Interview: Escaper Unleashes Space Funk on Planet Earth

Since last year, Brooklyn-based Escaper has been offering listeners a medium through which to contemplate the most practical methods for farming space worms. Or finally realizing that astronauts can create aliens by giving birth in space, or that there are so many cats on the internet because dog people go outside. Either way, Will Hanza of Escaper (bandleader/guitarist) took a moment to reflect on the creative spirit of making music that facilitates the contemplation of life’s most important questions.

Photo Credit: Brian Edward of Sobokeh

Ally Dean: The band members in Escaper have collaborated with a highly impressive assortment of musicians. Does Escaper come first for all band members? Is it a challenge for members to juggle this band with other collaborations and projects?

Will Hanza: We are all proud of our past accomplishments, for sure! Scheduling is tough for any band, but we manage pretty well. There is a lot of creative opportunity surrounding each player, which is terrific! We all support each other’s other projects, which is really fun. Doing so only helps—rising tides raise all ships, and all that. One of the nice things about Escaper is that it was specifically designed to be a band where each member is able to be completely themselves, as players. For each of us, the band is a conduit of free expression, which I think lends itself to the higher levels we are able to get to as a team.

AD: What do you think people most often contemplate as their minds wander to distant places under the melodic gaze of your music?

WH: Fun question. We do try to make transportive music. Hopefully, there are no constraints to where the mind wanders. Maybe it’s something transcendental and thought provoking. Maybe it’s, “pizza vs. tacos?” or, “why don’t cats like to swim?” Regardless, our duty is to move ourselves when we play, or we have little chance of moving the listener.

AD: Do you form your own meanings for what the songs represent or do you prefer not to assign specific meaning to them?

WH: The songs have taken on some meaning and ‘vibe’ as they have developed. Being an instrumental album, it is certainly more open to interpretation. That said, we call our song titles our one shot at “lyrics.” The songs and titles have developed into their own story line. The journey of escaping confinement is allowing one to be oneself without barriers, and only then is one truly able to unlock all doors and open themselves to many different realms. In the end, our hope is that the listener is able to find their own meaning in all of that.

AD: Skeleton Key is your first album together. Have you all had separate recording experience before coming together for this?

WH: Yes. We’ve all recorded/been part of other albums. All separately, except Will and Jay, who were both on the Kalen & the Sky Thieves album, Bluebird (also on Ropeadope). Johnny Butler was an original member of Sister Sparrow & the Dirty Birds and recorded with them. He also has credits with Beyonce, Randy Jackson and others. Adam Ahuja was also on the Ropeadope roster with his band The Flowdown before joining Escaper.

AD: I read that you guys laid each track down in one take. Is that because you all had an exact goal and executed it perfectly on the first try, or because this style of music lends itself to a little flexibility and you could afford to have a little creative freedom, while still feeling satisfied with the end result?

WH: A little bit has been lost in translation, as far as how we made this album, so this is a good chance to clarify how we went about our process. We recorded most of the album together in one day in the studio. We all played together, simultaneously, while isolated in different rooms, but with windows so we could see each other. This enabled us to best capture the synergy of playing live. Instead of layer upon layer, we all played together, lending the ability to also play *off* of each other, and inspire each other in the moment. Lift each other up in the moment. While a couple of tracks had some light layering for some orchestral effects, for the most part what you hear is the 5 of us just playing with each other at the same time. The music definitely lends itself to the flexibility of “how do we feel right now,” which we absolutely wanted to allow for in the studio.

AD: As of now you have a few dates booked in July and just a couple in the Fall. Are you hoping to add more dates in support of the new album or are you not trying to tour too extensively just yet?

WH: Oh yes. We had a great release show in NYC back in May and have played Brooklyn Bowl a couple times since the release. We’ve played around the northeast, from New England to Virginia. The late July/early August dates are mostly in New York state! We’re excited for the pre-Phish show at American Beauty in NYC on July 26. We’re also excited to be returning to some Hudson Valley favorite spots; July 28 at Snug Harbor in New Paltz, NY and August 4 at Olive’s in Nyack, NY. We haven’t released all of our Fall schedule yet, which will include a couple more festivals and bunch of dates in the northeast, in particular. We’ll continue to fill out our schedule for Fall, Winter and beyond! With the next album currently being recorded and mixed (and due for release in a few months), we’ll be on the road quite a bit. Stay tuned!

Upcoming Tour Dates:
7/21 – New Haven, CT – Pacific Standard Tavern
7/26 – New York, NY – American Beauty NYC
7/28 – New Paltz, NY – Snugs
8/4 – Nyack, NY – Olive’s