Travis Egedy begs pardon: "Can you hold on one second?" About two minutes later, Egedy, who has been recording progressively more accessible dance music for years as Pictureplane, returns to the line and apologizes. On a short break between tours, he's been walking through the streets of New York. He ran into an old friend, so he felt compelled to say hello.
But Egedy doesn't live in New York. In fact, in spite of the bright urban sheen of his reference-rich dance music, he lives in Denver, a place that's not readily associated with one of America's best young beat makers or party primers. Thanks to the Internet, though, Egedy has built not only a big pool of sounds and samples for his tunes but also a coast-to-coast network of like-minded listeners and creators. During his break from the interview, he briefly talks to his friend about a new band and what he's been up to, more like a neighborhood DJ than someone who lives almost 2,000 miles away.
INDEPENDENT WEEKLY: You make intricate, eclectic dance music in Denver, a place that's not necessarily known for what you do. Is that an advantage or disadvantage?
TRAVIS EGEDY: That's why Denver is cool—it's different. The outside perspective is that if you're doing anything interesting culturally, you have to live in a big city somewhere. I like that that's not the case. There are great things going on in every city. Well, maybe not every city, but certain cities and communities have strong underground scenes. It doesn't mean it's any less valid because it's not in New York or LA.
There's long been the idea that if you can make it in New York, you can make it anywhere, but that might not necessarily apply to somewhere like Denver.
I think it's almost harder to be seen in a place like Denver than New York. But at the same time, not really, because now everything is online. Everyone has an equal playing field because of Internet culture. You can be internationally known living in the smallest town ever. There's no need for you to feel the need to live in a bigger city. It helps, but Denver is a great place with a lot of cool things going on, in spite of how small it is.
How much of your ability to do this as a livelihood do you attribute to the Internet?
Kind of everything. My music is different; it's weird. But through the Internet, you're able to build relationships and contacts. The first two or three tours I went on were all DIY, set up online through MySpace and just messaging someone who looked like they'd be into what you were doing. I could find like-minded people across the way that I would have no other way of meeting. I owe everything to the Internet, as do a lot of my contemporaries. This new electronic scene came about because of the Internet.
When you actually tour, do you end up turning these online connections into real-life relationships and friendships? How often can you make that move from social networking, and is that even important to you?
It's always really fun to meet someone online and then finally meet them in real life. You can tell online that you would be friends in real life if you had just met them just on the street. But also, being in Denver and running Rhinoceropolis, that's how I met a lot of artists. They would be touring, and they would play Denver in our warehouse. We would form friendships because of that—just being in a community that opens up to artists and building a network that way, by having the artist come to your house or space and perform.
Do you ever consider leaving Denver for a bigger city?
I think about it a lot, and I think I might do that just because I've been there a really long time. I've lived there eight years, and it's important to change up. I moved there after high school to go to art school.
As the myth goes, you helped build the scene from scratch in Denver with your warehouse space, Rhinoceropolis. Do you see it that way, or were you simply syncing with something that already existed there?
It's a mixture of both. Denver has a history of warehouse culture and a DIY scene that we were continuing with the Rhinoceropolis. I don't know how much we started a scene instead of just really continuing it. But having a warehouse space where anything is possible and anything is encouraged—that's how scenes can happen. You're not telling people what to do. You're just allowing it naturally. That's what happened in Denver.
Your friends in Future Islands also left North Carolina to join something of a warehouse scene in Baltimore. Do these sort of spaces all work for the same reason—an ideal of artistic inclusiveness?
It depends on what your goal is. Money is a big part of it, and living cheaply will allow you to do things. There are benefits of living in a place like New York that Denver doesn't have, but I probably live three times as cheaply as my friends do in New York. I have been able to have a lot more creative freedom just because I have a lot more time.
Do you think your music would or will sound different if made in New York?
I think about that, too: If I lived in a different city, would my music sound a little bit different? Being in Denver, isolated a little bit, it was really organic. I wasn't thinking about other people.
What's the most important step for you about Thee Physical as your next record?
Sonically, it's a progression, definitely; we cleaned it up and made it sound a lot better than Dark Rift. Really, I just wanted it to be better than the last one. That was the progression. It's a different concept than the last record. The last one was more about time and space and outer space and galactic alignment than human consciousness. This one was more about the physicality of the world and sexuality.
Do you see electronic music as a natural medium for exploring those topics?
Any dance music is going to naturally be kind of sexual, if it makes your body move or you feel something from that. It can be really emotional also; it's something that affects both the body and the mind. I don't know what my contribution to the continuum of dance music is necessarily, but I think I am very different than a techno artist. There's more going on there. It's sort of an art thing to me.