As the musical communities of jambands and electronica have come together over the past years, the Midwest has been a convergence point for self-awareness, local festivals, music and art. One major influencer has been the band Papadosio, and their front man Anthony Thogmartin. As Papadosio has grown out of small bars and venues into sold out crowds, as well as developing their four-year running music festival, Rootwire, they have made a name for themselves, and their community, within the Midwest.
This year, at the 2nd annual Hyperion Music Festival, set to take place this weekend, September 5th-7th in Spencer, IN, Papadosio plans to take the main stage as the headlining act of Friday night. The second time they’ve held this spot at Hyperion, Papadosio is a musical force to reckon with as they fuse jam, electronica, progressive rock, folk and psychedelia into one monster of a band that will have you grooving from start to finish. As I sit down with Anthony in this interview, we discuss the prominence of Papadosio within the scene, the release of his newest album from his solo project Earthcry, Rootwire and the use of drugs within the scene. Take a read and we will see you at Hyperion 2013.
CL: You just released the new Earthcry album, can you talk about what it means to you and the importance of the album?
Anthony: Well the Earthcry album is a collection of songs that I had sitting around and I didn’t really know what to do with them; I didn’t think they really applied to us as a band. I wanted to have another creative outlet for what I felt was a slightly different style, maybe a little less live sounding. It’s basically a collection of solfeggio frequencies, which are a 1400AD and earlier tradition that Gregorian choirs would sing in.
CL: As you’ve been doing the Earthcry thing over the past couple years have you been finding yourself, in your free time, connecting with these frequencies more then what you did in the past?
Anthony: Honestly I think I’ve connected with them mostly through composing, because I just had so much time and training and I spent a lot of time tuning my synthesizers because they don’t line up with the specific scale. They’re in between A and A-Flat or F and E. They sound distorted when you listen to them with normal music, so you literally have to tune all the instruments you use down or up slightly to match the sounds. I was dong a lot of training with my own ears and my body system just by messing with them, so I think I got a lot more into it with composing, but whenever I sit down to mess around with a song or a live performance it tends to bring it all back. It’s really funny to hear what people have to say about it, especially because a lot of guys will cross their arms and tap their toes and ask, “Is this stuff real? Where’s the science?”
CL: Have you felt a difference in your life by playing and experiencing these different frequencies?
Anthony: Some more than others. I think that it’s important to remember that when you say the words ‘war’ or ‘hate’, what it does to somebody, it’s not because of the utterance of the phrase means literally anything at all, but because of the connotations that have been granted to those words. Or ‘love’ and ‘happiness’- they make us feel a certain way when we hear them because we’ve granted them the ability to do so. So if you come into an Earthcry show all skeptical, I don’t think you will walk away with nearly as much as if you were to just come in there with an open mind. I feel a lot of people miss out on their life because they are constantly skeptical of everything. We grant these frequencies the power they have over us.
CL: Do you have a favorite frequency, one you connect with the most?
Anthony: 741 is really awesome; I call it “cultivating intuition,” but I don’t really like to talk about them too much because I don’t want to charge peoples experiences. I feel that after talking to people, that they have more of an experience if I don’t talk about them.
CL: Can you give me your explanation of the meaning behind T.E.T.I.O.S and ending the illusion of separation, as a society, on a worldly level, but also in the sense of this micro-cosim that is the jam scene?
Anthony: Well almost every single song on the album talks about, in some way, the illusion of separation. We walk around in a world that is so unbelievably obsessed with what is exterior, what is superficial and what is outside of the body. A really good quote that I like to talk about is from the Guru Muda that says, “because we’re aware of our thinking mind, there’s got to be something deeper then the thinking mind,” because we’re aware of our thoughts. We are highly aware if we are happy or sad- if our brain is over or under stimulated- because we’re aware that there’s obviously an equal and vast universe on the inside as there is on the outside. A lot of the album talks about those things.
Sometimes they’re very basic and sometimes they’re pretty in depth. I feel that’s in a lot of ways what we were touching on, and that’s our lives, that’s really the life we live right now, it’s a really funny loophole between un-reality and reality, and we walk around in an illusion. An illusion that says I am me and you are you, but if you zoom out of the earth and you look at the earth as itself, it’s one large active living system, and it’s one collection of huge systems and we’re so specific of what’s coming into our eyes and our brain, as opposed to the eye that encompasses all. And that’s not just a theme for the album, but all of the lyrical structure and everything we talk about as a band. I guess to talk about it more on a grounded level, it was right when Sam joined the band in the beginning of the creation of the CD. He brought to the table, in a lot of ways, what completed us as a band because what we needed was somebody to refocus on the 4th note of all the chords, the rhythm. I think that having him join in, and also contributing songs he wrote for the album, allowed us to be more diverse.
