The two-man miracles of El Ten Eleven at Belly Up

Andrew Travers
The Aspen Times
Fonald Photography Courtesy photo
Courtesy photo |

If You Go …

What: El Ten Eleven

Where: Belly Up Aspen

When: Tuesday, March 8, 9 p.m.

How much: $15

Tickets: Belly Up box office;

At most of El Ten Eleven’s shows, the duo will take a quick informal poll of the audience to ask how many people are seeing them for the first time. It gives the Los Angeles instrumental band an idea of how many minds they’re blowing.

“It seems like every time there’s a lot of people who have never seen us before, “ drummer Tim Fogarty said from a tour stop in Grand Rapids, Michigan. “Always one of my favorite comments we get is when people say, ‘Whoa, we had no idea you were just two people.’”

Listening to any of the eight records El Ten Eleven has released over their 11 years as a band, you could easily assume they have a guitarist or two, a bassist, a drummer and a DJ. But, as their live show puts on display, their intricate sound all comes from two virtuosic musicians, performed live with the help of loop pedals.

Kristian Dunn plays a double-neck guitar/bass as he works foot pedals to shape its sounds, while recording and looping himself to craft an on-the-spot post-rock orchestra as Fogarty holds down the beat on both acoustic and electronic drums. With those tools, they shape evocative compositions that can range from the danceable to the atmospheric.

“There’s a pretty big palette of sounds that we can get to,” Fogarty said. “The sky is the limit.”

The band returns to Belly Up Aspen tonight. They’re touring in support of the album “Fast Forward,” which was released in August.

Dunn and Fogarty wrote the songs for the new album shortly after Fogarty’s father died. And though the tracks are all instrumental, grief, tribute and memory — often tinged with the melancholy of grief and the joy of celebrating a life — all made their way into songs in his honor. “Point Breeze,” for instance, a wistful elegy with a guitar melody and bass notes that layer upon themselves as the song moves along, is named for the section of Pittsburgh where Forgarty’s dad grew up. They named it for him after writing and recording most of the song.

“There are certain things that are specifically about a feeling or a person that, in the writing process, we know where it’s heading,” Fogarty said. “But there are others that we finish, and they’re like a dedication.”

While the band has earned acclaim and a cult following over the past decade for its mesmerizing instrumentals, we may see El Ten Eleven evolve a bit before the next time they make a tour stop here.

When the current tour wraps up next week, Dunn and Fogarty are heading back into the studio and planning to experiment with a new element: vocals. They’ve been collaborating remotely with a few singers, Fogarty said, testing out what El Ten Eleven sounds like with lyrics added into the mix.

“It sounds so good,” Fogarty said. “But it takes so long via email — if we’re all in the same room for a couple weeks it’s easy to knock stuff out. We’re not doing the vocal thing because we feel some urgency to do it, other than that we think it’s going to be awesome and we’re stoked about it.”

DJs have used El Ten Eleven’s instrumentals for mash-ups in the past, but they’ve never recorded with a singer. They’ve never felt they needed to.

“We never run out of ideas with just two people, but it will be cool to have some vocals,” Fogarty said. “Actually, we’re shocked that no one has ever done it before, that no one has ever just sung to one of our songs.”