As the old English proverb goes, “Two’s company, but three’s a crowd.” Post-rockers Kristian Dunn and Tim Fogarty have certainly taken these words to heart, as the musical duo — better known by their moniker El Ten Eleven — have found success with their sparse arrangements for more than a decade in a genre known for its seven-plus-piece bands.
While playing the bass and drums, respectively, Dunn and Fogarty each
maximize the sound and space available to them. Where other post-rock bands might be limited by the relative lack of band members, the duo has thrived in instrumental minimalism, having released six full-length studio albums since their inception in 2002.
Dunn and Fogarty are also wary of remaining stagnant and undeveloped, and appropriately, the band’s name derives from the name of a sleek airliner, the Lockheed L-1011 TriStar. Their album titles reflect the same sense of motion with names like Every Direction Is North, Transitions, and Fast Forward — the last being the name of their most recent album, released on August 21, 2015.
The music, in itself, is built on ideas of motion and progress, with members trying out new instruments. “I suppose if you want to get symbolic, we try to keep moving forward musically,” Fogarty said. “[On the new album] Kristian is playing a different kind of guitar … which is a six-string bass, and underneath I have this thing called a ‘malletKAT,’ which allows me to play bass lines. So those are two things that change the sound a bit,” he said.
Fast Forward carries an emotional weight due to recent, personal events that affected the duo — Fogarty’s father passed away shortly before they began recording the album. He is remembered on the songs “We Lost a Giant” and “JD.” The duo decided to pay homage to Dunn’s father, too, as the title is taken from a band name that he always used to suggest when Kristian was first starting out as a musician. When considering the name, the duo agreed that it would make for a fitting and commemorative title.
“We thought about it and realized, there’s no ‘fast forward’ button on life anymore, like there used to be with VHS tapes. You kind of just skip over stuff,” says Fogarty. “So a lot of it is about not taking [life] for granted anymore.”
The band also chose to reference another father/son pair with the lead single “Peter and Jack,” a song inspired by Peter Hook (of Joy Division and New Order) and his son Jack. El Ten Eleven has played six shows with Hook’s band, and Dunn’s decision to play the six-string bass on the new album was partially due to his encouragement.
Fogarty says that the limited number of people in the band makes it easier at times to deal with personal issues and the responsibility of touring and recording.
“It helps to just have two people. It’s so much better because we both have similar mindsets. We’re both kind of ‘lifers,’ and we are always challenging ourselves, and we’re hard critics on ourselves,” says Fogarty. “For whatever reason, I’m glad we’re still doing it. I’m glad people are still coming out.”
With their common direction and shared outlooks, Dunn and Fogarty operate like a pair of copilots, confidently flying their L-1011 forward into uncharted territory, and they appreciate the opportunities that living their post-rock lifestyle affords.
“It doesn’t suck to show up at your job and have them ask you what beer you want,” laughs Fogarty. “The chance to sit down and play drums every night… I could be doing way worse things, and I still love it.”
El Ten Eleven play Velvet Jones (423 State St.) on Friday, December 11, at 8 p.m. For information, call (805) 965-8676 or visit velvet-jones.com.