Energized by a new band, a new label, and a new album, TEEPEE’s Erix S. Laurent is marking an exciting turning point in his career. So in anticipation of his group’s Saturday show at Green Room, Laurent spoke with Salty Eggs about his beginnings, the laws of nature that influence him musically, and a few things in between. To read the original preview by Monica Uszerowicz, click here. What follows is the rest of their Q&A session.
Could you tell me about your earliest memory of creating? I’d like to know when you started making and playing music, but did you also engage with other mediums in your younger days?
When I was about 6-years-old, I started playing around with a synthesizer my mom bought for the house. Now that I think about it, I’m not sure why she bought it. Maybe she figured I’d eventually start playing it.
I remember writing my first song on it. It was around the time The Lion King came out on VHS. For some reason, I was dying to have it, but my mom didn’t want to buy it. I ended up writing a sad, pissed-off song about how badly I wanted the VHS. For being so young, I remember it sounding pretty good. She probably heard me playing it from the other room, because we ended up buying it a few days later.
I didn’t write again until I was 14, when I got my first electric guitar. My dad made a bet with me: he said he’d buy me an electric guitar if I could play him an entire song without stopping on an acoustic. I learned “The Man Who Sold the World” by David Bowie in about three days, performed it for him, and we bought my first electric guitar – a Fender Strat.
That’s heartwearming and awesome. I only knew a few kids my age at the time who dug Bowie and the like. What else did you grow up listening to?
I grew up listening to what my parents were listening to, like ’80s and ’90s pop ballads: Michael Jackson, Pink Floyd, the Beatles, Bruce Springsteen, Marcos Antonio Solis, and the Eagles. Vestiges of my parents’ pop sensibility definitely found its way into my latest music.
Tell me about the beginning of TEEPEE and when you started playing and recording under that name.
I started TEEPEE in October 2008. At the time, I had already played in a few local punk, rock, and pop bands; studied music in college; explored the experimental and free jazz scenes; and listened to a bunch of amazing and out-of-this world music.
After a while, I just wanted to make music on my own terms. I took everything that I liked from each experience and implemented it into my music. For example: the drones that I use in almost all my songs mainly reflect my love and practice of music theory and experimental music. My guitar-playing is a mix of all the bands that I used to play in. All of the songs I create are influenced by what I listen to, and it’s not only music – I take ideas from conversations with people, nature, and noise pollution. My initial plan was to create 12 songs, all based off the 12 notes in music, each having one note drone throughout the song and stop there. But the plan didn’t work out because I couldn’t stop writing. Placing finite terms on creativity didn’t exactly work out for me.
I think the idea that placing finite terms on your creativity is a good way to lead into what I wanted to talk to you about next. I’ve seen you in a few different “forms.” When I first moved back from New York, you’d released a really beautiful video. Then I saw you on tour with This Heart Electric doing a one-man show. Then I saw you perform with members of Deaf Poets. It’s been really great to watch you transition, and hear your sound change a little along the way. Can you tell me about some of these changes, in terms of whom you’re working with and what you’re working on? And, on a more personal note, has anything changed in your own life that led to these shifts?
I’m fascinated by solo musicians who captivate audiences all by themselves. When it’s a full band, the audience doesn’t have to focus on just one person, but a one-man or -woman show commands your focus and forces you to notice what they do in between songs, their facial expressions, their outfit, and so on.
I experimented a lot with my live performances. I wanted to experience all the different possibilities as a solo artist. Sometimes I’d perform with an acoustic guitar, or with a drum machine and keyboards, or even with nothing at all to see how I can captivate whoever was watching. I kind of went from the bottom to the top again; I started to write music all by myself instead of with a band, similar to how I first started playing music. I first started practicing and writing songs by myself, then started including people to play in my band and ended up with a full band. So it was like starting over in a weird way. I’m not too picky on who I chose to perform with, they just have to be really good. It’s less work on everyone’s part when everyone just gets it and can speak the same language.
At the moment I’m working on getting the live performance tight with a full band along with projections, which is a whole new medium that I’ve been appreciating more and more lately. And yeah, there have definitely been some major shifts in my life lately that are reshaping that way I see the future of TEEPEE. A lot of it has to do with simplifying matters and ideas – the K.I.S.S. method comes to mind – sticking to one thing, and although this may sound corny, I’m looking at nature to find solutions.
It’s definitely not corny to look at nature to find solutions through which to simplify your life. I sort of wanted to ask you about any personal philosophies on life you might have – I’m interested in the way they might affect your music.
Plants are one of the many things in nature that fascinate me. The fact that they’re the only living creatures that produce their own food, shelter, nutrients, and attractive fruit for other creatures to spread its seeds is mind blowing to me. It may be a weird way to see it, but I try to apply some of the ways a plant functions in my own life and music. For example: creating music and ideas that are as attractive as fruit; building a career and life naturally with a strong root system; trying to live in accordance with the laws of nature as much as possible. It’s challenging but well worth it, in my opinion.
Lately I’ve been performing with Sean Wouters and Nico Espinosa from the Deaf Poets, as well as Cory Perez. I saw the Deaf Poets perform a few times and I remember really liking their stage presence and style. At the time I was looking for musicians to help me showcase the new material. Sean and Nico came to mind, we spoke about it, and they decided to back me up.
Teepee performs Saturday, July 14 at Green Room (109 S.W. Second Ave., Fort Lauderdale). Doors open at 10 p.m. Admission is free.