Travis Jarosz is a pretty common name in the Ypsilanti music scene. He’s been involved in a few musical projects, ranging from metal bands to some short-lived jazz projects. He’s currently working with indie band Walk Your Bike, electro-punk Crochetcatpause and his electronic side project, Watabou. Watabou started in April 2009 as a general outlet for Jarosz’s musical ideas. He was involved in a couple of bands, but many of his bandmates were focused on the sound their band was creating or weren’t able to fully dedicate themselves to being in a band.
“That’s not to say that they weren’t good friends or talented musicians though,” Jarosz said. “So I stayed a part of those bands while trying to create electronic music as an outlet for my creative ideas that I felt weren’t being properly expressed.”
Jarosz was avidly studying music, learning new instruments and discovering new musicians, which helped him gain his fairly new appreciation for electronic music. Since he was new to electronic music, he wasn’t sure how to go about creating his own. He sought out the help of Steve Metz, a teacher at the Ann Arbor Music Center who knew plenty about electronic music composition and Matt Morden of the electronic project, Bubblegum Octopus.
“From there I was able to create, learn and network alongside many newfound friends who had similar ambitions to me,” he said. “I’ll never be able to thank them enough.”
It’s hard to put Watabou into a concrete genre. Jarosz’s focus is always different, but he’s always had four themes consistent in everything he’s done: love, nature, energy and discovery.
“It’s sort of hard for me to define Watabou without going into detail about its past because it’s never remained stagnant for too long,” he said. “At one point it was essentially a metal project using digital synths instead of guitars, it’s been a pop project, an IDM project, an industrial project, but aside from style it’s varied in intentions and ambitions greatly.”
Though Jarosz has played plenty of Ypsilanti venues with other bands he’s been involved in, Watabou has frequented house parties and shows. He’s played in Ypsi attics, basements and even kitchens. That’s just fine with him, though.
“I actually somewhat prefer house shows while performing as a solo act, it really allows me to interact with other people during the performance and doesn’t feel like I’m isolated from anyone else,” he said. “There’s usually no defined stage or anything, which really helps break down the barriers that sometimes get subconsciously created between the performer and the audience.”
Jarosz has just recently returned from a series of out-of-state performances at the beginning of March with Watabou. He prefers to travel in the winter and has been taking this time to incorporate more into his live show, so that by the spring he’ll have a whole new stage performance to unveil for Ypsilanti. He also wants to record more of his live sets.
Three EP splits with other artists have been released, but Watabou hasn’t released any full length records yet. That’s on Jarosz’s to-do list, though.
“I have album after album of songs and song concepts that I haven’t managed to finish out of a goofy sense of perfectionism about my sound,” he said.
“Along the way, I’ve met people who have radically helped shift the intentions of Watabou from being a self-serving delivery of creative energy to a community and socially oriented multi-media project centered around musical composition and performance,” Jarosz said. “It took a long time and is still happening more and more every day, but over the past few years Watabou’s managed to drastically alter my perception of music as well as my perception of my own ability to grow and learn. There’s still so much more to learn through the project and I’m really excited to see what the future holds, but I know whatever it is that it will help me develop my ambitions and better express my compassion.”