Nick Baum of Eminence Ensemble: "We may throw some Pantera in the mix too"

Eminence Ensemble (due at Cervantes' Masterpiece Ballroom tomorrow night) has been frequently making a name for itself among the Boulder-based acts that have been emerging onto the scene. In advance of tomorrow night's show, we spoke with percussionist Nick Baum recently to find out a little more about the band and see what the group has in store for its show since Snowball.

Westword: What has been going on with the band recently?

Nick Baum: We have been working on our music in the past few months. Our last show was in March, so we have been playing and writing music at home. Just trying to get solid for the summertime.

What have been focusing on in your music?

Lyric representation and intensifying our practice sessions. We won't play a song over and over until it's good; we want to play through in one session. We didn't want to go too deep into our lyrics, but our music has matured over the course of the months. We are walking into more a legitimate style.

How will your set at Cervantes' differ from the Snowball set back in March?

The Snowball set was only 45 minutes long. It was more like we were trying to get our point across because we didn't have the time to do what we usually do. We are a live band in the sense that we improvise on the spot. We basically compacted and composed the whole set. We are still composing a set for Cervantes', but we are leaving ourselves a lot more room to improvise. I think we do our best when we get the chance to jam.

What do you think that you have to offer that other Boulder bands don't?

Don't get me wrong, I think every band in Boulder has something different to bring to the table, and they do it really well. It's tough to pinpoint a thing, but I think we have the ability to jam and actually make it sound like a song. But that might just be because we all learned how to play together. Generally, we have a different kind of style. We are more into progressions, and we build off our riffs a little better than most.

Like I said before, though, our individual improvisational skills are more in tune. We are a good mix of everything. We can get that really fuckin' dirty electronic sound, but we can also get really funk and grass jammy when we want to too. And we have the progressive side that most bands don't have here either -- we love Rush. We may throw some Pantera in the mix, too. You just won't see it coming.

What were some the craziest situations that you have experienced since you guys started doing this?

Tanner's drum pedal broke, but we were all still playing. Then I looked over and there was no drummer. It ended up he went in the back of Cervantes' to find different pedals, but I was on stage thinking he was taking a shit or something.

Also, we played at this one place called the Dickens Opera House in Longmont. Cool place, but it has a really dark history. People have killed themselves, and there were murders in there. That place was so haunted, man, and it was creepy as shit. The door would fly open then close in the green room, but it could have been the wind. Justin and I walked out the stage to do a quick check and the curtain was making this 'boom boom boom' sound, but there was nothing behind it. It sounded like someone was hitting the curtain or something.

Another time, one of our fans ran up on stage in their underwear just to knock over a PA and break it. That was pretty hilarious.

How do you feel about playing the Boulder Theatre on the Fourth of July?

It is definitely an honor and privilege. It was Umphrey's Mcgee's slot last year. We think of it like we have some big shoes to fill but at the same time it is pretty fuckin' awesome. Plus we have never gotten the chance to play there before, so we are all really excited. We are going to have this cool stage set up with confetti and balloons, so it should be interesting.

So you guys are more excited than nervous?

I think the nervous side of things makes me play better at times. I feed off of the certain anxiety when I don't know how everything is going to turn out. When you get through the first song, everything is fine but that is the best feeling. We asked if we can play there, and they didn't have a problem with it at all. I don't think we are nervous, but anxious. We haven't even opened up for anyone there before. It's going to be cool playing one long set or even two sets - we don't know yet.

How did you come about to find your voice in the music scene?

We all had a general idea of what we wanted to do. We wanted to be a full electronic act and also a full band, kind of like STS9, but we didn't go through all of this with their concept in our heads. We wanted to produce every sound in a song with live instruments. We have had several different keyboard players, but we have recently found one to stick around. We try to record all of our live sets, so most of it was through trial and error.

I think there is a lot of bands that do what we do, but we mix it up. We will play Latin songs, and we had all these different keyboards players with different styles. The turning point was when we got to open for Papadosio at the Fox Theatre. We knew exactly what we wanted to do after that, and that was producing a show to keep the audience guessing but enthralled. Our music can change drastically, and that is the greatest part. We have our inspirations, of course, but it was through how many times we got to play on stage.

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Nick Callaio