BIVWACK Brace Jackson for an Energetic Homecoming

The musical duo returns home to Jackson to debut their live audiovisual experience that's been years in the making.
Otto Wieters, left, and Dan Sanford, right, of BIVWACK, are ready for Jackson to experience their full-spectrum performance. (Courtesy of Kyle Jennings)

The band BIVWACK, formerly known as Head To Head, is made up of Dan Sanford and Otto Wieters. Born and raised in Jackson, the duo were heavily involved with the youth music programs offered in the Teton area before forming their own popular electronic music act that caught the attention of big players in the music industry.

From their humble beginnings as production assistants at the Pink Garter Theatre to working with major artists like Odesza, Big Wild, Hayden James and even Will Smith, BIVWACK are known for their electrifying performances featuring live instrumentation and vibrant visuals.

In advance of their co-headlining show with ford. on Saturday, Feb. 19, at The Mangy Moose in Teton Village, Sanford and Wieters joined us recently in the KHOL studios.

The following interview transcript has been edited for clarity and brevity. This conversation was recorded on Tuesday, Feb. 15.

JACK CATLIN/KHOL: So, first off, can you tell us what it was like to grow up here in Jackson from a musician’s perspective?

OTTO WIETERS: To start that question, I think we owe a huge portion to the Jackson Hole Music Experience. You know, they kind of got us our start on everything. It’s how Dan and I met as musicians and as drummers. All of our instructors–Ed Domer, Andy Calder, Jeff Eidemiller–they helped shape us as musicians since we were like 10. And I think that was really special to have a really close, small community that just got a lot of young kids really excited about music and helped them develop their talents at their own pace. And we followed that basically until we left for Seattle.

KHOL: You started off as production assistants, interns at the Pink Garter Theatre here in town and were on hand for many of the venue’s biggest, most successful shows, including your own sold-out shows. Can you get nostalgic for a minute and wax poetic on those “Garter Glory Days” for us?

DAN SANFORD: I think Otto and I are really grateful for that time because we were able get opportunities to explore and to discover things and learn things. I’d like to shout out a couple of people in the local community who really like gave us those keys [and] were like, ‘Hey, explore.’ There’s Dom Gagliardi, who was the owner, and then we had a really amazing audio guy and lighting, pretty much production guy, Noah Waldron. He and also Ethan Oxman, Adam Klomp. I know I’m leaving some people out. You know who you are but those people really influenced us. And they gave us this space to explore and learn. And so if I’m going to get nostalgic about those days it’s just the ability to also like, make mistakes. Otto and I worked our tails off. Like, we worked really hard to make shows happen. And Dom had no shortage of just being like, ‘You guys better make the show happen for these guys.’ He would give us some pretty good challenges and expect highly of us. And I think that really shaped us into what we were able to do.

KHOL: So, you guys left for Seattle in 2015 to be part of a larger music scene and have found success there. What was it like leaving this smaller local music scene here in Jackson that you grew up in and helped build?

WIETERS: It was hard at first. I think one thing that at the time I definitely took for granted–I mean, being in a really small town that is fortunate to have through The Pink Garter, they had massive acts come through, you know, TV On The Radio, Dirty Heads, all these huge A-list touring artists that Dan and I got to work with directly and be a part of–in a big city, those guys are touring through 3,000-cap[acity] rooms and big venues. And when we first moved there, we went from being the big fish in the little pond to the little fish in the big pond. It was hard to get production jobs. It was hard to find your way because it went from being like very few of us doing this in this valley to like thousands of people our age trying to go down the same path. And it took a while. When I first moved there, I think the entire first year of 2015, I didn’t even get to touch a console. I was doing Postmates and stuff to pay my rent, and it was a total life change for a minute. It was hard, but we found our way. I found a small production company and I was able to work my way up through it. It was definitely humbling, though. It was hard to find our paths though very necessary for sure. It absolutely took a lot of work but it was very worth it. It all ended up paying off.

KHOL: How does it feel to be back in Jackson and reconnecting with your roots? You have a bunch of family here, I know they’re all tuning in right now. How does it feel to be back and performing live at “the Moose” again?

SANFORD: It’s pretty wild. I think it’s cool. I definitely am grateful too that this community is excited about shows and things coming back. We have lots of friends and family here. I mean, I don’t know. Otto and I talked about it on the way over here how we’re just excited to do shows with friends again.

OTTO WIETERS: It’s fun to still come home and produce and do shows with all of our friends. It’s like we never left.

KHOL: So, what can we expect from the show on Saturday night at The Mangy Moose? You told me before we hopped on the mic that you didn’t know if Jackson was ready.

SANFORD: Yeah, I mean that sincerely, because it’s definitely like, I think Otto and I’ve been very proud of each other, lifting up each other, motivating each other right now because we’ve kind of just had this epiphany that’s like, ‘Whoa, all this experience and stuff [comes back to] where we got started.’ I mean this artist we worked for, Big Wild, the way that Otto and I met him and met some other people was through opening [up shows for them] and doing our thing. So, it’s like reconnecting with it for this full-circle moment. And I think for the show on Saturday, I think you’re going to see the next level of what Otto and I are capable of and the music too is what we’re really proud of. We’re just so excited to share some of the new stuff. A lot of the music you’re going to be hearing for the first time.

WIETERS: Yeah, and the production is going to be pretty wild. We brought a video wall, we brought a bunch of lights. We’re going to have a pretty fun show. It is going to be a lot crammed into that stage.

SANFORD: This is something the Moose has not seen before. Listen above for KHOL’s full conversation with BIVWACK.

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About Jack Catlin

Jack is KHOL's music director. He says all music is in some way connected no matter the style and his mission is to provide listeners with a unique and memorable experience each time they tune in to KHOL or see him DJ live.

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