No Longer a Mystery – An Interview with Desert Dwellers

Photography by: Matthew Cremer

Treavor Moontribe and Amani Friend are artists from the western United States who together make up Desert Dwellers. They began making music in 1999 and often preform together, but also have personal side projects. Originally, they called themselves “Amani vs. Teapot” and released music under that name from 1999-2002. Desert Dwellers have released many singles, albums, and EP’s over the years which vary greatly in style. They created their own label , Desert Trax, but also have released their music under other labels such as Black Swan and Twisted. Together they have played many music festivals around the world, including Boom (Portugal), Envision (Costa Rica), Coachella, Burning Man, Shambhala (Canada), Atmosphere (Israel), Lightning In a Bottle, Symbiosis, Desert Hearts, Serenity Gathering and more. Desert Dwellers are renowned for their eclectic fusion of sounds. The evolution of Desert Dwellers continues as they recently released their new album titled The Great Mystery which you can listen to or download here:

The Great Mystery by Desert Dwellers

The title of the album is derived from a Terrance McKenna quote, “Life is like a moment, we’re born out of a mystery, and we die into a mystery.” It is hard to believe that after eight full length album releases from Desert Dwellers, The Great Mystery is the first album of all original tracks produced by Amani and Treavor together. Twelve tracks produced mostly while the duo was on the road, recorded in hotel rooms and airports and finished in studios around the world. It is their most anticipated release, a chance for the group to truly exhibit its creative prowess.

Photography by Jason Abraham

I spoke with Treavor and Amani shortly after Serenity Gathering 2015.

How would you describe the range of genres that Desert Dwellers encompasses?

Desert Dweller’s style is everything from softer ambient, tribal-tek,  psytrance, house music, bass music, and ambient soundscapes. We like to surprise people by encompassing a wide range of styles which vary each time we release music or DJ an event.

What was some of your inspiration behind your new album, The Great Mystery?

We always wanted to make an album that encompassed many genres and took the listener on a journey. We’ve had many albums that had a sort of theme in the past, but this one just keeps changing both genre and mood. It’s light, its dark, its fun, its heavy, its soft and so on. We wanted to make an album that really encompasses all the various genres of music we love to make into a seamless journey.

What feelings do you want to evoke with your music?

We always try to play appropriately for the moment.  Sometimes we want to emulate the feeling of beauty like in a sunrise set, other times we play really heady bassy music to trip people out. We want to make people dance and feel a sense of awe, and gratitude for the mystery of this existence.

What does the term Desert Dwellers mean to you?

Both of us grew up in the deserts of the southwest and organized electronic events under the stars. We aim to evoke a sense of awe, wonder, and gratitude for the mystery of this existence with our music.

Photo by Jason Abraham

When did you start making music?

Amani: My dad was a musician and had a massive collection of instruments from all over the world. I began studying piano at age five, and later studied percussion and digeridoo. I began using technology to make music around 1987 and released a downtempo world fusion CD ten years later called “Biodiversity”. I attended The College of Santa Fe for music production and graduated in 1998.

When did you meet Treavor? How did you two decide to collaborate?

We first met in 1997 at the 5 year anniversary of Moontribe in California. I had just finished the album Biodiversity and was giving away copies to everyone. One of them made it to Treavor’s ears and we started collaborating shortly after that, whenever Treavor would play DJ gigs in New Mexico.

What is Liquid Bloom?

Liquid Bloom is a sound healing project designed to support ceremonial trance journeys- weaving powerful vocals and instrumentation from around the world into a layered sonic tapestry. Some of the artists that I collaborated with on this with are Ixchel Prrisma, Rara Avis, Robert Mirabal, and Sarah West.

How does your solo work differ from your work as part of Desert Dwellers?

My original solo work has always focused on world music and the fusion of ancient music with electronic music. I was combining these themes in music before Desert Dwellers was around, and a lot of my solo work over the years ended up being released as Desert Dwellers, and as Liquid Bloom as well.

What upcoming festivals will you be performing at?

Kinnection Campout (South Carolina), Sonic Bloom (Colorado), Symbiosis (California), Inlakesh (Oregon), Big Surreal (California), Astral Harvest, and Earthdance (Florida).


Photo by : Merris Beadle

When did you start making music?

Treavor: I started playing guitar when I was 12 years old, was in a metal band in high school, and had an acoustic guitar project too, but then discovered raves in 1992 and began making electronic music that year.

How has Moontribe affected your musical choices as a part of Desert Dwellers?

I was part of starting Moontribe’s full moon desert gatherings in Southern California. I feel I bring that dance floor rockin’ vibe to Desert Dwellers- big beats, fat bass and a sort of DJ sensibility. We both pretty much do everything though, just depends on the song at the time. I think all music I make though has that “outdoors” vibe to it, stuff written to work best under a sky rather than a roof.

How does your solo work differ from your work as part of Desert Dwellers?

Right now my main solo work has been uptempo techno/house music, and although DD does some of this, I’ve been really focusing on it with my solo project called “T.MT“. I’m also planning to start making a more electronica sound with vocals, more minimal and somewhat pop oriented ala James Blake, Hundred Waters and Trentemoller. That project has yet to launch but I’m very much inspired to make it happen soon.

Photography by Zipporah Lomax

Check out their website for more information about future events and music releases.




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