Dave Einmo is the man behind electro-pop party machine Head Like A Kite, whose live shows are known for confetti, dancing panda bears, and a round of guests joining Einmo and drummer Trent Moorman onstage, including Tilson, Asya from Smoosh, and now, the burlesque dancing of The Atomic Bombshells. HLAK is arguably the biggest Hill-based band playing these days and is one of the honest-to-goodness local acts headlining this week’s big beer-backed Seattle City Arts Festival. CHS caught up with Capitol Hill’s Einmo between classes at Seattle U. for our burning questions.
First the big news: since you signed with Roll Call Records last week, what’s it like to be on a label and have that level of support?
It’s exciting. It’s funny, I’ve been so busy – I’m back in school right now, I’m studying nursing, and I’ve just been so busy with school that I haven’t really been able to be out there tooting my own horn about all the new stuff that’s coming out. The cool thing about that is that’s what Roll Call will be doing. It’s going to be really positive. I think they’re doing a really great job and I’m excited to have someone taking over the marketing.
Music critic Chris Estey once wrote that your music “takes you to a party filled with people you only half-know.” It feels a little dangerous – like anything could happen. That sums up for me life on Capitol Hill – that it’s fun, but there’s also this unpredictable edge, this something-might-happen-to-you vibe. It makes sense, then, that you’d live on the Hill.
I think that’s a great description, and that translates to our shows. When I’m doing HLAK show, I try to keep the shows unpredictable, even to the point that I rarely write a set list… I’ve probably written a set list about three times. The main reason I do that is that I like to be able to move the songs around depending on what kind of a show it is and how the crowd responds. Maybe if I’m not getting the kind of response that I think we should be getting, I can adjust songs to bring people in. It also has this interesting effect of creating a bit of uncertainty among the guests that come onstage. So it creates a little bit of chaos, but it becomes this controlled chaos, and I think Chris’s description fits well. It is dangerous, even for the band members. When you can create that kind of energy, the people watching it and the people listening to it can really relate to that. I think it’s fun for them, too.
Head Like A Kite has several obvious connections to Capitol Hill – there’s the partnership with Caffe Vita for your own coffee blend and white vinyl release, the many shows at Neumos, some of them free, and of course, the killer video for “She’s Wearing That Costume.”
You filmed another video last weekend on the Hill, this one for the new single from the re-released album, Dreams Suspend Night. Can you tell us what that might look like and when the video for “Diamond Paint” will drop?
Yeah, and that is going to be the new track on the re-released version of Dreams Suspend Night, which just keeps leaning more and more towards the festive, dance-type personality.
What’s it like to film on the Hill?
It was really fun. It’s produced by Stephan Gray from Gray Matter Productions and Asya flew in from New York – she lives in New York now — specifically to do this video, which is great because she’s never been in a HLAK video which seems like it was long overdue. She’s guested on several HLAK songs, so it was really cool to have her, and especially since her vocal hook is such a prominent part of the song, we thought it was necessary. So we brought her in, Tilson’s in it, and we shot it on Capitol Hill in a house built in 1906 kind of near Volunteer Park. Kind of by Aloha.
That video and “We’re Always on the Wrong Side of Sunrise” was also shot on Capitol Hill, you just can’t tell because it’s a white screen behind us. The majority of our stuff has been shot on Capitol Hill, and almost all the albums are recorded on Capitol Hill, then brought to Electrokitty in Wallingford.
How long have you lived on Capitol Hill, and what brought you here?
I moved to Capitol Hill in 2000, so I’ve lived here for ten years, but I’ve always lived in Seattle. I think specifically what brought me is the diversity that’s on the Hill and the energy. I found myself pretty much every day I was on Capitol Hill, it kind of made no sense to live elsewhere. So it was just a matter of waiting until there was an opportunity to get a place, and once that happened I moved.
How would you describe Capitol Hill to someone who’s never been to Seattle?
If you’ve never been to Seattle, first of all you’d want to come to Capitol Hill because if you didn’t have a chance to see a lot of different districts or sections of Seattle, coming to Capitol Hill would be a great way to get a taste of all of the different parts of Seattle. Not only with the population that’s here, but also geographically. If you walk up to the top of that Water Tower at Volunteer Park, you quickly get a 360 degree view of the whole are, from the Olympic mountains to the Cascades, just visually you can see a huge section of the Puget Sound area. That’s also a big attraction to me.
What annoys you about the Hill?
I think the only thing that annoys me is seeing parts of it change in a way that is reminiscent of the way New York has changed. There is sort of a Bridge and Tunnel element that comes into the Pike/Pine corridor sometimes on the weekends and changes the feel of it… but you know, when you asked me the question originally, I cited diversity. Diversity is not exclusively for just cool people. Diversity is diversity. If you start picking diversity, then that’s not really championing the whole concept of diversity.
I think maybe there’ll be some positive things that could come from that, too. One positive thing I think could come from that is just people from different backgrounds, say the east side versus the west side, maybe coming to some common ground on things. Certainly when we play festivals like Bumbershoot and even Capitol Hill Block Party to a certain extent, you get some people that maybe wouldn’t normally come out to a show – it’s a great opportunity for us to get to turn some people on to HLAK. So when I say “having some of those folks come over,” I don’t mean that as a bad thing, I just think it’s kind of changed the look sometimes of Capitol Hill, brings in some restaurants that maybe aren’t as interesting as some of the more ethnic, old-school Capitol Hill restaurants. But you can’t decide which diversity you want. If you want diversity, you’ve got to be open to that exact definition.
