EC = Eugene Cho
DB = Dan Balis
Your latest single “Cocaine Blues” is a big hit, is there a story on how the song came about?
EC – Right! Not sure if it’s a “hit” yet, but we’ve been getting some love from the DJs for sure. Dan and I have always obsessed about the original bassline and we would even insult each others race and religion by singing made up lyrics to the tune of that bassline. Eventually we had to record our own version, and it began to take a life of its own.
Who are some of your main influences?
EC – Chic, August Darnell, Gino Soccio, MJ…
DB – No real surprises. Dance music by way of Chicago, New York, and Detroit. And also folks like The Clash, Ian Dury, Talking Heads, etc,..
How many people are in the band? Was it difficult to find good players for a disco group?
EC – We were 17 strong for our last show, its a crazy number of people to coordinate, but its worth it. You definitely get your money’s worth when you come to a show. Seeing us is like seeing three bands at once. It was surprisingly easy to attract great payers for the band. We try to keep it loose and easy for everyone. Its like a big party. I feel like people have just as much fun rehearsing and hanging out before and after we play then when we’re actually performing.
DB – Everyone gets on really well. Even if the party or show sucked we’d still probably have a good time (although luckily that’s never happened.)
How do you write original material, on your own or with the band? What’s the recording process like?
EC – Dan and I write the bulk of the music. On “Cocaine Blues” we we had three string players. You can hear one of our violinists, Pauline Kim, playing four different violins playing the same part three times on each and in two octaves. So you are hearing up to 24 performances of Pauline at the same time. Its a very painstaking process. Back in the day you had teams of writers, producers, engineers and arrangers working on your average disco record. With Escort, Dan and I do the work of a whole team of people. Virtually everything you hear on our records is played live instead of programmed. So we end up recording literally dozens of hours of material for every song. And we can’t afford to hire out an entire symphony stage. We’re total control freaks in the studio.
DB – Yeah we’re always willing to take the extra time to get the right sound. Sometimes we’ll put three or four microphones up to record a single piece of percussion. For a typical drum recording session we spend a day just getting the sound right before we begin recording. The other thing is we’re not precious during the writing process. If something isn’t working, it’ll get killed.
What are some of your favorite pieces of gear?
EC – I love the Jupiter 6, its laid out so well and you can feel that it wants to make funky sounds. My microphone locker serves me well, my go to mic is the Elux 251, female voices consistently come out great come through it. We use sm7s on almost all of our percussion. Most important is a proper bottle of bourbon. That can be a very important tool in getting the right vocal performance.
DB – Everything’s a tool for what you want. I spent a stupid amount of money on a mic (Mercenary KM-69) basically just for hi-hats. But most reliably, the go to items for me are G&L ASAT Guitar, Fender Rhodes, and I’ll second Eugene – Knob Creek.
At the moment it seems like you play about 1 show a year in NY, any plans to do more shows or tour with the band?
EC – We would love to tour, but its hard.
DB – Yeah, Escort isn’t the most practical band in the world. We introduced ourselves to David Byrne once, gave him a CD, and told him about our 17-piece lineup. His immediate response, “How do you make any money?”
What were you like in high school?
EC- I hung out with all the skaters and smokers in the parking lot. I thought I was a real fucking artist.
DB – I was a suburban DC cliché—I skated, wrote graffiti, and played guitar in some mediocre punk-ish bands.
Top 5 Favorite DJ Records
Willie and the Hand Jive – Rinder and Lewis
Me No Pop I – Coati Mundi
A Little Bit of Jazz – Nick Straker
There But for the Grace of God Go I – Machine
Everybody Dance – Chic
Don Quichotte – Magazine 60
Remember – Gino Soccio
I Wanna Rock You – Georgio Moroder
War Dance – Kebekelectrik
Feels Good – Electra
Top 5 Listening Albums
Cymande – Cymande
Alive – Grant Green
Hustler’s Convention – Lightning Rod
Funky Kingston – Toots & The Maytals
Surfer Rosa – The Pixies
Clash – London Calling
Dr. Buzzard’s Orginal Savannah Brass Band – S/T
Funkapolitan – S/T
The Slits – The Cut
Desmond Dekker – Black and Dekker
5 Favorite Places to Eat
Fette Sau (Brooklyn)
Sushi Dai (Tokyo)
Au Pied du Cochon (Montreal)
The Salt Lick (Austin)
Spicy and Tasty (Queens)
Au Pied du Cochon (Montreal)
Fette Sau (Brooklyn)
what do you like to do, non-music related
EC – I cook, I made a gigantic batch of cassoulet for my birthday party. It took 12 hours over the course of a week. I’m a die hard Celtics, Sox and Pats fan.
DB – Lately, I’ve been watching lots of old movies and playing Scrabble on the computer. I also like to cook—I make credible Sichuan and Italian (although usually not at the same time.)
Word on the street, is that you like asian girls… true?
EC – I love my asian sisters. 사랑해