Road To Wakarusa: EITCH-e-l-l-o
- By Nick Rhodes
- Published on March 29, 2012
In our “Road To Wakarusa” series, we’ll talk to artists, fans and organizers about what makes the event special and what to expect this summer, as we approach the 2012 event.
The ninth annual Wakarusa takes place in Ozark, AR from May 31 to June 3 and features Pretty Lights, Primus, Umphrey’s McGee, Big Gigantic and EOTO.
From eerie and etherial to commanding and domineering, Hannah Smith’s vocal style is impossible to ignore.
Performing under the stage name, EITCH (pronounced like the letter ‘H’), she is set to bring her unqiue brand of self-described “altronipop” – a mixture of alternative, electronic and pop music – to the stage at Wakarusa 2012 this summer.
Complete with a live DJ, EITCH is unlike any artist on the bill, with Bjork-like range and exceptionally deep lyrical content. Her album is available free on her Bandcamp, so you can get a taste of what to expect before heading to Mulberry’s Mountain in Ozark, AR. She will also be performing with Quixotic Fusion in addition to her solo set.
Headstash Magazine: I know this is your first Wakarusa as an artist, but not your first time attending the event. Tell me a little about your experience with Wakarusa and how you got on the bill.
Eitch: That’s totally correct. Last year was my first Wakarusa ever. The festival was just perfect – from how we were getting there to who we went with.
We get there and we're camped next to the coolest neighbors and basically just got to know a bunch of awesome people. The lineup really blew my mind and even the performers I had seen before were playing better than I've ever seen them. The whole entire experience was just mind-blowing for me.
So my one neighbor, Woody, was from Maryland and I'm from Manhattan, but we both realized that he actually has an office in Manhattan that was literally right next to my apartment.
[FIND news, tour dates and downloads on EITCH's official website.]
While at Waka, I said to myself I have to everything in my power to play here next year. Fast forward almost nine months and Reverb Nation, which is like a social profile for artists, sent a mass email about Wakarusa.
I submitted an application, but I said I can’t stop here because there are probably thousands of people that are submitting under this. I called up an old friend from Arkansas who put me directly in touch with [Wakarusa founder] Brett Mosiman.
I email him and a few days later he gets back to me and he is like, “Hey, you have a really great sound and Reverb Nation is one possibility, but keep me posted.”
[FOLLOW EITCH on Facebook.]
I waited a few weeks and I knew that I had to follow up, but I didn't just want to send in the same email. So I called up my festival neighbor Woody and he put me in touch with the festival’s publicist. She got back to me immediately and everything just kind of came together.
Basically Wakarusa 2011 was probably the most fun I've ever had at a festival, and it’s because of my neighbor that I'm now like playing at Wakarusa 2012.
HM: Why did you decide to attend Wakarusa in the first place?
E: Wakarusa was first introduced to me by a friend of mine, [and I went] because the lineup was just really eclectic. I'm not just into the jam scene, and I'm not just into the electronic scene. I like things that are around the whole spectrum and in between genres.
HM: How about your sound? How would you describe the music you make?
E: I always describe it as altronipop. It's a balanced mix of alternative, electronic and pop. Honestly, it's probably one of the harder questions for me because I don't get really invested into genres because I think they're really arbitrary.
I produce by the means of electronics, but I wouldn't technically call myself an electronic artist only because what is popular in electronic music is not me. I don't make dance music, so I think there is a different type of electronic music out there that isn't necessarily dance and isn’t necessarily ambient and experimental – it can be kind of in between.
I get a lot of references to Bjork especially for my live performances because it's very vocally driven and really telling a story. I don't write in chorus/verse structure, so you can't really predict where it's going to go. A lot of people end up needing to just stop and listen and be a part of the experience as opposed to just totally letting loose and dancing their asses off.
HM: That fits in well with Wakarusa’s style because they really try to pack their lineup with bands that run the gamut between jam and electronica.
E: Yes, absolutely. I mean that’s the reason I wanted to play there so badly because the people that are going to Wakarusa are true music appreciators. I felt as though attendees and organizers were just really loving life and loving where they were and what they were doing. I met so many people from so many different backgrounds and tastes and style and that's really what made Waka stand out for me among other festivals I've attended.
HM: The thing that’s most striking about your music is how captivating and entrancing your voice is. Could you talk a little more about your vocal style and what makes it so unique?
E: Everything you hear really isn't enhanced – it's all very straightforward. I like using my voice how an actor would play a character.I like creating different tones and different textures with my voice as an instrument as opposed to adding effects. I'm creating an environment for a message to live in.
I'm not actually singing necessarily about anything in particular – everyone can come away with a different slice of what it could mean for them. I don't want to tell people what I think, and I don't want to tell people an answer. I want to inspire people to be curious and just ask questions.
[FOLLOW Headstash on Facebook.]
My music and what I'm doing is an expression where science and spirituality meet and converge and how they're actually not really separated in the first place, but just creating a world for this types of ideas to exist in.
HM: What are some of your musical influences? Are there some people might be surprised to hear have helped to mold your sound?
E: My biggest inspirations are Bjork, Radiohead and Nine Inch Nails. I listen to a lot of European electronic music like Modeselektor. I'm really drawn to classical music as well. In high school, I actually went to hardcore metal shows every weekend.
HM: Can you tell me a little bit about your on-stage setup? Who is out there with you when you're playing in a live setting?
E: It started out as a solo show, but now I’m performing with an amazing DJ. His name is Ian Stewart and he'll be performing with me at Wakarusa. He's also a huge jazz fan – he plays trumpet and bass, but he's really deep and dirty into house music.
We linked up and he is now triggering my music live and doing live vocal effects and live effects on the instrumental that weren't on the original recording. We're developing this relationship with one another and it's been amazing and we have so much fun playing.
HM: What would you say to people who want to know what to expect from your set at Wakarusa?
E: That you can't really expect anything, I guess. That it's a journey and a moment in time where you can really let go of expectations and go along for the ride. I'm really excited to introduce people to a new type of electronic music and to not be hidden behind a booth. I'm right there with you, interacting with you. I hope to see everyone at Wakarusa.
HM: Absolutely. We'll be there. Thanks for the time, Hannah.
E: Awesome, you rock. Thank you so much.
Catch EITCH at Wakarusa 2012, alongside Primus, Pretty Lights, Umphrey’s McGee, Big Gigantic, EOTO and more. For more information on EITCH, visit her official website.