While I made sure to note the Cocoa Pebbles sitting on the piano, I had failed to realize there was a knife near my arm.
I was sitting in Eva Ave’s (aka Eva Dameron) apartment, and she and her newly acquired musical accomplice Carlosaur (Carlos Ruiz de la Torre) had planted the knife on my chair, just above a pool of fake blood. The prank didn’t go exactly as planned because I was completely oblivious to its presence until I sent it clattering to the ground with my elbow.
Our interview took place around Halloween, but I got the impression Dameron and Ruiz de la Torre take part in this kind of tomfoolery year-round. The pair’s new record, Den of Drowning Rattlesnakes, is a self-described “circus, pirate melody” of oddball and slightly demented themes cobbled together with untempered whimsy.
Dameron and Ruiz de la Torre are equipped with piano, bass drum, hi-hat, snare drum, accordion, violin, guitar, ukulele and kazoo. Each instrument is added to the heap, with an emphasis on saloon piano, and topped with two voices. The result is jubilant but dark, and there’s a sense both artists are never far from breaking into laughter. “Our songs all have segments, which gives them this theatrical quality,” Dameron says. “But the segments aren't that obvious.”
Dameron and Ruiz de la Torre fell in sonic love at first sight at a Carlosaur performance this Spring. “My musical heart snapped in two,” Dameron remembers. “It was similar to the stuff I do on my own.”
The result is jubilant but dark, and there’s a sense both artists are never far from breaking into laughter.
The pair started working together shortly after they met, and the project quickly snowballed into each person's top priority. “The very first time we sat down at a piano together, it just worked,” Ruiz de la Torre explains. “I’ll say something and Eva will get really excited about it. Or sometimes she’ll say something and I’ll get really excited about it.”
Though they’ve joined forces, both musicians still proudly identify with being one-person bands. “Maybe a misconception is that it’s a thing of the past, or like a European thing,” Ruiz de la Torre speculates. “But really, one-man bands in indie music are the next big thing. People are producing music all by themselves in their personal studios, then using technology to make a full-band sound alone.”
Neither Dameron nor Ruiz de la Torre likes to stay on one topic for long. Each open-ended question triggers a dozen different topics. Creative constraints have been cast off, and the only question is which direction to point the heavy-flow ooze of ideas. The next joint project is a music video for the song “Ain’t No Grave.” The duo has decided the video, directed by Albuquerque artist and filmmaker Ash Wednesday, will play out certain chapters of Harry Houdini’s life. “He was an escapist,” Dameron says. “You can’t hold my body down,” Ruiz de la Torre adds.
Sometime next year, Dameron and Ruiz de la Torre plan to put on a musical. “It’s about the misadventures of a family of get-rich-quick schemers and con artists,” Dameron explains. “It's like William Faulkner-meets-Danny Elfman.”
The duo is hoping the different format will allow it to cram a bundle of ideas into a single show. “Sometimes we think really big, and it’s hard to contain it all into one song,” Dameron says. “I think if we have a musical, we can work out all these creative interweavings of weird.”