Positive-vibe merchants

“We’re a Craigslist success story, I guess,” jokes Telepath bassist Curt Heiny.

The beginning of the story was typical: A want ad was placed, e-mails were exchanged, practices ensued, etc. But the end result—a global-minded three-piece that won swift acclaim—was anything but.

Contact high: The Asheville-rooted trio’s new album blends Jamaican dub, hip-hop and modern electronica.

Conceived by keyboardist/multi-instrumentalist Michael Christie in 2006, the band lost no time carving a niche in the electronic and jam scenes, blending traditional Arabic and Indian music with Jamaican dub, hip-hop and modern electronica.

Regulars at festivals across the country, including All Good and Camp Bisco this year, the band has crafted its style around an extensive library of samples that members create and record in-house. The samples allow the trio—Heiny, Christie and drummer Mike B—to reproduce their expansive sound for live audiences, an effort Heiny says is near and dear to the band.

“We make a conscious effort to try to recreate the songs live as they sound on the album,” he explains. “It’s really important to us because we don’t want people hearing the album and then coming to the show and leaving disappointed saying, ‘The album was good, but it didn’t sound anything near that live.’ We’ve all been to shows like that.”

For Telepath’s latest effort, Contact, that meant recording nearly 20 guest musicians, who played everything from horns and accordion to the more exotic sitar and dotar. The process, Heiny says, can be challenging.

But it works.

Having already finished a short September tour in support of the record, the band is currently on a month-long stint down the East Coast, which will culminate with the official CD-release show at the Orange Peel. Although the album went on sale in September, and Telepath is technically based in Philadelphia now Christie moved there in June while Heiny and Mike B remained in Asheville—Heiny says the decision to have the release here was an easy one.

“We started in Asheville, and Asheville has been an amazing city as far as supporting us and allowing us to experiment in a positive way,” he says. “There is a very receptive fan base in Asheville, and we wanted to give back to a city that has done nothing but support us, and has really nurtured this project along.

“It didn’t feel right to do it somewhere else where we don’t have the communal vibe and the past support building this project up from the ground,” he adds. “It’s kind of a ‘thank you’ to a place that has allowed us to grow.” Extending that vibe of reciprocity, Telepath will be collecting non-perishable food items for MANNA FoodBank during the Nov. 15 show.

MANNA, which will distribute the donations to needy families this holiday season, “is something we believe in, and something that goes along with the message behind the music,” remarks Heiny.

But his desire to give back isn’t reserved just for Asheville. It’s a recurring theme when he talks about Telepath, and it even shows up in Contact‘s liner notes, where the band encourages listeners to further explore the music of India and the Middle East “in the spirit of unity.”

While attempting to broaden its audience’s horizons, the band is also trying to create a safe space for fans—a place of comfort where people can forget about what’s going on in the world, says Heiny. “And hopefully they will take a new perspective from it when they leave.”

[Dane Smith is an Asheville-based freelance writer.]

who: Telepath
what: World-electronica act plays CD-release show
where: Orange Peel
when: Saturday, Nov. 15. 9 p.m. ($14/general, $12/advance. 225-5851.)

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