IN A SCANT four years together, Oakland's musical mind-meld known as Beats Antique have amassed an enormous following, with turns at big festivals like Bonnaroo and Lollapalooza. In that time the trio has put six releases under their belts, operating from within the limitless sphere of influence afforded them by way of an astute world music palette and a frontwoman who belly dances rather than sings. And this, in part, accounts for the diversity not only in the group's tunes, but also in their audience.
"Some fans tell us the show attracts all their friends, instead of just a few who might be interested in fully electronic or fully live shows," explains percussionist Tommy Cappel.
Their formation was invoked, at least in part, by successful producer Miles Copeland, whose metamorphosis from college-rock impresario to world music aficionado coalesced to release the group's 2007 debut, Tribal Derivations. The album introduced the world to a wellspring of Middle Eastern belly dance ditties, Afrobeat, hiphop, and heavy percussion, armed with a reputable live show featuring Zoe Jakes' seductive gypsy gyrations. Together, Cappel and jack-of-all-trades David Satori buff the corners of these somewhat unclassifiable compositions, borrowing, twisting, and ultimately reinventing influences from across the aural plane.
"We definitely take pride in diversity, but this isn't as much intentional as it is natural," says Cappel. "All three of us have vastly different musical tastes, crossing over on a few things here and there, so we fuse it. In the end, it's Beats Antique."
Their latest opus, Elektrafone, released in October, manages to maintain that unintentional vibe via thick cuts of groove-heavy, dance-ready blasts, replete with the requisite ethereal tones wrestled from baritone, clarinet, piano, violin, viola, banjo, Turkish saz, and a grab bag of otherwise underutilized instrumentation. Cappel credits the untamed ambiance of the album to its development while touring and trying out some of the songs live before recording them. "In turn, it represents more of the live aspect of our show," he says.
Ready or not, the melting pot on this leg of the tour includes two supplemental dancers, a signature light-show spectacle, and, hopefully, a multitude of audience members sporting bejeweled Bollywood harem tops.