TRAVERSE CITY — It’s a South Bend, Ind., duo that spent years as part of an avant-garde jazz trio and honed its “instrumental hip hop” chops with rapper Billy “B. East” Easton.
Along with original, boundary-pushing material produced on drums, synthesizer, looping gear and a seven-string guitar, After Ours rolls out inventive covers of diverse classics by Britney Spears, Radiohead, The Deftones, A Tribe Called Quest and more.
Oh, and they can still deliver an evening of jazz standards and Christmas tunes.
As guitarist, synthesizer player and looper Eli Kahn puts it, the duo of Kahn and drummer Arthur Schroeder loves being able to “dabble in both worlds.”
“A lot of our younger fan base is definitely geared toward electronic jam band music and instrumental hip hop,” Kahn said.
“But then we have a lot of older folks that love our takes on traditional standards like ’Take Five’ and they’ll be really excited that they’re hearing music from their era being arranged by modern musicians.”
After Ours also has become an alt-jazz favorite amid Michigan’s music scene and will play The Little Fleet in Traverse City at 7 p.m. Friday as part of the “Live in the Yurt” series.
“I don’t think we’re 100 percent a jazz group,” Kahn offered. “We definitely have jazz influence, but I hesitate to say I’m a jazz guitarist.”
Kahn, however, did go to school for classical guitar performance and his affinity for renowned jazz fusion guitarist Charlie Hunter eventually prompted him to purchase a seven-string guitar (which features two bass strings and five guitar strings). It’s an instrument that took years to master.
For performances, he uses a small synthesizer and his guitar, running them through “a myriad of effects” and linking them up at a looper.
“I’m doing a lot of bass looping, rhythm guitar looping and then soloing on top of it and doing more melodic work as I loop things live,” he said. “Nothing is pre-recorded. It’s all looped.”
It’s also an approach that works well in a duo format.
“It’s much easier to tour as a duo. We’ve always been relatively small (within various bands). It’s convenient to have just two people,” said Schroeder, noting the pair creates its own original material and adds covers of other artists to its repertoire while also “making stuff up on the fly.”
Its most recent EP, “Random Nuggets: Vol. 1,” features After Ours’ takes on a mix of well-known gems such as “Cry Me a River,” “Toxic” and “Black Hole Sun.”.
“We’ve had so many people tell us that they love those arrangements of those as instrumental tunes,” Kahn said, “that we felt compelled to record them.”