Michael Travis and Jason Hann played hundreds of shows a year as members of The String Cheese Incident. In recent years SCI has scaled back its touring, but Travis and Hann are still playing 200-plus shows each year as the electronic duo EOTO, which stops Sunday in Des Moines for a show at Wooly’s.
“String Cheese Incident used to be a touring monster, but little by little that number went down” Hann said during a phone interview. “This year the band played maybe 20 shows, which is not a lot of dates. It really lets us go crazy scheduling our EOTO gigs.”
Each EOTO show is 100 percent unique. While traditional jam bands use a song as a blueprint to improvise, every EOTO song starts from scratch and continues for as long as Travis and Hann choose. They perform on traditional instruments, but use tech to loop and remix the music they perform, as well as their own voices. Nothing is prerecorded, and there are no backing tracks.
Hann said the show starts with ambient tones, then the duo starts improvising back and forth, adding in new bits and layers.
“The songs keep morphing and morphing and we feed off each other,” Hann said. “When we feel like we’ve done enough of something we’ll switch up the theme or I’ll change the beat or bring in some vocals to keep everything moving.
“It’s like a DJ morphing into a new track.”
The DJ comparison is fitting, given the growth of electronic music in the jam scene with acts like Bassnectar and Pretty Lights. Hann said the style’s popularity grew as jam festivals started adding late-night DJ sets. As those sets grew more popular, the music started to be incorporated into more and more main-stage jam bands.
Traditional bands were leery at first, but a new generation of fans has grown up with electronic music on the radio next to pop and rock, so the distinctions have blurred.
“My generation had the attitude that it’s not real music, or that these acts weren’t real bands,” Hann said. “That filter isn’t there so much for younger generations. It’s felt like a natural transition for them.”
EOTO hasn’t recorded a studio album since 2009’s “Fire the Lazers!!!” and a follow-up doesn’t seem likely to happen anytime soon. Instead, the act records most of its shows and sells them at livedownloads .com. Given the band’s improvisational nature, it has seemed less and less important to record and release albums of material they wouldn’t be playing live anyway.
“I think that we’ve taken that approach that we see each other more than enough,” Hann said. “To take a whole week out to set up the way we do recorded projects seems like a lot. We’re leaning on being unique and different, which makes it a little harder path but it’s one we pride ourselves on.
“That said, we have talked about tracking every instrument live individually, which we could give to another DJ to remix. We’ve entertained that, but we’re not there yet. It’s pretty freaking hard to add anything; the schedule is a beast.”
When: 7 p.m. Sunday
Where: Wooly’s, 504 E. Locust St.
Cost: $18 in advance, $20 at the door