Where’s the best jukebox on the Hill?
I think the jukebox at Smith on 15th . . . although honestly, I haven’t looked at it recently, so maybe I should look at it before I go up there and find out that the whole thing is Bee Gees. 250 tracks of Bee Gees… which would actually be kind of fun, now that I think about it.
Best place to have a party?
The Green Room at Neumos – I’ve had some parties there that involved some serious dehydration the next day.
Favorite place to play (on the Hill)?
Neumos, with also a big up to Chop Suey and the Comet.
Favorite place to catch someone else playing a show (still on the Hill)
Those three are the ones I tend to go to the most. Sole Repair is a smaller room, so when they have things it seems like they’re more like parties, so those have always been really fun. Another place is Caffe Vita – they have occasionally, very occasionally, shows in that back bean room. I’ve seen some amazing stuff there. Thurston Moore from Sonic Youth played there during CHBP a couple years ago. KEXP broadcasts live from there. That bean room, when you think about it, when you look at who has been in that room, has been pretty epic. I really love being able to see a band or an artist perform in a smaller venue. Sometimes the bigger venues, you don’t get that intimacy and that sort of unpredictability you might get in a small room.
Another fun place is the Victrola on 15th. Occasionally they’ll have some jazz stuff happen – some of my more fun experiences have been just stumbling in there in the morning, grab my coffee, and some guy walks off the street and starts playing that old out-of-tune piano in the back. I love moments like that.
Favorite Hillebrity to spot on the street?
Most of the celebrities I see on Capitol Hill tend to be musicians. There are an unbelievable amount of musicians on Capitol Hill. I’m going to Seattle U right now, which is also on Capitol Hill, and I ride my bike every day to school, and it’s not uncommon to go flying by and see someone from the Fleet Foxes or Champagne Champagne or another band. It’s cool to live in such a rich environment with musicians.
Saturday night on the Hill. You are:
Enjoying a beverage at one of the wonderful establishments that we have, very often at Smith. I’m also enjoying Unicorn a lot lately… Neumos, Chop Suey, the Comet.
Do you ever take advantage of Sunday brunch?
I haven’t. I need to take advantage of that. This Sunday. I don’t know why I haven’t done that. See, there always an opportunity to do something new. Which is another reason I like Capitol Hill because there is that opportunity to see something, experience something that you didn’t really think that you were going to do.
The thing that I love so much about living on Capitol Hill is, going out and doing something, you have this plan and you say, I’m going to see this band or go out to this club and meet some friends, but then the night takes this massive left-turn that you had no idea was going to happen and you end up in a completely different environment.
A great example of that – and this is something that could only work on Capitol Hill – is that I went to go see Prefuse 73 at Chop Suey – this was maybe five years ago now — and I was walking back with a friend and we noticed there was this birthday party going on in somebody’s apartment on the ground floor. You could hear all these people talking and having a blast, and we just walked in as if we knew the people. It was pretty obvious whose birthday it was, because he was just all happy and everyone was telling him happy birthday, so we come up to him and we high-five him – “Happy birthday!” – and they just immediately invited us in, gave us beers, and we’re just all talking. We must have been there for three hours, having a great time, and it was just so cool that they were so inviting, for us to come in. And there was no weirdness about being afraid of us being dangerous or something. That was just such a classic Capitol Hill experience and a good example of what it’s like to be able have this plan of what you’re going to do and then something completely random and different ends up happening, and I think that happens a lot on the Hill.
Any other favorite places around the Hill or quintessentially Capitol Hill activities?
I love Jamjuree – I’m a big Thai food fan. Jai Thai, I go there once in a while, but I tell you my favorite Thai food is Jamjuree on 15th. Something that’s really cool about Capitol Hill, in addition to the nightlife is great food. New places keep opening up, like towards the end of Capitol Hill, Taco Gringos – that’s such a great thing to be able to do so late at night. That’s a little Williamsburg vibe of be able to go out late at night and find good food. I love that there’s so much of that right now, with Mario’s opening up on Pike – it’s just great to have more of that kind of stuff, as well as the fine dining. There’s a lot of really good fine dining restaurants too, but for those late nights when you’re out at the club and you need something to eat afterwards, it’s cool that there’s something besides crappy fast food.
What’s your favorite thing about playing a live show, and when can people come out and dance at your next one?
The next show is Friday, October 22, part of the City Arts Festival at the Crocodile, and it will be super fun! We’re going to have burlesque dancers with us, the Atomic Bombshells are going to get up onstage, and Brent Amaker and The Rodeo are playing with us and it’s their CD release show, so they’re going to be extra-amped, and Ra Scion from Common Market is going to be opening the show. It’s going to be a crazy fun time.
My favorite thing about playing is when I feel like I’m equally as entertained as the audience. That’s why I always try to really up the ante for our shows and really push the envelope and jump off the stage and get into the crowd so I can experience it from all different levels instead of just being the guy playing music. I like to be part of the show from all angles, not only as performer, but also as part of the crowd, too. And that’s another reason we don’t tend to do set lists, is that I like to keep things on edge and try different things. What I really enjoy about playing live is that experience of really creating something and pushing the envelope.
Are you a Capitol Hill-based musician? Want to be interviewed by CHS? Send an email to anika.smith (at) gmail.com and we’ll make it happen.