmly, relishing the privilege of witnessing a premiere. Shouting, “I take it you guys want more?” to the exhilarated mob, he gave them what they wanted with the space funk genius of his “Spirit Coins,” “Vintage Me, Vestige You,” “Smitten Seeker,” and “Relation Ships” from Keeper. Asking the crowd, “Do you guys like Radiohead?” he slipped into his new remix of “Give Up The Ghost.” With the night winding to a close, R/D let the crowd know the next song was going to be his last, and the crowd booed, craving more. Leading into “Passion Designer,” the young assembly screamed and clapped along with the beat, raising their arms and jumping in rhythm. As it ended, R/D told the crowd to download all his music for free from his website (rd-sound.com). Not wanting him to go, they chanted “encore” as he left the stage. He came back for one last track, “Ballad of Melted Rapture” and closed saying, “I’m gonna come down and meet you guys because you were incredible!” A crowd formed near the stage as R/D and ill-esha came down to say goodbye to their dedicated fans.
R/D - 'Relation Ships'
ill-esha - Crumblin' Erb (ill-edit)
I had the pleasure of sitting down with both artists for an inspiring interview after the floor cleared.
Meghan Chancy: My first question for you stems from the Colorado Daily story that you corrected on Facebook.
ill-esha: That had like 4 errors in it?!
MC: Yeah, I read all those errors. My question was how would you describe your music if you don’t like “electro?” Because I feel like so many artists use new descriptions for electronic music now and I’m trying to figure out what everyone wants their stuff to be called.
i-e: The best thing I’ve sort of come up with, which I still am not that happy with, is ‘organic electronic’ because I feel like, I’m a musician and I sing, I play instruments, I do all my drums live, I play everything in so it is kind of organically created but using the whole palette of electronic sounds that if I was just an acoustic musician I wouldn’t have access to, so I like to think that it kind of comes halfway.
MC: What are your biggest inspirations or current artists you’ve been listening to?
i-e: Oh wow, there’s so many. I’m really inspired by a lot of the people who I’ve been sort of discovering with this label “Street Ritual” I’ve been working with. This guy, Thriftworks, he’s been putting out a bunch of albums for free and recently he put out one with us: super layered, textured, dance music. I’m really into stuff that balances the melodic and the hard stuff. My good friend, Stephan Jacobs, is really coming up right now. He makes a lot of stuff that is inspiring to me. Gladkill. Anybody who’s kind of taking the heavier edge of bass music and blending it with melodic elements is really inspirational to me. I just discovered Zen Death Squad. They just put out an album this week. Ben Samples actually introduced me to them. They are blowing my mind. I played one of their tracks tonight, and it’s just epic melodic stuff with a heavy edge. Stephan Jacobs calls it “Goblins and Unicorns” so I kind of think you have to have both elements to make something that’s lasting and also danceable.
MC: That’s awesome! Is there any artist you would love the opportunity to work with that you haven’t had the opportunity to work with yet?
i-e: One of my original inspirations is Photek, and awhile ago I had the opportunity to play with him in Salt Lake City. We actually stayed in the same hotel, and he wanted to stay up all night to catch his early flight so we sat in a hotel room and he listened to my album at the time—which was years ago—and I mean, I would of course love the chance to work with him. I don’t know if it’d ever happen, but it was such an inspiration for me to interact with him. I really like people that are sort of pushing the envelope. I like everybody from Noisia to really downtempo, like Telefon Tel Aviv stuff, so too bad [Charles Cooper] is dead; I would [have] loved to work with him.
MC: You said you had a new album coming out this summer?
i-e: I have two new albums! One of them is an EP. It’s more downtempo-oriented, and it’s got a lot of vocals and melodic stuff. I made a music video for that in the last couple of weeks. That’s going to come out on Simplify Recordings. And then I have an album on Muti Music which is more funk, sort of 80 bpm-based, which somehow came across in the Colorado Daily as a 7” record with movie music on it. But that’s going to come out pretty soon. I’ve been pushed pretty hard to get the artwork done and to get everything ready, so I imagine it’s going to come out this summer. It’s a summertime kind of album. It’s all like funky and hopscotch and hot sidewalks and swimming pools, and that’s the kind of vibe of it so I hope it comes out soon!
