The Mile High Makeout: Signal Path plans a very busy 2011

Ryan Burnett and Damon Metzner of Signal Path
Ryan Burnett (left) and Damon Metzner have been the core of Signal Path since 2002. Bassist Matt Schumacher (not pictured) now rounds out the trio.
This recipe for improvisational electronic music — popularized by Sound Tribe Sector 9, but also practiced to varying degrees by Colorado-based acts like EOTO, Pnuma Trio and Lotus — is big business these days. By tapping into the trading/touring folks who might have followed Widespread Panic or Phish at another time, these groups have unlocked a passionate, supportive scene that prefers a thumping beat to a noodling guitar solo. They come in many shapes, sizes and colors, wearing everything from ’60s tie-dye to ’80s day-glo, but they all come to dance. With more visible energy than most Deadheads, you might call fans of this improvisational dance music Undeadheads.

“There’s a ton of crossover,” Metzner says. “Every single show we’ve played, there have been legitimate electronic music fans and Widespread Panic fans. When we started, it was more the jam band crowd.”

“It really depends,” Burnett asserts. “You can play the same city three times and you could have three totally different crowds and vibes, depending on who’s throwing the party.”

And where fanzines and tape trading kept the Grateful Dead fans engaged, the live electronic music scene is held up — in fact, might be impossible without — the internet.

“To some degree, all of our successes are, in some way, related to the internet,” Metzner explains. “Whether it’s just inspiration from listening to other artists, or the ability to disseminate information to our fan base, it is an integral piece of our business. It’s how we communicate with our fans. It’s how we get support. It allows us to offer our music for free because of the infinite shelf space that the internet provides. It’s the lifeblood of our operation, at least, in a promotional sense. We’d be creating, regardless, but as far as being able to do this as an independent artist and not have to rely on a label, it’s indispensable.”

And speaking of giving music away, Signal Path plans to continue its model of free releases this year with not one but four EPs, released at the turn of each season.

“The seasons are perfectly spaced for releasing four albums,” says Metzner. “What does seasons changing represent? There are parallels to people’s lives and change. It’s cyclical, and it’s a completely different model than a traditional album cycle.”

“I’ve been working so hard,” continues Burnett. “I put in 60 hours in my home studio and it goes by like that. It’s been a great gift to have so much time to work on my music. Every day, I’m stoked. I drink a gallon of mate and geek out in the studio.”

Thanks to all those years of touring and effort, Signal Path finally has the luxury of being a full-time band for its members. Though the group is still touring heavily, they are now flying out for long weekends of gigs, and spending weeks back home in Denver with friends and family.

“It’s that hard work — that literal sweat — that is allowing us to pick our own schedule now,” Metzner concludes.

In addition to creating music at an unprecedented pace, Signal Path also plans to use its time to invest in Denver’s fertile music scene. This summer, the band plans to remount its wildly popular Summer Sessions multimedia events — which started simply as a way for transplant Metzner to meet people — at Cervantes’ Masterpiece Ballroom and Cervantes’ Other Side. “We’re going to try to keep it very Denver-centric,” says Metzner, “but also bring in one national thing each time, and have as many local artists and vendors as we possibly can.”

“We don’t want to just take from this scene,” says Burnett. “We want to give too.”

Catch Signal Path live at City Hall on Feb 19, with Prefuse 73 and the Hood Internet. Tickets available here.

Listen to — and download — a sneak preview of Signal Path’s spring release, “The Prosaic Fades,” for free. The album won’t be released until March 20, but you can grab “Bitcrush My Heart” today.

Eryc Eyl is a veteran music journalist, critic and Colorado native who has been neck-deep in local music for many years. Check out Steal This Track every Monday for local music you can HEAR, and the Mile High Makeout every Friday. Against his mother’s advice, Eryc has also been known to tweet. You can also follow Steal This Track on Twitter. Sorry, Mom.