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Thievery Corporation explore their roots at Squamish fest

Electronica duo return to bossa nova for inspiration on latest tracks
Thievery Corporation
Thievery Corporation’s Eric Hilton (left) and Rob Garza are among the performing artists at this year’s fifth annual Squamish Valley Music Festival, which starts today and ends Aug. 10.

Squamish Valley Music Festival, Aug 8-10. For complete schedule go to

Electronica is only limited by one's own imagination, according to a band that's been around almost as long as the genre itself.

Thievery Corporation, comprised of Rob Garza and Eric Hilton, are among the worldwide performing artists who will take one of the four stages at the fifth annual Squamish Valley Music Festival from Aug. 8 to 10. The duo will take the Stawamus Stage on Aug. 10, starting at 8:30 p.m. But it won't be the first time Thievery Corporation has come to B.C. to perform their tracks, influenced by Jamaican dub reggae, punk, vintage film soundtracks, psychedelic space rock and everything else electronic. Garza and Hilton have had shows in Whistler, Vancouver and Vancouver Island throughout the years.

"We're looking forward to heading up to B.C.," Garza says. "We love it up there. We just love that part of the world."

Garza had just returned from a show in Acapulco, and he will also be in Nelson on Aug. 9, the day before the Squamish fest performance, to play a DJ set at Shambhala Music Festival.

But it was almost 20 years ago when Hilton and Garza met in a lounge and bonded over their mutual inclination for Brazilian bossa nova.

"Right around that time I was buying a lot of older Brazilian records and things like that when I met Eric Hilton," Garza recalls. "We were just into talking about Brazilian music, jazz music, dub and reggae and music from India and incorporating it with electronic sounds."

It was 1995, and the two decided to open up their own studio to "see what happens," Garza adds.

Their own label, ESL Music, and 20 album and EP releases later - Thievery Corporation has continued to explore the imaginative realm of electronica.

"It's been mainly mutual respect in terms of just (being) artists and individuals, you know?" Garza says about how the two have continued to make music through two decades. "It's easier to come together in some ways because we're not four guys and we're not doing the same thing all the time - each record we just look at it as a new project, as a new chapter - there's always a new cast of characters. It keeps it more inspiring, in a way."

The latest album, Saudade, which is Portuguese for a "longing for something or someone that is lost, a contented melancholy, or, simply, the presence of absence," was Thievery Corporation bringing it back to its roots of bossa nova Brazilian music that they originally bonded over.

"I think it's a way of getting back to the records me and Eric were first talking about when we first met," he notes. "The style we really appreciate. In a way, it's a palate cleanser at this point. Whatever we decide to do next, we've cleared a lot of expectations and now we have a blank canvas."

For Garza, he's always been attracted to electronic music since he took a course on it when he was a teenager in high school.

"You're really only limited by your own imagination with electronic music," he says. "You don't have to be a virtuoso instrumentalist or something like that, but, if you can imagine sounds and how they create the music with electronic instruments than it's actually very liberating because there's so much you can do."

Garza grew up in a household where a lot of old soul, Motown, rock and Latin music played on the airwaves. And he was always attracted to the sounds of synthesizers, sequencers, analog synths and drum machines.

"When I was in ninth grade, I started studying piano because I wanted to learn more about music and have a little background," he says. "Then I made it in the school for visual and performing arts in the small town where I'm from. And from there, I've been putting out records since I was 19 years old."

Garza was quite into punk music, and then when techno music started its upswing in the late 1980s and early '90s, he fell in love with multiple genres - especially Brazilian music.

Although Squamish fest goers can anticipate hearing samples of Thievery Corporation's whole catalogue - the band's latest album featuring elements of bossa nova - including "warm, soulful and melancholic vocals" - will definitely be a highlight.

From Friday night to Sunday, thousands of people will occupy the fifth annual festival on the Logger Sports Grounds and Centennial Fields in Squamish.

"Today's music landscape consists of fans who take in all genres and are as passionate as ever about discovering new artists," says Erik Hoffman, Live Nation Canada vice-president of talent, in a media release. "This year's programming will speak directly to these fans."

This year's headliners include Eminem, Bruno Mars, Arcade Fire and Nas, but other performances include Lykke Li, Sam Roberts Band, Atmosphere, Arctic Monkeys, Tokyo Police Club and The Oceanographers, among many others hailing from across the globe.

"The line-up represents exactly what is happening in music at this moment and will feature an amazing mix of artists from around the globe alongside the best emerging talent from our own backyard," Hoffman says.

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