Flying red eye to the rave

The Red Eye Project act as DJs to their own psychedelic trance beats

The Red Eye Project, or T.R.E.P, believes that rave culture is about unity, not drugs.

The Red Eye Project, or T.R.E.P, believes that rave culture is about unity, not drugs.

Government organization. Microsoft Works. Marijuana initiative. I’ve always enjoyed oxymorons—they help remind us of just how absurd our lives are. And without occasional reminders, I’m pretty sure we’d all go crazy.

So when I first hear about The Red Eye Project, my first thought is that I’ve stumbled across a new one to add to the list: “Techno band.” After all, techno music comes from guys sitting at home on their computers, not bands, right?

Well—sort of.

It’s safe to say that the band uses their fair share of computers and electronics in their music. When I meet up with them at their practice studio, I’m unprepared for just how much gear I’m going to be swimming through. The place is packed with keyboards, mixing boards, MIDI controllers, speakers and several other devices I can’t identify. The band has arranged their instruments in a semicircle, and the speakers in a larger semicircle around that. Together with the exotic-looking rugs tacked to the ceiling, the room gives me the impression of some kind of futuristic Stonehenge.

But as I watch the band start their set, I see that they’re not going to be content to let Stonehenge do all their work for them. Brothers Kevan and Vance Christiaens essentially act as DJs for their own music—they’ve pre-recorded a collection of sequences, but they mix them together live. Meanwhile, Chuck Rhodes adds ambient noise and melodic riffs from two keyboards.

The result is some very professional sounding techno music. If you’ve somehow managed to avoid hearing techno all your life, let me give you the basic idea: It isn’t the kind of sound you’d sit down and listen to over coffee and cigarettes. With its pounding beats and disorienting sound effects, techno is much more a physical experience than a cerebral one; if you’re not dancing, you’re missing the point. The music isn’t divided into songs; in fact, there are no breaks at all. They’d only kill the mood.

The band describes their specific sound as “psychedelic trance,” which they assure me is much different from other forms of techno. This leads to some jokes about techno fans’ obsession with classifying the exact sound of their music.

“You can just change the tonality of your snare drum, and it’s a completely different genre,” says Kevan, laughing.

The Red Eye Project occasionally play at local bars, but they’re truly in their element at raves. They’ve been raving for more than a decade, twice as long as the six years they’ve been playing together as a band, and know the scene inside and out. And they’re quick to reassure me that, despite the public perception, raving isn’t really based on drug use.

“The way the culture is perceived is that drug use is the norm, which is far, far from the truth,” Kevan says.

Vance believes that those who do use drugs are simply a highly visible minority.

“If you go to a bar, and there are three raging drunks falling over themselves, those are the people you’re going to remember,” he explains.

According to the band, the true goal of raving is to bring people together in a non-judgmental atmosphere.

“It’s about total strangers just getting together and being the best of friends by the end of the night," Rhodes says.