CL: How long were you working on T.E.T.I.O.S before it was released?
Anthony: I guess it was about two years of work, but really about a total of three years for me.
CL: So three years in the making- did that coincide in any way with your trip to South America and your ayahuasca experience and maybe getting a better sense of enlightenment as to the world we live in?
Anthony: Well that’s a funny word, enlightenment. I think that an experience like that which takes one in a visionary direction- there’s a lot of visual and auditory aspects- what it does is it grants somebody perspective. I can definitely say that it granted us a different perspective for the time we spent down there. Even more than that, the perspective of being in a jungle and being in a different culture is almost enough. Once you leave your surroundings for just a little bit and you see what other people are doing, you instantly understand what empathy means; you understand what everybody is dealing with and that people do experience pain in other places and everybody is not against you. It’s so funny how unbelievably afraid, especially around here, people are of the rest of the world and we shelter ourselves. If people left just for a little bit to taste what’s out there, the world would be a completely different place.
CL: What are your opinions on drug use in the music scene?
Anthony: Well I don’t think there is as much drug use as people would like to think. I think that it’s also very romanticized which in a lot of ways is sad. If you have a psychedelic experience, it will grant you a different perspective of what you are able to deal with in your own body system and your own mind and your soul. It will show you a small, slightly altered aspect of you but it will be an incomplete aspect of you. When somebody sees a different perspective their reaction can be, ‘oh wow that’s pretty wild’ and then they think it’s the drugs that granted them that, when truly it’s their own self. It is a different synapse, a different neuron firing in the brain they’ve always had and can totally access and use outside of realm of drug use.
This year I saw less drug use and more pragmatic thought and focusing on different practices then I had really ever seen before. It was really encouraging and exciting. We even had a panel discussion on this very topic because its really kind of obnoxious anymore that people are so heavily reliant on psychedelic use to feel they are tapping into something spiritual, when really it’s available anytime, it just takes a lot of discipline. What we don’t have right now as a society is a lot of discipline. Really, I feel like psychedelic use is like a reality intervention- you’re sick, and this is medicine. What I really see happening is people are focusing on other things. They’re focusing on dramatic dance, yoga, meditation. If you can really get into it and discipline ones self, nothing prevents you from achieving the exact same state in a more controlled and repeatable manner. We’re moving towards that direction and I think its great.
I think that society is incredibly afraid and skeptical of what it doesn’t understand and its time for our culture to take the next step and mature. We actually called our discussion at Rootwire “Once You Get The Message, Hang Up The Phone, There’s No reason To listen For A Dial Tone” because once you get the message that a different perspective can grant you, then you just hang up the phone. There’s no reason to consistently take the drugs, and there’s no reason to do it in the first place if you don’t feel called to. It’s a medicine. It’s for someone that is sick, its not just like, “I have to do this to enjoy myself.” That’s the sign of someone that is sick in a different way and the drugs are never going to help them solve that.
CL: Ok so getting away from Rootwire, how do you see Papadosio creating its own micro-cosim within the macro-cosim that is the jam scene?
Anthony: On a grounded level, we just do what we want to do. I think that a lot of bands out there aren’t doing what they want to do. If bands were doing what they really wanted to do, their music would sound a lot different. Unfortunately we’re hanging out in a time where a lot of bands are copying each other and a lot of electronic producers are using the same sound because it worked for somebody else. I don’t think the media is really portraying the financial situation that’s going on right now as dire as it actually is.
The reason we have all kinds of musicians writing music they don’t necessary like or agree with is because everyone is broke. I feel that our band has made unbelievable sacrifices, time-wise and finance-wise. We spend 150 days on the road. We work endlessly because we know that’s what it takes. We also write the music we want to write. Us doing what is original is novel, and its novel to hear a band doing something that’s not contrived out of pieces of other peoples music. It’s not hard to do, you just have to do it, and I think there are bands out there that are doing this and it’s exciting. We try to invite them to Rootwire, if they’ll come, but it’s just a funny world we live in. Everything that’s super mega popular, besides a very small handful of musicians, is probably the most un-original music that there is. It’s the most generic, and because of this most people can relate to it, and if it’s advertised well it becomes massive.
