El Ten Eleven Expand Their Instrumental Jams By Adding a Singer
Mark Owens

El Ten Eleven Expand Their Instrumental Jams By Adding a Singer

El Ten Eleven define themselves as working musicians: big enough that they never had to get 9-5 jobs, but still at the level where performing the music is actual work. They have to go on tour, perform regularly and sell merch.

If only all work was as sublime as El Ten Eleven's songs. The post-rock ditties are created with a double-neck guitar and acoustic drums, layered with various effects and looping pedals — create a full, orchestral sound. They belie the fact El Ten is just a duo, made up of Kristian Dunn (on bass/guitar double neck, six-string bass, and fretless bass) and Tim Fogarty (drums and electronic drums).

Because they’re a duo, it’s a thrill to watch El Ten Eleven live; it always seems like they really have four more people playing with them behind the curtain. And watching them live is a privilege that many old-school locals have had, since El Ten Eleven spent quite a few residencies at the venerable Detroit Bar in Costa Mesa in the early 2000s.

Six albums and numerous EPs later, El Ten Eleven have cemented their place in the annals of instrumental music. (And, if you’re adept at naming tunes, you’ll know that “My Only Swerving” is used to introduce NPR’s show All Things Considered — signifying, if nothing else, just how cerebral their music is.)

So it was a total surprise to hear "Unusable Love," which features singer Emile Mosseri of the Dig. The track is on the eponymous EP collaboration with Mosseri, and is the first time vocals have ever graced El Ten Eleven’s songs.

“We’ve always been open to collaborating with a singer, almost since the beginning of El Ten Eleven,” Dunn said. “But no one ever seemed to want to do it. People would ask to sing on our songs, but they’d eventually flake, or we reached out to people we knew, but somehow it never worked before.”

It wasn’t until the band’s manager (who also manages the Dig) recommended Mosseri that things clicked. The trio started their collaboration with Dunn sending the singer a few instrumental ideas, and to tell him if anything popped. “If not, I can always come up more,” Dunn said. Mosseri honed in on what ended up being “Delicate Friend.” “He just sang into his laptop and sent it back, and I loved it,” Dunn said. “That’s when I thought, this is going to work.”

“Unusable Love” also speaks to the totally transient nature of the band’s songwriting and collaborations. The trio sent ideas back and forth — from Mosseri in New York, Dunn in San Diego and Fogarty in Burbank. Eventually, they sat down to rehearse in New York when El Ten Eleven was touring. “We clicked really well,” Dunn said. “I kinda wish he were in the band permanently, actually. It would be a bit of a pain during band practice, though.”

El Ten Eleven are currently on tour, and perform at the Constellation Room tomorrow. They’ll be playing their greatest hits; “My Only Swerving,” “Every Direction is North,” “Indian Winter.” But they’ll also be playing the new songs with the vocalist of Sego, their opening act, singing Mosseri’s vocals.

Nice work, if you can get it.

El Ten Eleven, Friday, Oct. 6, 2017, 9 p.m. Constellation Room, 3503 South Harbor Blvd., Santa Ana, $14. All ages.

Newsletters

All-access pass to the top stories, events and offers around town.

  • Top Stories
    Send:

Newsletters

All-access pass to top stories, events and offers around town.

Sign Up >

No Thanks!

Remind Me Later >