Autograf: Combining Electronic Music and Art


Autograf performed at Terminal 5 in New york City before continuing their tour. (PHOTO BY NICOLE SHAPIRO/ THE OBSERVER)

By NICOLE SHAPIRO, Contributing Writer

On Oct. 7, the Chicago-native band Autograf performed to a full house at Terminal 5. It was the band’s first time playing the venue; they were excited to have the opportunity and they made sure the crowd knew it. According to band member and deejay, Mikul, the trio was founded on the basis of “taking electronic music and integrating those organic elements of live music.” Autograf does this by using actual instruments aside from digital audio technology like MIDIs and turntables to make and perform their music.

They specifically made very good use of the hand drum, marimba and a marching-band-style portable drum set and take pride in combining self-made visual art with music. Thanks to their great stage design work and upbeat, dreamy tunes, they continue to share the visual and auditory art they make with their fans.

For most concerts, one would normally expect the spotlight to shine the brightest on the artist as they begin playing. As Mikul, Jake and Louis took the stage, however, the spotlight fixated on them shut off and their art lit up. They designed LED rods to be crisscrossed behind them, acting as the background for the show—when the music started, the visual spectacle began. Wearing all black, they blended into the background, putting all of the focus on the music. Our eyes would intentionally overlook them and focus on the trippy light show they programmed to change, trip and flicker according to the music for our combined audio-visual pleasure.

When I saw them perform live, Jake, the middleman of the stage, started playing a hand drum to add a percussive element to some of their tracks. You could see how into the music he was, which resulted in him breaking a hole through the top of the instrument. Like all friends do, giving each other old or broken things, Jake did exactly that and generously passed the torn hand drum into the crowd. Mikul later told me in a phone interview they of course needed to get another one, “we had to run to Guitar Center the next day out of all places,” before their show in Washington D.C the following night.

At the concert, the trio played their new release, “Nobody Knows,” featuring Patrick Baker and it is the first tour where they play the track. The song reflects on the seemingly unrelatable feelings we can have about finding ourselves. Baker’s deep voice gave greater impact to the thoughtful lyrics and introspective vibe, all of which we still could not help but dance to. As a special treat for the audience, they brought out Janelle Kroll, who collaborated with them on the single “Metaphysical.” Kroll made multiple appearances on the stage as she came out again to sing a remixed version of the track. Her high pitched yet strong voice took spectators aback as it so closely resembled the recorded version, but was more impressive to hear in person. Keeping with the style of the band, she was there for the music and not the extended applause. As soon as she finished showing off her impressive range, she put down the mic and walked offstage.

Autograf finished the set with their big hit “Dream,” incorporating the marimba to recreate the catchy melody. Meanwhile, a layer of deep piano chords swirled around the room, surfacing the overwhelming sensation of discovering your passion and setting out to do what makes you happy. They give off an infectiously inspirational vibe, blossoming from their own experience of having suddenly dropped everything in order to pursue a career in music. Mikul revealed to me the switch to music was unprecedented: “Both Jake and I had focuses on art. Louis was a day trader or options trader. Music wasn’t any of our main focuses growing up, we didn’t go to school for it or anything like that.”

At the end of the show they presented the audience with a final gift—artwork they created to go with their new single, “Future Sauce,” which they also only started playing live on this tour. Lucky fans at the front of the crowd got to take home the posters of pop-art style Sriracha bottles, including the avid fan who pushed me in order to grab one from the stage. I am fine though, and yes, I did get a poster that is currently hanging in my room. The print is part of an art series they made specifically for this tour, which they plan to hand out at all of their shows.

Throughout the night, we grooved to songs of ranging beats per minute and instrumental components, which were met with an equally satisfying visual installation. The crafty group produced a pleasantly personal and intimate setting for a techno concert, paying more attention to the art display in the backdrop, the music and its message. They make the art be the centerpiece of the show instead of placing themselves under the spotlight, which is what music should be about

The three friends are artists in a more wholesome sense of the word. They get so into the music that you cannot help but notice how happy they are to be living out their dream, and they actively encourage everyone else in the room to do the same. Autograf’s live persona consists of three good friends jamming to techno beats on stage and making music and art for the rest of their friends to enjoy. The band will make their way across the United States, hitting cities like Denver, Houston and Los Angeles, with their last concert set for Nov. 12 in Seattle, Washington.