Questions for Incendio
The L.A.-based world music group has released eight albums and traveled the globe. This is their first performance in Milwaukee.
Incendio is ready for their very first performance in Wisconsin at Jazz in the Park. The band got its start in 1999 and since then has travelled the country and released many albums. Its Latin/jazz core is mixed with Celtic and Middle Eastern influences to produce a pretty unique sound. The band consists of Jim Stubblefield on guitar, Jean-Pierre Durand on guitar and guitar synth, Liza Carbe on bass and guiter, and Tim Curle on drums.
Prepare to be taken to the beaches of South America, sonically speaking, when they perform on June 18 at 6pm in Cathedral Square Park as part of East Town Association’s Jazz in the Park Series alongside Terra Guitarra. Durand responded via email to our questions.
How did you get your start in music?
I started with piano lessons at 6 years old, then choir at school. I discovered the guitar in 7th grade, and that’s how it really started.
How did your band meet and start playing together?
My wife Liza [Carbe] was asked to play with the Jim Stubblefield Group in 1997. She enjoyed the shows and I started to check out the group. Jim asked me to sit in and I started doing that more regularly. In 1999, we had become so involved as a trio that we called the name of this project “Incendio.”
Who are your main musical influences?
For the group, I’d say the main influences are the Guitar Trio: Al Di Meola, John McLaughlin, and Paco De Lucia (particularly “Friday Night in San Francisco”), Strunz and Farah, Jesse Cook and Steve Morse. Individually, however, is more interesting. For Jim, his influences include Yngwie Malmsteen and Randy Rhoads. For Liza, her influences include Led Zeppelin, Joni Mitchell, John Dowland, and 20th century classical. My influences include Jimi Hendrix, XTC and Steely Dan. The cross-section of these bands and their different styles are all important to our sound. I think we all admire Peter Gabriel for the way he truly forged his own sound.
How would you describe your music?
We have a strong latin-jazz core, as well as fusion. But the Celtic and Middle-Eastern influences come through so we are ultimately more of a world music band.
How do you try to connect to and work the audience?
Vocal music is usually about the singer, but instrumental music is about the listener. The audience can go on a journey with the band, so we invite them to do just that. We kind of give them permission. So it becomes a communion with the audience.
How would you describe the state of rock and popular music today?
Jazz was both a feel that came from the blues, but also very sopisticated, and in its time, dangerous and taboo. Rock, and reggae generated a similar perception. But those aren’t the times today. Rock is used as a backdrop to truck commercials.
The interesting thing happening today is that iTunes and Youtube have provided a platform where a young kid today has exactly the same access to St. Vincent as they do to Hendrix, so rather than inheriting an older brother’s or sister’s or parent’s record collection, that kid has the whole history of recorded music at their fingertips. I think it allows for kids to shoot off in a much different direction than was possible in the past. If there’s a kid that has Clapton-esque abilities on the guitar, that kid doesn’t have to wait to go to the store to hear all of Robert Johnson‘s work like Eric Clapton did. It’s a click away. And all these genres are influenced by that access. So I think in time the more sophisticated voicings of jazz will find their way into EDM from kids that don’t want the same old thing. Rock and electronic influences are already in reggae – dancehall was already an important way that hip hop and reggae integrated over the last 20 years. It all comes around and the talented kids will blend continue to blend everything together.
How do you balance your music with other obligations – mate, children, job?
We all do this full-time. When we’re not recording or touring with Incendio, we’re all generating music for film and television, except for Tim who is teaching. None of us have kids, so we’re all in!
What is your favorite thing to see in the audience while you are on stage?
I look for engagement, whether it be dancing, nodding their head, or intent listening. Any of those qualifies for full engagement with the music. That’s what you shoot for, those moments of pure communication.
What are some of your most memorable experiences performing on stage?
The ones where I lose myself onstage completely, open my eyes and the crowd is right there dancing away or otherwise enthralled. That’s happened many times, in Pasadena, in Reston, Virginia, at the Millpond Festival in Bishop [California). Then there’s other times where we are having fun but the crowd seems to be teetering on the edge of hysteria. That happens just about every time we play at the National Gallery in Washington DC, and was also definitely the case at the Sundance Film Festival in Park City Utah. That show kind of danced at the edge of hysteria. We have some footage of it – craziness. Islands Folk Festival in British Columbia was also an unforgettable experience – the Canadian audience was so beautiful and supportive.
Then there are other times you remember for worse reasons. We were playing in El Paso Texas at Chamizal Park, and an incredible black storm front moved in about 40 minutes into our show. The deluge was unbelievable – the announcer stopped us mid-song, we ran offstage and were drenched in seconds.
What are your hopes and aspirations for the band?
For our genre, I would love for folks who love guitar, who love jazz, who love world music, to know our band around the world. It’s a tremendous amount of work, but when friends come back from Paris and they say “we heard your music in the cafe”, that lets us know we’re onto something unique and special. That’s gratifying — it’s everything.
What are your fondest musical memories?
With Incendio, in the first few years, some of my fondest memories were of our first touring shows outside of California. That’s when we found out that folks out there in Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico and Texas responded so positively to our music. We’ve had some extraordinary times playing with genius madman multi-instrumentalist Joe Craven as well as our good friends in the group Hudost. Those are very cherished experiences.
What drew you to this kind of music?
For me, I was actually drawn to the energy of a performance. I was a big fan of punk rock, particularly Minutemen and Black Flag. I found that same commitment in Jimi Hendrix, in Weather Report, in Elvis Costello, in Steely Dan, that almost insane commitment to go higher in the fire and deliver the most you could, whether via performance or composition or a unique combination of both. I don’t think it’s about style, it’s about energy and excellence.
Where are you performing next/ where can people see you?
We are playing all over the United States this summer. But we will really pull out all the stops at our Jazz in the Park show in Milwaukee. As our first Wisconsin show, we will try to make A LOT of new fans.
What do you love the most about performing live?
If the sound is good and the audience is with you, you are really handed a perfect opportunity to create a beautiful, living sound sculpture and make it up as you go along. And it can never happen the same way again. In most pop shows, and in some theater, perfect repetition is very important. Our show is more rambunctious and build on improvisation, so by nature it’s going to be a little different every time.
What do you think of Milwaukee as a musical city?
I guess we’ll find out. But since the Violent Femmes’ first album was the beloved soundtrack to my high school years, I’m feeling pretty good about it! Hopefully no blisters at this show.