Gary Hustwit’s Helvetica is a documentary about a typeface. Not just any typeface, either, but one so ubiquitous it’s scarcely noticed by anyone outside the field of graphic design.
For that reason, it was almost a requirement for Hustwit to bring a sense of propulsion and dynamism to the film. For help with that, he turned to the band El Ten Eleven.
The soundtrack to Helvetica would ultimately help Kristian Dunn (guitar, bass) and Tim Fogarty (drums) reach critical momentum, a kinesis the LA-based duo sustained through relentless touring and fan interaction. In 2009, June was the only month they didn’t play a show.
And for their forthcoming album, It’s Still Like a Secret, they appealed to the fan base they recruited to finance the effort. That new record, like all of its work so far, is a live instrumental electro-rock composition of guitar loops, pedal effects and danceable drum rhythms.
“Things are going well for us and they keep getting better,” Dunn says from a touring van in Pennsylvania. “Maybe if we’d signed a deal with a label or something, we’d be doing better than we are now. But I don’t think so. This is a really exciting time for musicians because we kind of control everything now.”
It’s easy to feel such omnipotence when you have a proponent like Hustwit, whose new film Urbanized (slated for a 2011 release) will once again feature El Ten Eleven’s music.
“That was fortunate,” says Dunn. “People come up to me after the shows we play, and the most common thing they say about how they found us was either Pandora or Helvetica.”
But he notes there are other means within reach of any band.
“We’ve licensed our music to tons of TV shows and films. We’ve toured our asses off. All of those things add up to people finding out about us without us ever being played on the radio except for bumper music on All Things Considered.”
And El Ten Eleven plans to maintain that momentum by continuing their grueling tour schedule and — uniquely for a band that relies so heavily on electronics — eschewing laptops.
“Maybe that’s part of why we’re catching on. Because when [people] come to one of our shows, it is real,” says Dunn. “It’s being done live in front of them.”
El Ten Eleven plays with Baths and DJ Likes Girls at the Seaside on Thursday, Oct. 7, at 9 pm. Tickets $5. 21 . Visit http://www.seasidevenue.com or call 413-2676.