Music is a universal language. Lyrics may not be written in a universally understood language or a song may not have lyrics at all, but one thing is understood: music is diverse and it brings people together.
Host Bodies is a collaboration between emcee/producer James Collector and multi-instrumentalist Nick Hess. They firmly believe that music doesn’t need to have lyrics—it just needs to mean something to listeners.
The Colorado-born, San Francisco-based electronic duo began creating colorful music together in 2006. Since then, they have released an album called Daily Apparatus, and in 2019, their latest EP titled Diamondfruit.
Diamondfruit is the lovechild of Collector and Hess’s inner turmoil, in turn wanting to heal the world with their melodies and vibrant beats. The duo’s storytelling abilities are shown through the vivid seven-song journey. Host Bodies utilize guitar, bass, ukulele, charango, harp, and synthesizers to achieve their tranquil and hopeful new-age sound while incorporating elements of traditional electronica.
Musical Notes Global recently caught up with Host Bodies to talk about their beginning, inspirations, and why they got into electronic music. Read what they had to say below:
MNGBlog: What inspired you to get into electronic music?
Nick: In high school, I downloaded Garageband 1.0 on my Mac so I could record myself playing guitar. It was the first time I realized I could create other sounds digitally to accompany my recordings. I started having fun with synths, drums, sound effects, whatever. It was all very cheesy, but it let me see my ideas in a linear grid that could be edited, rearranged, and manipulated. And as a practice tool, it was very powerful because I could put the groove on loop and practice scales, soloing, and writing melodies. James had been doing the same, creating hip-hop beats in high school, but we didn’t start sharing ideas seriously until later in college. The overlap was always fun because my songs were heavily based in rock and blues, and his in hip-hop. The process of making electronic music was the glue that brought these worlds together, and it still does.
MNGBlog: When did you get into electronic music/how did you learn how to make this kind of music?
James: I must have been around 13 years old when my drum instructor showed me a drum machine. My instructor was a blues drummer and he also built drums by hand, but he had this one machine. He helped me program a pattern and then he did something that blew my mind. He pressed a button and every sound in the drum kit changed but the pattern remained the same! After that, I was fascinated with the endless variety of electronic sounds. A big part of electronic music is just looking for sounds, making weird experiments, scrolling through folders, twisting knobs, trial and error. When I find the right sound, the song seems to unfold naturally.
MNGBlog: What does your typical recording session look like?
Nick: Honestly it looks like a jam session most of the time. We’re having beers in the studio, noodling along on ideas until something sticks. The magic is that we can now just press a button and capture those moments, and those recordings can be the final takes. It wasn’t always that easy. We used to have a practice space in a garage and the jam would be separate from the recording. We would take voice memos on our phones of the ideas, and then recreate them in a proper recording session. Investing in better gear over the years has let our practice space be the recording space. It’s very freeing creatively.
MNGBlog: What inspires you to make songs?
James: New rhythms. New chords. Melodies I find myself humming. Well, I guess those are only components. The inspiration for songs is an energy that gets passed on, or arises from mysterious origins. It might be seeing another musician pour their heart out onstage. It might be a quiet early morning walk. A late night drive. Frustration. Joy. Love. Again and again, I find myself returning to the studio without knowing what I’m about to do. Music helps me say something I wouldn’t otherwise be able to put into words.
MNGBlog: What is different about electronic music as compared to pop/rap/etc. music (besides the lack of lyrics)?
Nick: I think mainly it’s fluidity. Everyone thinks of something different when you say “electronic music” and that’s okay, because it can be the connective tissue that blends different styles, genres, instruments into something new. The definition is too broad, and that can be challenging when trying to describe your music to someone, but the solution is simple. Just listen and discover what it means to you. Language lets us exchange ideas, but words can oversimplify the artistic expression, which is by nature extremely visceral and subjective.
MNGBlog: Who are some of your inspirations in music?
James: Simon Green of Bonobo has remained a constant role model in music for me. I’m never disappointed by his taste. Every release he has always finds a fresh mix. On one track, the drums might be dry and up close with bright melodies. On the next, everything is distant, synth-driven, and rich with delay and reverb. The whole London-Berlin electronic music scene continues to inspire me by blending acoustic instruments with synth bass and techno percussion elements. I feel like we are at the beginning of a new world opened up by programs like Ableton Live and the next wave of Midi controllers. Everything is possible, electronic music has ceased to even be a sound. It’s a process now.
Nick: I’ve had a similar relationship with the work of Scott Hansen aka Tycho. As a multi-disciplinary artist myself, the constant mixing of not only musical genres, but also of audio and visual art is extremely exciting to explore. And I feel like we’re still on the cusp. The mediums of film, graphic design, photography, sound, stage design, etc are all becoming increasingly entwined. And in generations past, I feel like you had to choose one discipline and develop that expertise, because the learning curve was too long to become a professional in multiple realms. With modern education of art and digital media, the opportunity to become an artist has less boundaries than ever before.
Listen to Diamondfruit now on digital music platforms.