It’s humbling to be in the presence of artists who have surrendered themselves to something far greater, and who see their vision of community and creation so clearly. It is a blessing to co-create with humans so liberated and so vividly expressing themselves in their creative production. Sitting down with and photographing Papadosio in Denver was just such a humbling evening. Cervantes is often packed, but not so frequently filled up with love and celebration as when these Midwest boys rolled into town to “throw kind of a circus”.
We found Anthony Thogmartin, vocalist and guitarist of this five part group backstage at Cervantes playing with a newly acquired guitar. It had been gifted to him earlier in the day by local musician Robby Schechter who was to sit on the evening’s set. “Crazy how things come out” Anthony tells us. “I was gonna go buy an acoustic guitar, then my processor broke and I had to buy a new one– like $500 bucks–, and blew the money I had saved up for a guitar….and then I show up today and my friend just brings me one!” A shake of the head and a smile as he strums the strings, a gesture of gratitude and wonder at the workings of the universe… A small reflection of the message Anthony and Papadosio share with audiences every night.
Anthony answered a few of Grimey Gatsby’s questions about the band’s new album (To End The Illusion of Separation or T.E.T.I.O.S.) and tour, as well as the visionary art gallery that accompanies the album, and the group’s community building efforts and broader mission. Keyboardist Sam Brouse joined the interview to share some thoughts on the development of the band and on what audiences can look forward to from experiences with Papadosio.
In the genre-obsessed world of electronic music, how does the fusion of eclectic styles in your music reflect your intention to foster unity? What are some of your influences and how do you deal with pigeon-holing in the music world?
Anthony: People have a funny way of doing things because they tend to watch six bands. Maybe they’ve only seen those bands, so .they try to fit you into the categories of the six bands that they’ve seen. They say ‘well you guys sound like Lotus or you sound like STS9 or…’
But really if you got into the music we listen to, yea we’ve listened to those bands. We really enjoy those bands, but we take a lot more influence from a bunch of more obscure things. It’s difficult for someone who doesn’t have a huge musical background really to do this whole genre thing, and I really can’t stand the genre thing in the first place because it seems pretty limiting. With this last album…we used to be like ‘does this sound like us or does this not sound like us’ and we’ve kind of realized that really, who cares? And so eventually we were just recording everything, and I think that’s why this double disc thing happened, because we just wanted to just do…everything. If we had an idea that was coming through us –why not turn it into music, why not just go for it? That’s the conclusion that we came to.
So for people to say ‘well they’re an EDM jam band, a jamtronica band’…sure that might work for the people that have listened to those other bands that kind of do that, but then we’ll play all these other songs and they are like “well what is this?” People so desperately want to put things in a box and say “this is what this is” but we kind of purposefully have tried to not do that. Not only are we having more fun, but we throw kind of a circus, instead of a show. You’re not going to a specific EDM dance party. All the music, we tried to make it danceable. If there’s any one thing that ties it all together, its just that it’s danceable, and that’s pretty much the long and short of it.
We have aspects of folk music in our stuff. We’re doing the four part harmony thing. We have aspects of glitchy Aphex Twin stuff that’s almost impossible to listen to comfortably…and we just do all that because we have such diverse backgrounds. I feel like people’s attention spans now is like that. They want that: they want a diverse show, they wanna see something diverse, they want something new. Honestly when wet first started this project we didn’t think people would like it..but people like it and it’s really exciting that people like it. I’m still kinda confused how it’s worked out so well.
With the double disc and the art gallery [T.E.T.I.O.S. is accompanied by a 24-page portfolio that features an art piece for each track of the album] you guys have branched out and done an ambitious project…Could you tell us a little bit about how the idea came about for the collaborative effort and what your intention for commissioning and including it was?
Anthony: The album’s name is To End The Illusion Of Separation and every song pertains to that theme. We could speak volumes about that. I feel like that’s kind of what’s happening in a lot of ways. That people are kind of … . It’s like the new racism. We’ve kind of banished that idea from the public mindset over the last hundred years, and over the next hundred years I feel like the way that we look at life now, as being separate from each other, will be viewed like racism one of these days. It’ll be just as taboo and obviously completely wrong. Like to look at someone suffering on the street and not want to reach out to them or not to physically do it, is a way of the past. So we wanted to represent that empathic idea with art. So we did 20 songs, and we’ve been lucky enough to meet all these really awesome live artists, gallery artists and digital artists and say ‘you know we’ve got all this music, would you wanna make a piece that goes along with the music?’ So the art that comes with it is song specific. The purpose is to try to envelope this idea. No separation between…expressing something together, we have a visual aspect and an audible aspect of this specific idea, and we just wanted to artistically represent the ideas.
