Desert Dwellers are creating divine resonation’s in the electronic music festival scene, Burning Man and on the yoga floor. They come from Southern California and New Mexico and have been playing to the desert and the people in it for over a decade. Although they may not be the biggest name on a festival bill, any listener of quality down-tempo electronic should have them queued up.
AX: It seems you have an affinity with the Desert, what is it about the landscape that speaks to you?
Treavor: I’m the founder of the Moontribe full moon gatherings in the Southern California Desert, and Amani is from Santa Fe, which is a high desert city and got his start in electronic music with Cosmic Kids and their desert gatherings in New Mexico. The desert is our roots you could say.
Amani: And it provides a lot of mystery and space; music beyond borders and sounds without walls.
AX: You guys have been touring a lot lately, tons of festivals- how is life on the road, things you like, things you could do without? Also, after so many years and so many albums, is this where you always dreamed your music career would take you?
Treavor: Touring has been a blessing for us. It has allowed us to focus all our time on music, which is definitely a dream come true. It comes with its hard times for sure like being excessively tired, but anytime we hit a rough patch all we have to think about is working a regular 9-5 office job again. We’d rather be a bit tired here and there than have to do that.
Amani: Overall it has been amazing to connect with so many fans and create so many new alliances, networks and collaborations.
AX: The festivals these days are all turning “transformational”, with yoga and workshops and a focus on spirituality. There have been some debates on whether festivals and the party scene are the appropriate arena for this kind of thing. What are your thoughts on this?
Treavor: I believe transformation is a personal thing and for some people the festivals create a space for this and for some people they do not. It’s definitely a label that has become controversial and created intense expectations among some festival goers.
Amani: But overall it is definitely beneficial that as many people start being exposed to new ideas and better ways of living in this world to co-create a better tomorrow.
AX: What’s the New Mexico electronic scene all about? Who are some of the innovators?
Treavor: The New Mexico scene hasn’t been that happening for many years now. There are some people doing shows again which is a good sign and we will be helping with some shows by a lovely crew called Light Lab in the near future. In the late 90′s Santa Fe had one of the best scenes in the country and hopefully we can get that magic flowing again in the Land Of Enchantment.
AX: Sante Fe is such dynamic place, full of spiritual seekers and new agers. How has this exposure to Native American, Buddhism, Hinduism, etc, helped you navigate your personal path?
Amani: I was born in Santa Fe and have practiced Tibetan Buddhism for many years, and this has greatly influenced my intentions behind what I do and the music I make. Buddhism provides a mind training that gives a more stable foundation and expression of positive virtues such as genuine love and compassion. It is important to be putting these virtues into the world, especially when traveling and meeting so many people. You can see what a positive impact music has on people and how it changes their lives. There is a lot of power in putting altruistic intentions into sound and music.
Treavor: Sometimes when you get lost in the Desert, you can really find yourself; you are in touch with the raw power of the environment around you, and become one with the flow of the natural elements, the stars, the moon, and sand; these experiences offer a heightened sense of awareness, especially for those individuals that are seeking peek experiences through all night dance rituals. Dancing till the sun rises in the desert is one of the most epic and uplifting experiences.
AX: Your sound combines both organic and electronic flavours. Are the organic instruments mostly samples or do you prefer to use session musicians or play some yourselves?
Amani: We greatly prefer to collaborate with real musicians in the studio. All the dwellers play instruments and have musical training in one form or another. Treavor and Rara both studied guitar, and I have studied the keyboard, as well as Didgeridoo. So we have always had an affinity to bringing real instruments and vocalists into the realms of electronic music. These “organic flavors” we add are usually a collaboration with a real person and not a sample CD.
AX: How do the three of you approach making music as a group as opposed to doing it individually?
Amani: We’ve all had slightly different backgrounds as composer/producers but since we’ve been working together the goal has been to harmonize our work/flow so that we basically work in a very similar manner alone as we do in a group. We all work using Logic Pro as our main workstation. Ideas are generated in short form and experimented with until they feel really good, then are expanded into arrangements. A lot of work goes into sound design by using the latest effects plug-ins, software synthesizers, sample libraries and studio recordings. Once the arrangement feels good we mix to get the overall sound balanced, crisp and punchy, then we send it to a mastering studio so that it sounds amazing when played on sound systems large and small. If we’re working together, we send ideas back and forth over the Internet until we all feel good about them. As we’ve always lived apart, this is just been the natural evolution of how we work together whether we’re physically in the same place, or thousands of miles away from each other.
AX: Are there any special intentions when producing music or performing live?
Treavor: I think for all of us the intention is to make people feel good and bring them together to celebrate life. Music has been a powerful force in all of our lives, and so in many ways making music is a celebration of the joy that it brings to each of us. The fact that dancing, movement, spirituality, community and empowerment are all positive offshoots of listening to music that truly speaks to one’s soul, makes it that much more important to us. Not only is it what we love to do, but it makes the world we live in a better place to be.
AX: Many visionaries regard the creation of art and music as a deeply sacred constitution. Do you individually or collectively honor any spiritual practices that assist you in composing or performing? How has music influenced your spirituality and vice versa?
Treavor: For me music is my practice of anything I’d really consider to be spiritual. I am highest when in a serious ecstatic dance, and music gives me that feeling you’d hear many describing in the various workshops that go on at many festivals these days.
Amani: For me, my musical and spiritual paths have always been inter-woven together as one path. I was born to a musical father who was a multi instrumentalist and who to this very day still has a collection of instruments literally from all over the world, and to a Buddhist mother who has spent the past 30 years putting her spiritual practices of compassion and kindness into the world as a personal shamanic healer. So growing up in Santa Fe with these kind of parents resulted in a lot of very unique experiences for me at an early age, like traveling to many foreign lands and being exposed to a wide gamut of philosophies and cultures.
AX: Before I let you go, can you share some words with young aspiring artists who seeking to transform their dream into a healthy and sustainable lifestyle?
Treavor: Its all about focus and dedication. If you really want it, you must put those two elements together and make it happen. Of course many sacrifices must be made too, like perhaps being less of a social butterfly and spending more of your time in the studio. Also don’t be afraid to share your music with people, offer it for free or whatever it takes to get people to take a listen. People like to see how musicians evolve so make sure to share that with people.
Amani: Try collaborating with others, when it works for you. Be unique in the vision of your sound, but remain accessible as well. Have extreme focus and diligence and strong self-drive and work ethic. Be as prolific as possible and work to get tracks completed and move onto the next creative inspiration. Put plainly: be inspired!