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Twin Souls: Music and Snowboarding

Stories From Easy Giant's European Tour
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It was around that time in 1983 when legendary board maker Tom Sims organized the first half-pipe competition in Soda Springs that snowboarding began to fully evolve into the international phenomenon it is today. As an offshoot of surfing and skateboarding, the sport initially attracted those from the fringes of suburbia and mountain society.

Don’t forget it wasn’t until the 1990s that the majority of resorts in the U.S. even allowed snowboarders. They were seen as punks, troublemakers, grungy outcasts, and misfits. These same people, passionate and misunderstood artists, truth be told, brought with them to this emerging scene the most energetic, independent, and radical music of the day.

What started as skaters and punk bands thrashing together in underground warehouses soon evolved into a winter culture with a style all its own. And whether you were on K2 plugging into your latest pump-up jam on a Sony Walkman or calmly dropping The Fingers for a professional video, the music was there all along the way.

Perhaps nobody in Tahoe sums up this longstanding connection better than local professional snowboarder and musician Brandon Cocard. He rides for Capita Snowboards, Union Bindings, and Coal Headwear, and plays bass for Truckee-based indie band Easy Giant.

“Riding and music have always gone hand in hand in terms of passion,”
Cocard says. “When I was a young kid watching movies and dreaming of being a pro, the music was always just as much of an inspiration for me. What makes a good film is a great soundtrack.”

So naturally, as he planned for this season’s European tour with Reno-based snowboard movie production company Absinthe Films to promote their newest project, TurboDojo, Cocard was struck with a novel, yet perfectly sensible idea.

“Since I was riding for the film and Easy Giant was featured in the soundtrack, I basically thought, ‘Why not get some live music for the after party?’” he explains. “I was thinking of our band the whole time. I wanted to get a bunch of people together to see the film and take advantage of a built-in crowd to get our music out there.”

Cocard had been talking sponsorships with newly-launched Truckee snowboarding clothing company Devium, so he decided to approach them with the idea.

“They ended up sponsoring the film and covering all of our flights to Europe,” he says.

Thus the six members of Easy Giant drove from the Sierra Nevada down to San Francisco on a Tuesday morning in early October to board a direct flight to Zurich. Ten hours later, they emerged 5,819 miles from home in a foreign land at the foot of another mountain range: the Alps.

“As soon as we rubbed our eyes and stepped off the plane we had to load up all of our gear and rush into a sound check,” says guitarist Aaron Oropeza. “It was pretty gnarly. We were definitely all jet-lagged.”

With that said, Easy Giant’s first show in Zurich was scheduled to be the biggest of the tour with close to 1,000 people in attendance.

“That woke us up, to say the least!” Cocard laughs.

After the film premiere the band launched bravely into their set.

“We showed up in a haze straight into the fire for the most people we’ve ever played,” Oropeza says. “It all seemed like a dream. I think I woke up halfway through the show like, ‘This is happening!’”

After the sold-out tour opener in Zurich, the band quickly packed up and boarded a bus for a midnight drive to Munich. Keyboardist Ryan Taylor hung out up front watching the shadowy mountain scenery pass by as their German bus driver Herman, who’d been shuttling European tours for more than two decades, told timeworn stories and blasted 1970s art rock.

“He was a nocturnal animal who slept all day and drove all night,” Taylor marvels. “During his breaks, he’d put on Frank Zappa and play along perfectly note by note on his ocarina.”

Easy Giant followed the Munich show with dates in Innsbruck and Prague.

“We woke up every morning in a whole new country like, ‘Where are we?” Taylor says. “I remember it all, but most of the time we didn’t have time to do anything else except play.”

After four nights of performances in a row, the band had a day off in Prague where they wandered the city looking for the highest point they could find.

“Every time we turned a corner it would take ten minutes to absorb everything around us,” Oropeza says. “We were trying to photograph this immense, beautiful, detailed architecture on our phones and we couldn’t fit any single building into a picture. I got tired from saying ‘wow’ all day.”

As the sun set over the city, the band wandered down a labyrinth of ancient corridors to sample goulash and meats at one of the city’s oldest restaurants before hitting the road due east for Warsaw to play Klub Poglos.

“It was a metal venue,” deadpans Oropeza. “We looked up different bands that had played there and it was straight-up, down-tuned barking, so we weren’t quite sure how well we’d be received. As it turned out, it was a really sweet spot that was just the right size room for us. We were tightly packed together onto a little stage close to the crowd and the energy just transferred.”

From Warsaw, the band continued on to perform in Berlin before making the drive south to Bratislava and on to Budapest where they played a small venue on a busy street of the 2000-year-old city.

“It started out mellow, but the people walking past started coming in on their own accord,” says Oropeza. “By the time we hit the encore it was packed and rowdy with a sea of people jumping around. It was definitely one of those earn-your-crowd type of things.”

After the show, their promoter took them to a Hungarian disco where the band enjoyed a wild night out on the town.

“It was ridiculous,” Oropeza laughs. “We don’t belong in a club like that, but we had fun getting goofy.”

Easy Giant played two more shows in the mountains of Austria before returning to Zurich to make their way home. Throughout the tour, one of the aspects that stood out most to everyone in the band was the unfiltered passion of all the people they met along the way.

“Both musicians and snowboarders do unconventional work, but we do what we love,” Oropeza says. “On this tour, I really started to understand the subtle artistry of snowboarding. It’s like seeing an empty canvas; the way they see a mountain is how we see a stage.”

Shredding their own canvas, Easy Giant had manifested a dream tour by combining a passion for snowboarding with their distinctively original music.

“We put the same energy into our shows as we do into our lines on the mountain,” Cocard says. “With both snowboarding and music you need to be feeling something. To be able to combine the two — I was in heaven. If any kids are out there reading this, keep doing what you’re doing and take passion in it everyday … because if you believe in it, it can happen.”

 
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November 9, 2017