MC: That’s awesome. What event or venue are you looking forward to being at this summer?
i-e: Well, it’s already started. Lightning in a Bottle is tomorrow. I’m really, really excited for that whole experience. It’s such a complete event with art, speakers, workshops and music. I love festivals because of that. I’m a sober person in general, and it’s really enjoyable for me to have other aspects to an event so I’m really excited for Lightning in a Bottle. Shambhala as well. I’m going to be playing on the beach stage this year. I’m doing DexFest in Tennessee and the Big Bounce as well so I’m pretty much just really stoked for all the festivals that I’m going to be at.
Meghan Chancy: Are you going to be introducing any new stuff this summer?
R/D: White: Yeah, I’ll be introducing new stuff through sets. I always like to test run everything in my live set before I actually put it out.
MC: What was the name of that song you played earlier? You said it was the first time you played it.
R/D: It’s called ‘Bay Crush.’
MC: ‘Bay Crush,’ nice. I love your song names.
R/D: Oh thank you!
ill-esha: Hey are you trying to crush my area? Is that what you’re trying to say?
R/D: Yeah, it’s totally because I’m crushin’ on the Bay. Haha. I’m not too sure. It’s like my home away from home, and I wrote it in the Bay. I spent two weeks out there last summer.
MC: How do you come up with your song titles? Especially on Liquid Heart Keeper, they seem to all have a common theme. R/D: Thank you. I actually pay really close attention to them. I know that not many people even really care that much about them. i-e: I do. It’s important!
R/D: It is important, yeah.
MC: Like ‘Relation Ships’ just makes you think, I don’t even know exactly what to think about but I just like it.
R/D: Haha totally, yeah exactly, two ships in the night. Ha. Well, I’ve been a writer for a really long time, too. I don’t like doing that for a profession or anything, but I went to school when I was young for writing because I’ve always loved doing it. I write my own bios and stuff, and it’s just kind of like a hobby. I like playing with words so that’s where that comes from.
MC: What artists are you currently listening to or being inspired by?
R/D: It’s funny. I actually don’t listen to much of anything electronic, for a long time I haven’t. Let’s see, right now... I’ve been listening to Bon Iver, the new Bon Iver album, do you know who that is? It’s like folksy. Gold Panda, which is electronic actually, and Radiohead.
MC: Yeah that’s a good Radiohead remix you did!
R/D: Oh thank you. Fever Ray, I was super impressed with Fever Ray for a little while. They have electronic instrumentation, I guess they’re predominantly electronic, but there’s tons of singing too. I’ve been listening to a ton of vocal stuff so that stuff is starting to influence my music. I’m not sure if you could hear it so well tonight but that tune I played with Bay Crush has my vocals all over it.
i-e: What?! Oh I missed that. Now I need to hear it zoomed in!
R/D: Haha, yeah. You’ll hear it.
i-e: I didn’t know you sang.
R/D: Yeah I mean, I don’t sing. I just kind of fake it. I don’t auto tune. I’ll tell you that.
R/D: But I’ve got a wicked falsetto! Haha. So yeah, that’s totally starting to influence me, all the singing, singer-songwriter stuff.
MC: That’s awesome. Are there any shows or festivals or venues this summer that you’re looking forward to playing at?
R/D: Oh, anytime in Colorado! I was looking forward to this. I’m playing Denver at Cervantes in July. This place is incredible. I’m going on tour with The Glitch Mob so that’s something I’m really looking forward to. It’s not just because like...
MC: ...you used to live with them?
R/D: I still do. Yeah, I live with edIT. They’re my best friends in the world, and I don’t know it’s funny, we’ve been friends for so many years. We used to play shows way back in the day when The Glitch Mob was just forming, and I was just starting with glitch hop. We hang out everyday anyway so to go out and tour and do shows will be awesome. I’m going to hit them up on tour. They have Phantogram and Com Truise and some other people are going to cameo but I’m doing 8 days with them. I’m starting in San Diego, then Tempe, Albuquerque, St. Louis, Dallas, Austin then Houston then I head back. So yeah it’s going to be fun.
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