Based in San Francisco, Host Bodies is the collaborative electronic music project of James Collector and Nick Hess. The music sweeps listeners away into a welcome state of tranquility with their masterful blend of live instruments, electronic elements, and field recordings that capture the familiar sounds of nature and bustling cities. The duo just released their new EP ‘Diamondfruit’ on February 8th. The EP is overflowing with the luminous beauty of landscapes and ambient textures. Joining forces with Ryan Kleeman of Overlap Studio and Grammy-nominated producer and engineer Count Eldridge (Tycho, Radiohead), they have eloquently combined sonic inspiration from their native state of Colorado and new home of San Francisco with guitar, bass, ukulele, charango, harp, and synthesizers. Their creation is a healing work of audible art that prompts listeners to look inward.
Q: What is the story behind Host Bodies? How did the concept of the music project come together?
A: [Nick] James and I have known each other since we were kids playing guitar and drums in a garage band. In college, we started collaborating on electronic production, and incorporating two styles that came naturally to each of us growing up: blues and hip-hop. Host Bodies became the moniker for that overlap. The project became more of a live band when we moved to the Bay Area and started performing live.
[James] In the early days, I was just a bedroom producer making hip-hop beats, but I got bored of repetitive loops with no dynamics or arrangement structure. I started going to open mics, performing my raps acapella, and there I met some virtuoso musicians who helped me formulate a vision of beats with instrumental dynamics. Nick was part of that scene and together we started making music that doesn’t fall easily into any genre.
Q: What was the inspiration for creating your EP ‘Diamondfruit’?
A: [Nick] The EP is a collection of songs that have a more downtempo, chill, healing vibe. Ambient, meditative music is pretty niche but it’s having a moment right now. In the fast-paced modern world, many of us are overwhelmed and overstimulated. Audio experiences that can ground you and bring you back to a place of calm and clarity can be extremely valuable. We’ve crafted the playlist over many years, it’s been a slow burn but very fulfilling to finally get it out into the world. The music has been a refuge for us in tumultuous times, and we hope it becomes that for others as well.
Q: How did you guys go about the writing process? Did it differ from your writing process in the past?
A: [James] The writing process for Diamondfruit was our most meditative. We tried to put ourselves in a grounded, center place before writing and recording the parts. I would come home from backpacking trips or just walks in San Francisco and try to translate that peace into music. Nick spent countless late nights crafting solos with his guitar. I know this all can sound pretty woo-woo and it was. It was a spiritual process, it was about healing and rejuvenating ourselves through the process of making these songs.
Q: The artwork for ‘Diamondfruit’ contains seven slices. Can you explain what they represent?
A: [Nick] Each slice represents a song on the EP, as you might guess. The images are inspired by landscapes in Colorado and California that were in mind when writing the songs. “Wildcat Beach” is a real beach north of San Francisco near Point Reyes. “One Under Won Over” has snowy vibes from our recording sessions in my family’s cabin in Winter Park, CO. We don’t want to give away all the stories, in order for the listener to apply their own meanings.
Q: Of the seven songs on the EP, which one speaks to you the most? Why?
A: [James] Accept. The track is a sort of synecdoche for the EP. The title of the track is a truncated version of one of Jack Kerouac’s Writing Essentials: ‘Accept Loss Forever.’ There’s a certain freedom that comes with letting go. Every moment that passes is gone forever and that’s tragic but it’s also okay because that moment existed, it had its time. We have our moments and then we move on. We can’t hang on to everything. I think the song speaks to me about that letting go. It’s about finding, in the emptiness left by loss, a space for new things to arise.
Q: On your Facebook, it was stated that the song “Stories” fades in with a recording of a San Francisco laundromat dryer. What was the reasoning behind that?
A: [James] The mundane sound of the dryer is related to chores and basic shit we all have to do. Finding a rhythm at that moment and then looping it back at home, I intuited a melody would emerge out of that sound. And it did. The title of the track, “Stories,” is a kind of homage to all the hidden stories and magic embedded in everyday experiences.
Q: What other interesting sounds are featured on the EP?
A: [James] In terms of field recordings, there are some percussion sounds of a stick dragged over the metal bars of a fence in One Under Won Over. There is a marble circling a bowl at the end of Orange Marble. There is a recording of the waves at a remote beach near Point Reyes in Wildcat Beach. On multiple tracks, there is a modified antique autoharp acquired at a flea market. I like to use field recordings to set the tone for a track in the early stages. It helps give the songs a sonic texture and narrative direction. I have a folder on my computer of all the field recordings I’ve gathered over the years using iPhone memos and Zoom mics. It’s become a real resource and scrapbook of experiences. Many electronic producers use other people’s sounds, and I still do that too to some extent. But in the past 3-5 years, Nick and I have focused on generating our own unique sounds, to tell our own story.
Q: Host Bodies has an EP Release Party for ‘Diamondfruit’ coming up on March 2nd. What can you tell me about the show?
A: [James] Should be a cozy, restorative vibe at Kava Lounge SF. We love the art scene on Divisadero Street here in San Francisco. Kava Lounge has some amazing art on the walls and generally a more conscious vibe, as it is alcohol-free. The kava tea and herbal elixirs will give you a different, more enlivening buzz. I’m already tingling with excitement to see how folks resonate with the never-been-performed music that night. They get a surprising crowd in there on Saturdays.
Q: Is there anything else on the horizon for Host Bodies in 2019?
A: We’re now booking shows for the spring and summer. Look for some unique venues and festival appearances. We have a couple of remixes to drop in the near future. We are excited to work on some hard-hitting, fast-paced dance jams and bluesy hip-hop tracks that have been simmering. Lots of pots bubbling. For now, let’s try to stay in the moment and be our best selves.
Q: Overall, what message do you hope listeners gain from your music?
A: Take time for you. Stop adulting so hard. Check in with your inner child. Rediscover the magic. Go for a walk without a destination. Listen to this album in traffic and avoid road rage. Buy some fucking yoga pants, no wait, forget that last part. Just go outside at least once a day.