Eyedea talks touring, festivals, and his dream of standup comedy

Eyedea talks touring, festivals, and his dream of standup comedy
Photo by Denis Jeong Plaster

The rapper Eyedea--Michael Larson off the stage--isn't one to paint himself into a corner. What he brings to the stage as an emcee is only one piece of what he does, and he keeps himself plenty busy, even when he's not on tour with his DJ partner Abilities. Between his musical projects Face Candy and Carbon Carousel, and the numerous other ideas he works on, Eyedea's always got something on the burner. I cornered him after his set at Soundset to talk about hiphop variety shows, stand up comedy, big festivals vs. small rooms, and the wonders of drone metal.

How's Soundset going?

It's going great, intense. A lot is going on!

What do you think of the response you got today?

I think it's good. I think it's kind of the same no matter like how we play or where we play...that's just my perspective, you know...I feel pretty insecure about it, I guess. [Laughs.] I feel good about it.

Do you have more fun doing big stuff like this or is it more real in a small room?

Oh definitely small rooms, man. This kind of shit, you have to prepare yourself for a physical event. It's not just an emotional expression, you have to think about stuff. If you're playing the Entry you can be like, "I'm here, let's get wasted and play." This kind of thing--if I get drunk, I'm going to black out and die. So you can't do that. What am I doing? Who am I talking to? It's this complex thing, so I don't like it as much. As far as playing for this many people, I dig that, but these kind of events are always the same. We did [touring hiphop festival] Rock The Bells last year, same fucking thing. First of all, they scheduled a tour every weekend, so we'd be off for three days, and then get on planes, drive around, go play this hot festival, and then get back on planes. We basically toured all summer, but only played twenty shows.

But at the same time, the big shows take such a physical toll.

Yeah, huge toll, especially out in the sun [all day].

So what's next for Eyedea & Abilities?

We're touring in July. We're playing here with Tapes N' Tapes at the Walker, and then we're heading East via Chicago, digging our way through. I don't think we're going south of DC, so we're pretty much heading up, doing some Canada stuff, and then heading back.

Do you get a pretty solid response on the East Coast?

East Coast isn't as good for us, and it depends on how you define response. We don't have as big turnouts, and we don't sell as many records, but still, we're at the point where if we play a gig, there's not a lot of walk-in people. So if a show only has 50 people, they're the 50 people who like it. They may sit there, or they may cheer, or whatever. We're not a "buzz band," you know? We're already over a decade old. It's not like somebody's like, "check out these fucking guys I just read about," people are like, "I either like them or hate them," you know? And sometimes people come because they hate it, and that's just fucking weird.

Eyedea talks touring, festivals, and his dream of standup comedy
Photo by Ben Clark

But sometimes kind of fun?

Always fun! Actually, my friend Kristof Krane, he said, "you have to do an acoustic set at my release party." This was two years ago. That's the scariest thing in the world to me. So I practiced up and got tunes together--I write a lot of music on guitar and sing, but I've never put it together for a set. He was like, "No, play, play your fucking songs." So once I conquered that, I was like, "Now I'm not scared to do that, what's the next scariest thing in the world to do. Standup comedy, that's the scariest thing. I've been writing jokes since I was a kid, but never, ever had the guts to actually go up and do standup. So on the Paid Dues tour last summer, MURS was supposed to be hosting, and he got a hernia and couldn't host a certain section of [dates]. We're in Boston, and there's 8,000 people, and literally when we did the Eyedea & Abilities set the second I walked on stage people were like "faggot!" you know? It was over with. So my buddy Tommy from Mystik Journeymen, he said, "you should introduce us since MURS isn't hosting." I was like, "I dunno," but he said, "No, introduce us and do your standup." Here's the thing, these people already hate me. And the way he got me is he said, "I know, that's what will make it so funny." So then I introduced them and did my stand up and that totally broke my cherry. I got laughs on almost every joke, I didn't get booed at all, people responded better to that than to our set. It was fucking great, man.

So as far as stepping outside the box, acoustic sets, standup, and all that, have you talked about bringing in live instrumentation?

Well, the last Eyedea & Abilities record, I'd say that 90% of the guitar sounds on it, I played. As far as bringing it into the live show, Eyedea & Abilities sits in this weird place. It wants to be two guys, but it also wants to be a band, so it's a weird thing. In general my life, and as far as my whole artistic expression goes, all that's there. But what I usually do is compartmentalize because it seems like I can't talk the people I play with in a certain band to play with another band as much....My dream is to do like a variety show, like 3 hours where every type of music I play  is involved, and standup, and weird fucking skits, but I'm mature enough to realize nobody's down with that. If I found the right people to do it with me on stage, I wouldn't give a fuck if an audience was down with it, because I'd do it. But I can't get say J.T. Bates and Abilities to play in a band together--I can get them to jam together, but I can't get the songs that I write to have a crazy jazz drummer and a DJ and some wicked guitar player, I'm incapable of doing that. So what I do to fulfill it all is say, "All right, I got this band and that band," I compartmentalize.

What really excites you about today. What other acts are you excited to see?

I was really excited to see Ice Rod's new thing. Michael Gaughan is a good friend of mine and a huge inspiration, and the way he played today was his first thing with the band that he has. I'm a big Cage fan, so I always like seeing him, we always hang out. MURS. It's weird because I'm so immersed in it, that it's not even an artistic thing. We played Red Rocks, which was amazing, with MURS, Aesop, and Atmosphere in the summer. But I had a day off in Denver the day before and what I was more excited to actually see was the band Sunn O))). That was exciting to me because it had nothing to do with me. In this element I'm excited to see people I know and hang out, and play, and talk shit, and do all that. It's difficult for me to pull myself out of that to look at someone's art. But watching that Sunn O))) show was amazing, they played at this place called the Bluebird theater and they have this sound code or law...every time I've played there, they can't go over 100 decibels, and they're running around with a meter....you shouldn't be able to hear yourself talking at a rock show or a hiphop show. It should be too loud. So I go see Sunn O))) and I'm like, "how the hell are these guys going to do it?" They're the loudest band in the world. How the did it was they just fucking did it. The curfew was midnight and they got on at 11:45 and played for two hours, as loud as they could. That's how you do it, you just get up there and do what you do. [Laughs.] I just love drone metal.

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