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Defining Listener X

Electronic group Lilacs & Champagne’s Emil Amos sounds off on the band’s unexpected hit

Ten years ago, a budding rock band comprised of Alex Hall and Emil Amos found themselves hooked on a new sound. Inspired by Cluster, a German experimental group, a growing obsession with electronic music would ultimately spark a second act for the Portland, Oregon duo.

“[Cluster was] just two guys basically dreaming up anything they wanted,” Amos tells DuJour. “It was definitely not rock music. It was super imaginative and just sounded so much more freeing than your basic rock band situation.”

For the next five years, Amos and Hall aspired to create this feeling for their band and fell in love with the ad lib style of performing music in the process. “Basically I put the two things together and realized it was pure drug music,” Amos says. “It was pure fantasy listening…the most soothing, weird, exploratory music, which is basically what Cluster was for me.” The end result is their turn as Lilacs & Champagne. “Instead of it being electronic,” he explains, “it became more like a hip-hop method, which was pretty instinctual because I was already a drummer, so it wasn’t a very hard curve to turn.”

The musicians are currently in the home stretch of finishing their first album and most recently lent their sound to our behind-the-scenes video with Nets newcomer Paul Pierce, which is surprisingly fitting for Amos. “I grew up in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, so everyday of my youth was spent around the atmosphere of the Tarheels. I met Michael Jordan when he was young. My mom dated the guy that ran the Tarheels magazine, so she got to travel with them. All of the greatest players came from that team,” Amos says. “In the history of basketball, it’s the nastiest breeding ground of all time.”

The track on the video is a song titled “Listener X,” which leans more traditional hip-hop than the rest of the experimental record. Ironically, it seems to resonate with their fans. “Time after time, city after city people always ask me about that song because there’s something about tradition that is more satisfying often than total experimentalism.” As for how the hit came to be, he recalls, “We basically stole a bunch of tidbits from a Mozart children’s record and played a bunch of smoldering jazz cords. That was pretty much it.”

Hear Lilacs & Champagne’s “Listener X” on the behind-the-scenes video from our October shoot with Paul Pierce here.