Beats Antique emerged from the underground of San Francisco's performing-arts scene in 2007, when producers Dave Satori and Tommy Cappel partnered with belly dancer Zoe Jakes to create a triad of globally inspired music, art and dance. The classically trained Satori and Cappel drew influences from their experiences in Bali, West Africa and Serbia to craft a swirling fusion of marching-band grooves, bluesy folk chords, electronic beats and Middle Eastern melodies. They started their spring tour with a sold-out show at San Francisco's historic Fillmore Auditorium, and on April 19 they'll perform in Richmond at the National. We caught up with the Virginia-born Cappel via phone to talk about performance art, sold-out shows and 10 stops on the upcoming summer-festival circuit. For ticket information, call 612-1900 or visit thenationalva.com .
AD: You all have a very identifiable sound, but as I was writing the intro to this interview earlier today, I had a hard time pinning you to one genre. How would you categorize your music?
TC: Well, it sort of depends on the day. [ Laughs. ] A lot of times we use the description electro-acoustic, because we have a lot of acoustic instruments in all of our production, and we also have electronics in all of our productions. We basically take modern electronic music and sort of old-world acoustic music from all walks of life. Mostly the nature of the gypsy movement and stuff like that, and just combine those two very broad descriptions. A lot of it is more down-tempo stuff, so we say it's got a lot of hip-hop in it just as far as the beats go, and it is kind of hard to describe, but electro-acoustic gypsy music sort of like, categorizes it.
AD: You had no original intention of performing live when the band first formed, but now the live performances seem to be an integral part of the band's identity, especially Zoe's belly dancing. How do you feel live performances play into your overall act now? Are they important?
TC: Yeah, for sure. Basically, what happened was, a lot of our friends who are seated deep within the electronic-music scene in California, a lot of DJs were playing our albums, playing our songs within their sets and remixing them and stuff, and so a lot of people convinced us to sort of DJ our music. So we started doing that along with the belly-dance performance. And then after awhile we kind of decided it would be better if we played some instruments, because were predominantly live musicians. I played drums for 28 years, David played guitar for 20 years. We're live musicians at our hearts, and so we decided to add those elements into our DJ sets. When we're at home, we do sort of a more orchestral version. … On the road, we basically do live remixing and add live drums, Turkish banjo, violin and belly dance. It just makes the DJ set more fun when you add live drums and live melodies.
AD: When you do all the remixing during your live performances, the music ends up being different than what you've got on your album, right?
TC: Yeah. What we do is we'll remix our tracks. We take out all the acoustic drums and the violins and the different elements that we have there live, and then as we're playing the song, we'll sort of decide, OK, lets go into this other section that we've written that has a different element that's not on our record that's more improvisational, so we'll add sub basses and things that are sort of like, alternative sections. And we'll pick small loops from the track that we were just playing and integrate them in with baselines that are sometimes live and sometimes pre-recorded.
AD: Have you ever thought about recording a live album?
TC: Yeah, we actually have. It's a little bit difficult because we're a trio, and so we can't cover all the instruments that we use in recording. We'd like to do that, for sure, to kind of just show people what a live show is like for us, but we're sort of more into maybe doing it with video and stuff. So we're thinking of doing a live DVD.
AD: Do you guys have a videographer with you on the spring tour?
TC: No, he's probably going to come out on some of the shows for little sections of it, but we have our own cameras. On the fall tour last year, we had a guy who came throughout the whole South and the whole East Coast actually and did a tour blog every day. That'll happen sometimes, we're not probably going to do it a bunch. Probably about four or five shows.
AD: Talking about live performances, I discovered you guys through hoop dancing, and I know a lot of fire dancers are into you. Do you ever get a chance to observe how people are responding to your music, and does it ever surprise you or inspire you while you're playing?
TC: Oh, yeah. I mean, while we're playing, it's sort of like we're in the zone of playing, and of course people are dancing around doing their thing. Most of the time the hula-hoopers are in the back.
AD: We need a lot of room.
TC: [ Laughs. ] Yeah, exactly, but you know, it's always interesting to me how people use our music. I mean, we originally created this music for performance art, for belly dancers specifically to use our songs because there wasn't anybody really making proper tribal belly-dance music, and so that's sort of how we came about. … Also for classes that teach performance art in general. Because it's created in tandem with the chorographer, Zoe's really aware of what it takes to make a good song for choreography. It's built-in, and so a lot of times an artist will hear it and be like, "Ah man, I'm super inspired by this," because it really works well with movement. There's a simplicity about it that we like to follow so that people can really feel it and get into it.
AD: It seems to have worked out. You guys sold out your show in San Francisco, right?
TC: Yeah, I mean that show was amazing. It was so much work and so intense, and when we actually got there to do it, we were on fire, the crowd was on fire, the venue is absolutely beautiful, it's like the most beautiful venue. And it was also historic, it was very amazing; and then to sell it out a month in advance was really amazing and awesome. We're just stoked.
AD: Do you guys have any other sold-out shows coming up?
TC: Yeah, we just sold out Portland. We hope to sell out a lot of shows, but at the same time, it's not really about that for us. We just love to perform, and sometimes when you don't sell out a show, there's more room for people to dance, you know, so it's kind of like, six of one, half-dozen the other. We obviously love selling out shows because it's good for our sustainability, but at the same time that's not really our goal, our goal is to just do fun, energetic shows that are different than a lot of the stuff that's out there right now.
AD: Talking about having room to dance, you've got an impressive summer-festival tour lined up. Are there any festivals that you're particularly excited to perform at or just to attend?
TC: You know, honestly, all of them. We love playing at festivals because there is a lot of space, it's usually outside, it's usually pretty beautiful in the summertime wherever we go. It's just a big collection of people that are addicted to music, so we get the opportunity to sort of expose ourselves to a lot of people that may not be able to go to our show, or don't know about us. It's just a great time to gain audience and people and just to spread the word. But if I was to have to pick one, that's hard. Let's see, this is Richmond, so maybe I'll say All Good or Bonnaroo. Bonnaroo is exciting because it's a lot of different kinds of music. It's electronic music, it's jam-band music, it's a festival that's been going on now for a while, and it's really popular and stuff, but at the same time, West Virginia is amazing. The location of All Good is beautiful. It just looks like a really fun, diverse time, and being from Virginia, I sort of love West Virginia. It's a beautiful place. I love being able to return to my roots. We're just really stoked for all of it. It's pretty seldom that we turn out sad. [ Laughs. ] It's a really fun experience, and we love it, and it's really freeing as performers to have the opportunity to do all these things.
AD: It's hard to be upset when you're dancing, I'm sure it's the same when you're playing music.
TC: Oh, yeah, when I'm playing drums, everything is fine. [ Laughs. ] I might get a little tired and sweaty, but other than that, it's all good. Everything is great.