After a string of critically acclaimed 12″ releases that quickly became staples for DJs around the globe, Escort released their long-awaited, debut full-length, the self-titled “Escort.” True to their DIY principles, they released the record themselves, turning away label interest while enlisting some pro PR help.
It’s paid off. The Brooklyn-based, seventeen-member “disco orchestra,” founded by producers Eugene Cho and Dan Balis, and fronted by lead singer Adeline Michèle, has been garnering reviews from the Village Voice, Pitchfork, and Spin. The band features an incredible cast of musicians who have played with everyone from indie rock titans Arcade Fire to avant-classical luminaries Alarm Will Sound.
Thank to Eugene and Dan for chatting with us. Read below for the full interview.
DIY: You said in the Village Voice that it was important to you to stay indie for this record — why do you think that’s important?
EC: We started making and releasing music on our own from the very beginning. Our 12″s and digital singles did well for us. Then, when it came time to release a full length record we realized that we could pull it off ourselves and retain 100% control creatively and financially. It’s not easy by any means, but it isn’t nearly as hard as it was even a few years ago.
DB: We wrote, produced and recorded the album over the course of a few years. We put so much work and time into it, then when it came down to it, we didn’t feel like any of the offers we received were right for the record. The more we mulled it over, the more we realized that keeping it indie was really the only way to go.
DIY: You’re working with a great publicist, and are getting great press on the album (Pitchfork, Spin, etc) and you’ve got great distribution (duh!) do you feel like there’s anything a label could offer you that you haven’t been able to put together on your own?
DB: Girlie Action has been amazing for us, a perfect fit for us PR-wise. On top of getting us some love from new media outlets, they’ve done a great job working with people that have championed us in the past and furthering our relationships with them.
CDBaby has worked out flawlessly for us from our very first release. As we’ve grown as a band we’ve seen our digital distribution grow. I really like knowing the fact that CDBaby keeps up with all the new and upcoming digital stores. I don’t have to worry if we’re on the latest platform. So, having great publicity and distribution has helped us tremendously, but of course there’s a lot more to it than distribution and PR.
EC: Right. It’s a really interesting time now that artists have access to all these tools and services that allow them to do everything on their own. On the one hand its great. You can produce your album on your terms, mix it how you want it to sound, make the cover art look exactly how you want it, distribute it your way, and even film and edit a video on your own. On the other hand, you might find yourself spending less and less time actually writing and playing music. One important thing a label can do is liberate you from having to learn how to use photoshop and final cut and allow you to stay creative instead of figuring out how to use software.
DB: Luckily we’re software inclined.
DIY: You’re in an interesting position — being a production-based project that’s become renowned for your live show. Have you found yourselves thinking more about how a song is going to play live when you’re writing it?
EC: The reason our band is so big is that we never really considered how we would pull it off live in the first place. If we did we would have probably been a Jam cover band.
DB: I would say that knowing what we have access to on stage has given us the confidence to make arrangements that utilize the full complement of the band. “Cocaine Blues” is a good example. When we started making the arrangement we knew what we had to work with and what we could pull off. So, it’s completely normal for us to arrange for 17 people. We can use things in pretty superfluous ways. In “Cocaine” we have a full horn section, and all they really do is double the bassline and hit the occasional swell, but it adds so much to the track.
DIY: Have you been able to tour? Getting 17 people’s schedules to line up for one show or rehearsal must be tough, much less multiple weeks…
EC: We are hoping to get the show on the road soon! A lot of people have been asking about it, but scheduling it is a nightmare. The only time the full band is ever together is when we play live. Even our rehearsals are a revolving marathon of musicians. But its such a party that the entire band is pretty anxious to get out there and have a vacation of sorts.
DB: We’re really blessed that we have such a talented group of musicians that agree to play with us. So we try to make it as easy and fun as possible. One of the things we’re looking forward to most on tour is all the extra curricular stuff. We can field an entire 5 on 5 basketball game with a bench, enforcers, 3-point specialists, officials and coaches… and the karaoke nights are going to be legendary.
DIY: You’ve been doing this disco thing for about half a decade now — have you noticed people becoming more receptive recently, and do you think popular attitudes towards disco and dance music in general are shifting?
EC: The definition of disco has definitely transformed over the last few years. Its less and less associated with the cookie cutter crap that started to dominate and water down dance music. And because it came back up from the underground, it’s more accessible. Its not cooler than thou. You can feel that attitude in dance music in general too. Its more about having a good party than playing records so crazy that people can’t even dance to them.
DB: Dance music is always changing. We hope that our stuff transcends the trends and will just hold up as great music.