This project of collaboration, and the beautiful stories of transformation and community at your Rootwire festival, make it is clear that your creative vision expands beyond your own music. How do collaborative efforts like Rootwire and To End The Illusion of Separation manifest your message of unity and help to foster community and consciousness and really To End The Illusion of Separation?
Anthony: The idea of the way world should look is in the eye of the beholder, but the world that I see, the world that I’d like to see is kind of more important to me than even what art is specifically being created. It’s almost like what were doing collectively as an artistic community, like not even just our band…
I feel like a lot of bands…It’s kind of sad how lost people are in recently in “trying to make it”. They’re so concerned with getting in front of more people, trying to make their life work, make their financial situation good, or something like that…and I think the moment you focus on that, you really lose what we’re doing here.
Really, an artists job …and really everybody’s an artist, they just haven’t really tapped into it if they don’t think that they are or if they say that they’re not then they’re not and that’s their choice…what I’m trying to get at is that we have a collective mission that’s happening, that’s kinda at the tip of everybody’s tongue. One of the things I can definitely say it’s an artist job to do is to re-present society back to itself and show the world what the world is. It’s been happening ever since the great painters of the Renaissance. They just showed the world back to itself. Music, more recently, has kinda been that, showing the world back to itself. The lyric content of what’s going on will give you a great really really deep connection with where people’s minds and hearts are at.
So the world that I see as a possibility is reflected in the sounds and the lyrics that we create. We don’t shy away from the dark side of music. We’re not just gonna play happy-go-lucky music that you can eat LSD to. That’s great and we’re always gonna touch on that, but we’re also gonna touch on the dark energies. There’s so much going around right now, there’s so much happening that we’re just trying to re-present it all and have this holistic thing happen…So that what comes through it might be a better situation for people. And that’s kinda the idea with Rootwire, trying to present people, no matter where they look they’re being presented with someone creating something. Creation in and of itself is the way that we can recognize what’s going on. Once you have to create something it’s just like that. It’s amazing You as a photographer obviously know this. You capture a moment but you go back and you look at the moment it’s so much more. To you it was just a second of existence, but there’s so much more to be see..the color balance, all this perfection in the moment. So we’re just trying to re represent whats happening in the most beautiful way we can. I don’t know if that’ s a good answer or not.
It’s perfect. Papadosio says in The Sum “the mission’s spelled out for us and everyone. It’s like it’s always been there”. Something we get from livetronica music is a real sense of familiarity, music that sounds like you’ve heard it somewhere in your memory. Do you think that your music is an aide in an act remembering? And if so, remembering what?
Anthony: I think we’re really accurate way way way way way back in the past, you know? Like before recorded history in the past. When we had civilizations that understood the geometric relationships between different states of being. Electronic digital music is really accurate. I think it swings back and forth, right now a lot of people are really excited about the accuracies because right now– this year, there are a lot of accuracies happening. There’s a planetary alignment that only happens every 25,920 years or something like that and it only happens then. So the accuracies are really important to people.
Recently I went to– I don’t know if you’re familiar with the band Rising Appalachia? I was in Ashville and the girl set up a little tea room and everyone was just sitting around under these little tea lights and she was just singing a little solo set with a guitar. I had been working on my side project, digital music, all week…and I sat and listened to her and I had almost a religious experience because I’d been so digitalized. I’d been so stuck in the digital thing. After that happened I kind of realized that you have to have a healthy blend. I think a lot of people, they’re not really aware. I think that people are excited about digital music because it sounds new to them but there’s [also] like a deep remembrance of…I think its geometry. I think that has a lot to do with it. So everyone’s freaking out about it…and that’s just what we do. We find something highly interesting and just like a bunch of monkeys around something that smells or tastes good we party around it. That’s just what we do. And just chalk up to that happening everywhere.
