ARTIST SPOTLIGHTS: Dashcam, Eli $tones

Breaking and Entering hosted an afternoon of Milwaukee music at The Ground Floor Stage at Summerfest on Saturday, featuring an eclectic mixed genre bill of Hanna Simone, Dashcam, Eli $tones and Scam Likely.

Dashcam is the electronic project of Donny Jankowski; he launched it in 2014 out of participating in a long-term creative challenge called WeeklyBeats. “You had to make new music once a week,” he explained. “The creativity got me messing with synthpop and new wave and ideas like that. People liked what they heard and I got a lot of encouragement from fellow producers; when you get that level of acceptance, you realize that you might be onto something.”

Currently playing with vocalist Liv Held and bassist Jake Augustine, Jankowski plays guitar and synth plus he does manipulated vocals in Dashcam’s live format. “Jake was originally the visual guy when we started out DJing sets,” Jankowski said about building a full band. “He was doing that with a Midi controller while I was mixing and doing cuts, and that slowly transformed into us putting a live band together. That’s actually where Liv came in; I met her when I was working on a track with Plaid Hawaii called “Warm Front.” She’s incredible…she can sing anything and just has so much natural charisma…so now she sings a lot of the songs that originally feature other vocalists. We’re doing a whole spectrum of different sounds and she can cover the whole thing.”

Jankowski takes influence from both retro and modern synth music with Dashcam, elaborating, “Com Truise, the one-man synthwave band, is a big one…but I’m also really into Tears For Fears and The Police and Duran Duran…I’m actually a newly minted Duran Duran fan after not liking them for the longest time but Dori Zori from 88Nine really turned me around on them.”

The project is highly collaborative and frequently features other vocalists and producers on tracks, which Jankowski states is a huge reason why he loves producing electronic music. “I’ve been able to work with some of my favorite artists in the city over the years.”

After releasing a slew of EPs, Dashcam dropped their debut full-length album “Sundown on Volcano Beach” in February. On what he wanted to do with the record, Jankowski shares, “The title came from me wanting it to be a loose concept album, so the idea was to have a general set of songs revolving around going through an evening and what you would feel as you went. There’s a really light beginning and then the songs pick up more energy as you go, and then it gets clubby/New Order-esque by the end. It’s supposed to be warm and about having a good time; the album took me three years to make but it was worth it.”

Dashcam are working on new music and plan to release more singles soon. “I’m working on a Police-inspired track with Anna Wang where I’m doing more on the guitar,” Jankowski said. “I’m really excited for the next year.”

Eli $tones is a hip hop artist known for his highly interactive and energetic performances that involve plenty of crowd engagement as well as intensely vulnerable bars and subject matter. He began dropped music in 2018 but really began taking his music career more seriously in 2019. “Don’t forget the motherfucking dollar sign,” $tones frequently chants during his sets.

After releasing a pair of EPs in 2019 and 2020 respectively, $tones dropped his debut album “$ticks & $tones” in February 2022. Reflecting on what he wanted to do with his first full-length project, $tones shares, “For a while I was dropping singles every month and had a lot of music videos following them up, and I feel like I hit my point with that…I had so much built up and knew that I wanted to tell a story where people could really dive into my life and experiences and what I’ve dealt with in terms of my friends and family. It’s been my favorite project that I’ve dropped so far.”

$tones took a hiatus from releasing new music for the rest of 2022 but returned in January of this year with a new single titled “100 Band$” featuring Sunny Lou. “I knew I had to come back with a bang,” $tones said. “I experienced a lot during my hiatus and had a lot of altercations with my own ego. A lot of music that I listened to when I started out was heavy metal and hard rock like Slipknot, System Of A Down, Nirvana…things like that…so my big goal was to mix genres that I love the most – hip hop and rock. Linkin Park has done it in a way but I wanted to do it different from them and not in a way that’s corny. I’ve been trying to do this kind of thing for years and now I’m figuring out how to execute it.”

He followed that up with a new single and video released just two weeks ago, “ABSOLUTELYNOT.” $tones explains that this is the first single of a new project of the same name that he’s working on. “I want to give the people a side of me that I’ve never given, hence the name – it’s absolutely not the Eli $tones that you’ve ever seen or that you might ever get again. It’s also a phrase that I say all the time (laughs). I’m calling my genre here “gleam rock” and it’s got those rock, hip hop and pop elements in it.”

Eli $tones’ next show is in Madison on July 1st and then he’s at Cactus Club for Good Vibes Only on July 21st.

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