The III Points Music, Art & Technology Festival was created in 2013 as an alternative to the typical perception of Miami nightlife as bottles and models in the clubs’ VIP sections.
The three-day event – Friday through Sunday at Mana Wynwood in the Design District – showcases the best in creative local music and like-minded national acts, and this year is no exception, with an eclectic mix of cutting-edge hip-hop, electronic and indie-rock artists including M83, Flying Lotus, Method Man & Redman, DIIV, Earl Sweatshirt, Dusky, Oneohtrix Point Never, Thee Oh Sees, Junior Boys, Behrouz, Denzel Curry, DJ Craze, Otto von Schirach, Modernage, Pirate Stereo, Beach Day and dozens more.
One major act making its III Points debut is the D.C. electronic and world-music duo Thievery Corporation – consisting of multi-instrumentalists Rob Garza and Eric Hilton – which for more than two decades has blended Brazilian, reggae, dub, acid jazz, Indian and Middle Eastern styles into a sexy, mesmerizing, surprisingly coherent sound.
The group headlines Saturday night on the strength of its seventh studio album, “Saudade,” which leans heavily toward sultry bossa nova beats.
Garza talked to Miami.com about the show, the group’s recording process and the new album set for release in early 2017.
What drew you to this festival?
This is our first time playing III Points, and we’ve never been before. They asked us to come play, and it sounds like a great lineup. And we love playing down in Miami, so it was a no-brainer. We love the weather, the vibe, and it seems like there’s a lot going on in terms of development and music and things like that. Eric and I have been going down there since ’96, I think, for [Winter Music Conference]. I’d been down there as a kid, so it’s interesting to watch things grow.
Speaking of WMC, you guys have performed at the Ultra Music Festival. Will this set be different from that vibe?
Yeah, sets change, and since that time we’ve had more new music come out, so we’re always working with different singers and musicians, so songs will change, so it will be very different.
Will we hear anything from “Saudade”?
We’ll drop a couple tracks from there, for sure.
What about Brazilian bossa nova excites you so much?
Well, I think it’s one of the common genres that both me and Eric are influenced by. I think there’s just a beautiful sense of space within the music, and it’s a distillation of samba music, but there’s still a lot of room for melody and atmosphere and vibe. I find that that’s one of the things I love about dub, too, is a sense of spaciousness. Those are two genres that I feel we have kind of merged in a way – they’re similar in the sense that you can kind of get trippy within that space, within the music.
What will the breakdown be onstage?
There will be at least 10 people onstage. We have a sitar player, percussionist, drummer, bass player, horn section, myself and Eric, and about five or six different singers. It’s kind of like a traveling circus sometimes [laughs]. Eric and I do a combination of playing keyboards, drum machines and DJing, all of that stuff.
Your studio sound is very rich and percussive. How does that translate to the live stage?
It translates well, because percussion in music creates this fluidity that’s really nice, and it allows you to go to all these different places in music – Indian music, Jamaican music – so it’s one of those things that permeates all of our music since we started.
To get that sound in the studio, do you use vintage equipment?
We kind of use [laughs] whatever’s around. We recorded our first album, “Sounds from the Thievery Hi-Fi,” on this cheap, $400 mixer, and just had two samplers and a drum machine going, and did it probably for less than five grand. So we’ve always used whatever it takes to make what we want to create. But we do love vintage gear – analog tubes, old synthesizers, things like that.
With all these different styles from different countries and eras, when you’re in the studio writing, do you purposely set out to record an “Indian” song or a “reggae” song, or does it just happen organically?
I think all of the music just sort of happens. We get in the studio and just pick up instruments or start playing around with some beats, and then the song sort of leads us. A lot of times it won’t be until we’re midway through an album before we feel the direction it’s taking us. We’ve been doing music for a while now, and we have this broad canvas of different styles and sounds, so we know that at any moment things can pop up and we can all of a sudden go off on a tangent and take a track somewhere totally different than where we originally expected it to go.
Are you working on anything new in the studio?
We have a new album coming out in early 2017, and we would love to get something together from it for the show, but I don’t want to promise anything. We recorded it down in Jamaica and so it definitely has a more reggae dub kind of vibe to it. So it’s more deep and dubby.
Do you have a title yet?
It’s called “The Temple of I and I.”
Is there an all-time favorite moment for you during a live concert?
I think that one of my favorite moments is when we went out to Burning Man two years ago. We had an invitation to play with the Robot Heart guys, and because we’re so many people, it’s kind of a chore to get everybody over there and situated at the gig. And you don’t get paid at Burning Man – you just do it because you love it. And it was a sunset set, and just to see all the cars coming for this free show, and the vibe was just so incredible – it’s one of those moments I’ll never forget. Seeing all the lights, and we were doing a song, “The Heart’s a Lonely Hunter,” that we did with David Byrne, with the lyrics “Welcome to my spaceship.” And it really felt like we were in our own spaceship – it was a trip.
Three musicians, live or dead, you’d kill to work with?
Antonio Carlos Jobim [who helped create the bossa nova sound, and wrote "The Girl From Ipanema”], Joe Strummer [l[late front man for The Clash]and Bob Marley.