Old Time Relijun, the experimental band that blended Tuvan throat singing with intentionally rough-around-the-edges playing, is back.
In one sense, the band — led by Olympia musician-artist-eccentric Arrington de Dionyso — never really went away, but it hasn’t played a show since 2008.
This weekend, de Dionyso and the rest of the Old Timers — bassist Aaron Hartman, saxophonist Ben Hartman and drummer Germaine Baca — are meeting up for two shows, including one Saturday night at Obsidian.
De Dionyso, the only band member still living in Olympia, has continued his musical career, as well as branching into fashion design. (His artwork was used on a jacket, backpacks and shoes in Yves Saint Laurent’s 2015 spring menswear collection.)
But busy as he is, he felt the tug of the past. Wherever he goes, he said, he hears people saying, more or less: Give us that Old Time Relijun.
This year — the 20th anniversary of the band’s beginning — felt like the right time.
The Olympian met with de Dionyso in his downtown studio last week to get the story behind the shows.
A. We never really broke up. There was never even a single conversation about ‘Hey, let’s not play anymore.’ It was just the way things happened. We just all got involved in other things. But the last show we played was in 2008.
We had been touring at a real breakneck pace. In 2006, 2007, 2008, we were pretty much on the road six months out of the year. For our last couple of tours, we were already bicoastal, because Aaron Hartman, the bass player, had moved to New York, but we were able to meet up a week before each tour, practice for a week, and then hit the road for two or three months.
After the last tour, everybody ended up living in different cities and then it got a little bit more complicated.
A. Almost every single time I play a concert, people ask me, ‘When’s Old Time Relijun going to get together?’ It’s like, ‘OK, we love your music, but we really want to see Old Time Relijun.’
Now there’s a whole generation of people who were a little bit too young to get into that scene at that time. We have people who are in college now who were kids back then. They are discovering some of the older albums.
Around the beginning of the year, I started having these really vivid dreams of getting back together with the band. They were really magical, pleasant dreams. This music is great. I love the vibe. I love all these guys.
I started to get really excited about getting the band back together for just a show or two. I started making some phone calls, and everybody was totally ready to jump back into it. We’re only committing to the two shows.
We’re just going to wait and see how it goes.
With the logistics of everyone’s family lives and work lives, we probably won’t return to being the tour machine that we once were, but if there are offers to play at festivals and really special events, I could see us being interested in doing that a couple times a year maybe.
If we felt confident in bringing new material into the mix, then that would really define the parameters for that big sort of future question. We’re all still doing music, and I don’t think coming up with new material would be a problem, but it’s just looking at the time commitment involved in that.
For Old Time Relijun to work, it has to happen organically. We could never fake it or force it. The music that we play demands like a 400 percent commitment that has to be given to really communicating that feeling of ecstatic joy and terror that comes through in the music. It’s not something you can dial in.
A. No, but a couple of the songs I do with Malaikat dan Singa (his more recent band) use some of the lyrics from Old Time Relijun songs translated into Indonesian.
A. They scouted me. Hedi Slimane is the head designer for Saint Laurent. He is well known as being a really big music fan. His designs are always very integrally linked to different eras and expressions of music scenes.
He was at a concert in Los Angeles and saw concert posters that I had painted just hanging on the wall at this club. He was really curious about that and then realized that I was the same artist who was in Old Time Relijun back in the day. He had his team locate me and ask me if I wanted to collaborate on a collection.
They ended up taking eight drawings and paintings to be used as prints for backpacks, for shoes — like the shoes I’m wearing right now — and then some very fancy designs embroidered on the backs of jackets.
Justin Bieber and Keith Richards have worn the jacket. And there’s this very famous rapper from South Korea named G. Dragon. He’s also been wearing the jacket.
I’d never had any connection or experience with designing fashion before that. I printed T-shirts for the band; that was my fashion experience.
A. They gave me the shoes and some backpacks.
The jacket is almost $4,000. They didn’t give me a jacket. I got to try it on.
They had the drawing embroidered by hand, with really elaborate stitching and sequins and beads and gemstones all embroidered in to create my drawing.