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Desert Dwellers speak on life, creation, meditation, and music at Lightning in a Bottle 2019 [Interview]

Words: Ryan Morse. Interview: Bridgette Mitchell.

Before the Desert Dwellers released their most recent Breath album, there were three more pieces forming their DownTemple Dub collection—2009’s Waves, and 2006’s Flames and Roots. It was a time when the duo was actually a trio comprised of Amani Friend, Treavor Moontribe, and Alex King-Harris. The three found a shared love for their unique world-influenced line of psybass in the late ’90s after connecting through the legendary Moontribe scene, as well as out on the playa at Burning Man.

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Today, while King-Harris has retired from the once-tripod act, the Desert Dwellers have maintained their reputation as one of the pioneering acts that fused downtempo, psybass, and tribal trance acts in the United States. The duo combines the raw sounds of the natural world wrapped in dance-floor and chill-out productions. It’s a sound that emanates from their travels all over the world.

We are seriously fortunate that we have such an amazing fan base around the world that we are able to tour and survive off the fruit of our labor.”

Desert Dwellers

Just as their sound is fueled by their travel destinations all over the globe, so too does their world music fuel their travels. And their gratitude shines through it all.

Desert Dwellers’ unique global sounds offer a bridge between worlds, and their label, Desert Trax, has become a platform to spotlight similar alchemical artists. Blending deep bass, earthy percussion, etheric voices, and cross-cultural instrumentation into a sonic incense for the mind and body, its meditation music you can dance to.

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DoLaB has long celebrated Desert Dwellers’ confluence of styles, which is why the LA-based production company invited the pair to perform at Lightning in a Bottle (LiB) this year.

Conscious Electronic had the opportunity to catch up with Desert Dwellers while at LiB’s 2019 installation. The pair delved into a range of topics—from their most recent Breath album and the possibility of extending the series, to their travel and yogi/meditation practices, to a newer dance-forward album in the works, and much more.

CE: How does the fourth element’s album, Breath, compare to the other three element albums as far as composition and creation go? 

DD: The prior three elemental albums in the DownTemple Dub Series were produced mainly as soundtracks to Yoga DVDs and also turned into album releases. While there was a good amount of original recordings of musicians on those albums, this new album Breath features 20 different musicians.  Also, the early three albums were also made with Alex King-Harris when he was still part of Desert Dwellers, and this album is entirely produced by Amani and Treavor.

CE: How does it feel to wrap up the DownTemple Dub collection (considering Flames and Waves was released in 2006)? Will there be another series of music like this in the future?

DD: We can’t rule out another series, but we have no plans on that yet. It feels good to have a new album out in general, let alone to wrap up the series.

CE: This year marks 20 years of your collaboration together. From being roommates to traveling the world with culturally inclusive musicians, what has been the greatest lesson or most memorable experience of this journey so far?

DD: We are seriously fortunate that we have such an amazing fan base around the world that we are able to tour and survive off the fruit of our labor. Some very memorable experiences would be playing at the Great Pyramids, Boom Festival, Red Rocks in Colorado, and many Burning Mans.

CE: Where on this earth or what culture have you found your greatest inspiration for your music? Do you have any plans to explore any new cultures and instruments in the near future?

Treavor: For me, my greatest inspirations have come from right here at home in Los Angeles. I plan to get to know my own studio instruments in the near future!

Amani: I was exposed to a lot of different world music growing up in Santa Fe, NM, including East Indian, Middle Eastern, African, and Native American.

CE: There is an obvious fusion between culture and art in your music. Which came first for you both, the music or the traveling? Which one sparked the other?

Treavor: For me the music, I didn’t travel much until I started playing music out.

Amani: I went traveling around the world with my parents throughout my childhood and got exposed to many cultures that way. My dad was also a diverse musician, so music happened early on for me as well. I guess the two went hand in hand.

CE: Amani, you are well known for your use of capturing unconventional samples through field recordings. Is there a particular place that sparks great joy in knowing you recorded that unique sound? 

Amani: There’s a bird in the jungle of Tikal, Guatemala called a Golden Oriole that has the most unique and psychedelic sound. I was lucky enough to capture a single Golden Oriole from right under the tree it was sitting when there were no tourists at all in the park — which is rare!

CE: Creation often runs parallel to emotion. What is one of the greater emotions that has influenced your creative process over the years? Is there anything specific you do to enhance that emotion before beginning a new project?

Treavor: For me, it’s when I have an unbelievable dance to unbelievable music. If I get totally blown away by someone and I am lucky enough to be on a dance floor going super deep to it, then when I get home I’m probably gonna make a new song within days!

CE: It is no surprise that your music is extremely popular within the yoga community. As a longtime practicing yogi, I’m personally curious to know if either of you have a daily meditation or asana practice.

Amani: Yes, I do have a daily Tibetan Buddhist meditation practice. My fascination with this meditation began in the late 90s.  I have done a fair share of yoga over the years, but currently, enjoy going to Pilates classes.

CE: What’s on the horizon with tours, new music, and life as Desert Dwellers?

DD: We are both putting focus on our other projects for a bit, while also doing some DD remixes we committed to and had been waiting until the new album was out to do. So far our idea for new original music sees us doing more uptempo stuff, kinda going back to our original roots doing some 120+ bpm four-to-the-floor tracks. We’ve done so much chill stuff so it’d be nice to get some more wild dance tracks going. The touring never ends really as we are pretty booked up for the rest of the year.