The Illtet

Unfairly lumped in with the jam band scene here in St. Louis, The Illtet is actually an accomplished instrumental quartet with far more of an electronic influence than any of their peers, not to mention an intriguing, forward-gazing compositional aesthetic. Adam Weinberg (guitars, samplers), Patrick Vaillancourt (synthesizer, keyboards), David Saxon (drums, percussion), and David Pinzur (electric/acoustic bass) have the distinction of sounding like no one else in St. Louis, and their self-titled debut is a brisk, disciplined 30-minute excursion down playful sonic sidestreets that take some unexpected curves, but always lead somewhere. The Illtet, recorded at Smith-Lee Studios and mixed by John John, is challenging without being overly self-indulgent, and it’s a rewarding listen. Adam Weinberg serves up the answers for this month’s “Five Quick Questions.”

1. How long has The Illtet been together?

AW: About two years. I’ve played with Dave Saxon and Dave Pinzur through college (Washington University). We had saxophone and keyboard, had two gigs with another guitar player. Everyone had so many different ideas…we were just trying to get the right combination. Pat really challenged us. His stuff was so far out; he was into stuff like Aphex Twin and Squarepusher. He pushed us really hard.

2. For those who aren’t familiar with The Illtet, how would you describe your sound?

AW: Oh, probably like Tortoise but not as pretentious. (Note: one or two songs also sound like Milwaukee’s Pele.) John Zorn is a big influence. We try to make music that moves somewhere, whether it’s harmonically or dynamically. It’s got the call-and-response thing of a jazz band, but with more sounds than notes.

3. What makes The Illtet’s songwriting process unique? And how about your live shows?

 AW: Our stuff is so composed. We pay attention to every detail of the sound. We’ll improv short pieces sometimes. We don’t look for excuses to jam; if a tune is just three or four minutes, then that’s IT. Pat has so much ability to generate noise with his synthesizer. We were doing this really pretty thing once, and Pat started making this really disquieting noise. Then I tried to match it…I almost have this rebellious attitude; I won’t even play a chord if it sounds too predictable. I’ll try to do something that’s not as standard…Our bass player, though, has a knack for writing melodies. He could be a commercial jingle writer. And Dave (drummer) is naturally talented, likes to catch people off guard. On the first tune on our album he see-saws between live drums and electronics.

Live…we play at Cicero’s a lot. They love us. We’.’ve had the same sound guy for 25 shows. Musically we try to keep it as interesting as possible. We have a core of fans…they egg us on. It’s so integral to our playing to have so many people we know yelling at us. And we had the second highest number of people ever at a Cicero’s show—347.

4. What’s on tap for The Illtet’s future?

AW: We’re just hoping to push the album. It’s a big hope of ours to generate some interest. I feel like what we do is significantly different from anything else I see here.

5. Any nibbling from record labels?

AW: We’ve been looking at a few small independent labels. You can’t send unsolicited CDs to labels anymore, though. We wanted to push it to Thrill Jockey, but they’re not taking demos.

(For more information on The Illtet, see their website at www.theilltet.com.)

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