I feel it waxes and wanes. Right now we’re in the disco period where everyone’s making the same sound and another 90’s is going to hit and a new more torn-down version of music that’s very original is going to resurface and hit again. We’re just in a dull period right now where everybody can put an “ERRRR” in their DJ set and it’s going to work for them; eventually it’s going to hit a critical mass and it’s not going to work anymore.
CL: Since you brought it up, what are your opinions on the convergence of EDM music rising to be a very large popular genre of music?
Anthony: Well, the trouble lies with naming the genre EDM, because there’s a lot of electronic music out there that isn’t electronic dance music. But also that’s why we’re in a disco culture, because in a lot of ways people are excited about dance music once again. I’m old enough to remember when Pearl Jam, Nine Inch Nails and Tool were just starting to hit the radio and I was enamored with this music because I hadn’t heard anything like it. It was original and it didn’t really ask you to do anything, it just demanded that you enjoy this specific and artistic perspective that was not going to be altered or changed by anybody else. It was highly original. And now we’re in this disco era again where people are like, ‘Will this make someone dance? How about this? I wonder if this will this make someone dance.’ Whatever cleverly placed glitchy sound will make someone dance is what’s happening. I don’t really know if I understand what EDM means, but as I understand it, it’s electronic music that someone dances to. It’s specifically designed for a specific purpose and it just doesn’t allow for the fullness of artistic expression.
CL: I’ve spoken with various people at Papadosio shows on this topic and I’m curious what are you thoughts on certain peoples’ feelings that Papadosio is almost like a cult?
Anthony: Yeah it’s actually pretty funny. I watched Radiohead in 2007 at Bonnaroo and there had to be over 50,000 people there- a very large crowd to be in the middle of. So what I noticed was people moved and breathing with that music. They were so entranced, so unbelievably moved by every single action. I related that back to my youth and realized anything that band wore, I wore. Anything that band said, I said. Anything that was going on with that music when I was younger was my lifestyle. We defined ourselves by our music.
So what I realized at that moment was that you have within you the capacity to say some things that might just need to be said, some ideas that might not be represented in the mass media. When do you get on the news and when does the news say, “Hey everybody, why don’t you just try to love each other. Hey everybody, its all gonna be good,”? When has the media said that? What if Radiohead said that? That’s what went through my mind. What if these bands were saying that? And I thought more and more that it makes a lot more sense to keep whatever is being said outside of music very short and to the point, but to say what’s being said in the music even more. It almost becomes a mantra to people and to think of us as a cult is a really funny thing to think about because that obviously comes from the opinion of somebody who is really, really on the outside.
I suppose what we have more than a cult, is a culture. It’s a little culture that has values and free, simple and true ways of being. We don’t really like to argue. We don’t like to fight. We don’t like to do anything other then enjoy ourselves peacefully, explore our psyches peacefully, explore our relationships with each other peacefully and get into really awesome art. I think maybe some guy at the back of the bar that wonders into a Papadosio show and sees it for the first time would consider it different because it really is. Its really different, but in no way, shape or form are we spiritual leaders who are going to ask of our fans the next time Halley’s Comet comes by to murder themselves.
I also think there’s a term called “classic”. There are a lot of bands out there that were called “classic.” What that means is they’re a band that is very strange and different and only a very small pocket of people get it, but that small pocket of people really get it. It’s like GWAR fans, for example. There’s not millions and millions of GWAR fans, but there’s definitely a lot of them, and it’s a very specific, strange and funny kind of thing and its not going to be everybody’s bag to like that. But they have a cult classic following, and in a lot of ways I think that’s what’s happening with us. We’re trying to make our music accessible to anybody that likes to play a guitar or a bass or can appreciate the musical aspect of what we do and not just what we say. I think we’re trying to be translatable to a wide variety of people just because it’s a challenge for us and it’s fun. We’re not really trying to lead the people as much as just get them to maybe think together and maybe be a little more peaceful and enjoy the finer things in life.
CL: So one last question that was requested of me to ask: are you an alien?
Anthony: Haha, I don’t know, I’m pretty sure this isn’t the first time this has happened, ya know, on a planet, so if I am, then I guess we all are.