I think that what we’ve always tried to do though, is not only make the music we know people will like, because it’d be really easy to do that. We know exactly what kind of music we could play to the EDM dance electronic crowd. We could make songs like “Method of Control” all day and everybody would just freak out about it, but we’re in this for the longevity of not even us, as much as the music itself. This music should be able to speak to someone 30 years from now and allow them to get a clear picture of what was happening now. Were trying to, once again, show society to itself at this present time. And there’s this whole completely forgetful thing happening with the Earth right now. The Earth is an organic, analog, breathing, alive, not accurate, very squiggly kind of thing. So we tried to take music and do exactly both of those things harmoniously together.
So if we’re gonna talk about geometry, you’ve got the sun part of the tetrahedron and the earth part of the tetrahedron, and we’ve been trying to put these kind of things together. If you wanna go the geometry route with it. We’re trying to create a whole picture, that’s more important than trying to appeal to anybody. I don’t really want to appeal to anyone specific. I feel like people can come to our shows and they like these specific songs but they don’t like these songs. Or maybe they like it all. Maybe they’re open minded enough to check it all out. But it doesn’t really bother me that we’re not the most popular thing right now, or not the most unpopular thing. That we’re riding this weird little in-between line of slow but sure growth. But that’s all that really matters to any of us. It’s great.
So you guys have been on the road a lot this year. On this leg of your tour–which you called ‘bringing a circus to the crowd’–what are you particularly excited about sharing with the audience?
Sam: Just all the new songs. Especially since Anthony re-did his setup, he has been getting back in the rhythm of things and improv-ing a lot. So I think our music is maturing a lot, and that’s something I’m really excited about. It’s happening definitely at a quicker pace than any of us imagined it was gonna happen and now we’re just gelling. I think we’re coming at it from a whole new comfort level. We’re really showing the art to ourselves as much as we are to the audience, sometimes on this run I feel like. I don’t know if that makes sense…
Anthony: No I think that makes a lot of sense. I probably should have said that earlier. I don’t want at all to sound like were some sort omnipotent force. We’re just in this with everybody else. I think we make music..to even say that we even made the music that we made would kinda not really be true. I think the best musical ideas anyone’s ever had just kinda came to them. They just heard it and they just picked up their instrument and they knew enough about music to just (acts out humming then playing a chord). It wasn’t their song. It never was.
I don’t think anyone’s song is ever their own. Thats another thing that’s weird about the industry “Oh thats my song, I put that together”…but did you? Really? I think that we are learning ourselves, this whole process is just such a crazy unfolding right now, such a crazy time to be alive. This unfolding process is really awesome, and it’s an honor to be on stage during it.
Sam: I think also our touring rig and our crew is becoming a piece of art in and of itself, because its slowly getting more towards perfection. It’ll never get there. its kinda the same thing. You can work on a piece of music and never be satisfied with it. That’s just the way it is. The same, you can work on the crew and how you do things. We’ve done it for so long now we really know what works and what doesn’t but were still learning it all. I’ve been with the band 2 years now and I’ve been out to Colorado 5 times. Every time we come out I feel more comfortable on stage, because of the people around us that do this with us. So I feel like setting a little bit of an example of “how to tour” with people is kind of sharing art too.
You referenced the alignment coming up in December. Can you tell us about Earth Night, and the gathering you will be creating that weekend?
Anthony: There’s a lot of really crazy destinations that you can go to for the 21st. I really feel like it might be a time to be closer to your family. I feel like things could change very drastically, and not necessarily for the worse but just very drastically, and that things might look really different. So the people that maybe are not so adventurous but they want to have a connection, maybe like they experienced at Rootwire or like how they experience with their closest friends, or they just really want to have a musical experience during that time, we just decided to throw it in a very domestic area.
Ohio, if i can say one thing about it is its close to everybody. It really is. Anybody can really get there. We’re originally from the midwest and another thing is that some of the most powerful people I’ve ever met are from columbus, and they hold it down. I’m relatively convinced that there are some people that kinda “hold it down” and some of those people live in Columbus. And it’s really cool to have those people there to hold it down for the people that might be really confused as to whats going on. Osho says the world might have ended and you haven’t realized it yet…or..either or… it doesn’t matter. I feel like if I’m with these people and were able to create this space for people, then we can hold it down for them. And that’s what Earth Night really is. It’s all of our abilities to hold down and celebrate the next 25,920 years together. It’s kinda a celebration of the flip flop.
Sam: I think with Ohio, it just dawned on me that it’s the same thing as having a big sleepover when you’re younger and having everyone over to your house. I don’t think anyone would have had in mind like “yea we’re gonna go to Ohio” but I don’t think it matters where you are on the planet, we’re all in the same boat. Let’s get the whole hierarchy of geography out of the way and just get people together.
