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On last year’s Waking Up to the Fire, D.C. experimental-pop group Drop Electric managed to create a record that felt more like a visceral experience than a mere collection of songs. With the band’s show at Artisphere this Saturday, a performance in conjunction with the arts center’s “Fermata” exhibition, the band will look to expand that effect into something even more sensory.
“The idea of the show was to use art and music and videos to do a trippy exploration of human evolution,” says percussionist Ramtin Arablouei. Washington City Paper talked with Arablouei about the possibilities of sound, the future of his band, and a little movie Drop Electric helped work on called 300: Rise of an Empire.
Washington City Paper: Tell me a little bit about this upcoming Artisphere performance. What can we expect?
RA: This is our first sit-down show at a theater, not at a typical rock club, which is really cool. “Fermata” is the Artisphere exhibit on sound, and our first album had a lot of sound design and experimental stuff on it. The idea of the show was to use art and music and videos to do a trippy exploration of human evolution. We’ll [also] be playing a lot of new music that going to be on our next album.
This is your first sit-down show?
Yeah, as far as I remember. People always tell us it would be nice to see us somewhere where they can sit down because there’s large parts of our show that are really quiet. We’ve played clubs like 9:30 Club where everybody is standing and the few complaints we heard from people were like “It’d be nice to just sit down and watch.”
How did the “Fermata” exhibition inspire your show?
I went to go see the exhibit and I really loved it. They have a whole wall set up with speakers and depending on where you’re sitting, you’ll hear a different piece. There’s this one really crazy thing where they had a NASA scientist use Doppler radar to create music, the frequency of the way the Doppler rotates around. It was immersive. You can just close your eyes and imagine where these sounds came from. I wanted to create a similar experience for this show where someone could sit down and really take in the combination of sound and atmosphere.
Could you maybe talk a little bit more about the visual component of the show? I know you already use videos regularly at your performances, but how will this differ?
The live-visual component is going to be the space where we’re exploring the whole human evolution theme. Our attempt is to make it like a journey; you get really sucked into the hour that you’re sitting there. We have a light rig and that will be used too, and it will kind of be a combination of visuals, lights, music, and sound.
Similar to the Fermata exhibit, your music seems to be interested in exploring the possibilities of sound. Is there a thought-out, intellectual motive behind this or is this purely aesthetic?
The short answer is: We don’t do much intentionally. And I think people are surprised by this. We don’t intentionally try and come up with a particular sound. Usually the name of our game is experimentation. I love to use new gadgets and new tools to come up with sounds that I haven’t heard before. We’ll almost never use preset effects. We have a lot of fun with just messing with sound.
What can we expect in regards to Drop Electric’s future?
We just put out a record last year, and it was really intense, the process of putting out a record on a label and all the press. We kind of took a break. We kind of just recorded and played for fun, and in the process of doing that, we wrote another record. We’re really excited about it. It was mostly written together live, so it has a very live, dynamic sound. Our last one was an electronic experiment, and this one is going back to what we do. We’re also with a licensing company in California that licenses songs to trailers, and this year we were really lucky: We got our song in the sequel to 300.
If one of your songs could be in a trailer for any filmmaker, who would it be?
We’d all choose different people, but I think I’d have to go with Terrence Malick. Actually it’s a tie between Malick and Werner Herzog.