Anthony: There’s so much money involved with getting to certain locations…Do those people deserve to be more activated than you? Are you serious? What about everybody in Africa?
Sam: I mean it’d be awesome to see the pyramids lift off and black light shine out the top of’em, but I’m cool…
GG: Who’s to say something like that won’t happen in Ohio…
Anthony: Yea the Serpent Mound’s one of the most ancient sites there is, and it’s in Ohio,…who knows? (laughs)
I know it’s hard to encapsulate, but if there’s a main intention or idea that you would like listeners to come away with from time with you or with your records, what do you hope it is?
Sam: I really want people to come away, on a more material level of it…[with the fact] that good music comes from the heart and that we’re putting our fuckin’ heart and soul into it. I think I walked in when you guys were talking about it. About kinda bringing back the things that were happening in the 70s. Making good records. Making good whole ideas of music not just focusing on what’s gonna sell. I think that’s definitely one level of what I’d like people to come away with, is that we’re trying to do something really genuine.
Anthony: I’d like people to have a balanced harmonious experience when listening to our music. That they’re not too left-brained with it, that they’re not too right-brained with it either. That’s it’s not just some noodley mess of harmonious notes. That there’s a cool structure to it, but it breathes like an organic thing, so you literally have a quite balanced experience…at least live, I think that’s what we’re trying to do.
And in the studio. I think more than anything else, the message of what’s being said is of more importance to me than even the specific notes that we’re picking to play. I’m almost so obsessed…everybody is, I mean all artists are, with saying like “Come on you guys, this place could be so much cooler, come on you guys”. Literally if I could sum what we’re trying to say up into one bite-sized morsel: “this place could be awesome”, and it’s really up to the individual.
You say “all we need is some direction” and your new album is dedicated to the “new horizon”. You guys have touched on that a bit. So if it “could be so much cooler”, what is a bit of your vision for that direction, that horizon and the ways it could be so much cooler?
Anthony: Just letting go. people sinking into the empathic thing. No more my shit versus your shit. “Oh my stuff or oh your stuff”. That idea is gone, and that’s what has destroyed us, completely destroyed us because we think (grasping in towards himself like a greedy kid) “my girlfriend, my house, my car, my shit” It’s so backwards and we’ve been living in such a backwards world. Complete neglect for the Earth, complete neglect for ourselves. Not loving ourselves. Being taught to not love ourselves unless we do something specific. All these things, it’s letting go. I don’t think we really need to accumulate anything, more than anything else we need to scale it all down and let it all go, and I think that’s what’s gonna happen, forcibly or not. I think the people who are ready to do that are just gonna have the most blissful time …”oh sweet, OK” It’s gonna be interesting: food’s gonna be weird, finding water might be hard, but other than that I don’t think this new horizon as such a scary idea. I think for people who are really attached to a specific idea, if we’re really attached to playing music on stage to thousands of people all them a time, we might even have a hard time because the world might not look like that. But we’re ready for it. I’ve never been so ready for things to be different than what’s happening. I don’t agree with almost every decision the government makes, I don’t agree with almost every decisions that even I have to make on the road to get the band from town to town. I would like to see an entirely new situation…and I’m ready for it. I know the earth is ready for it, and that everybody somewhere deep down inside is ready for it as well. Really if this is the last album we’re able to make for a while, it had to be this one, this kind of idea. And if it is the last record we’re able to make because shits gonna go awol, great, we did what we needed to do and it feels good to have done that.
Anthony signs off, “I’m just cosmic rambling” and the gentlemen chat and mingle with the folks filtering into the green room. Grimey Gatsby slips out to beginning photographing the evening, with local openers TNERTLE and Octopus Nebula grooving up an anticipate crowd. Papadosio takes the stage to finish the evening and takes the audience on an audiovisual journey. Images from the art portfolio are mixed in projections on screens that flank the energetic and vibrant musicians. The illusion of separation melts, genres are criss crossed and sounds are explored as dancing feet join in celebration.
It’s what’s happening.
You can listen to and purchase the band’s new Album To End The Illusion of Separation online Check out if their tour will pass by your area so you can check out their audiovisual circus. Or join Papadosio and their family for the big sleepover on Earth Night!
See More Photos from the Cervantes Show!