How Detroit’s Schvitz bathhouse is using electronic music to heal

How Detroit's Schvitz bathhouse is using electronic music to heal
Graeme Flegenheimer

In Detroit's North End, the recently renovated Schvitz bathhouse is hosting a new music series called Sound Bath. The same building where one can enjoy an old-school sauna and Russian oak leaf platza massage now incorporates the healing aspects of ambient and downtempo electronic music to create a positive atmosphere suited for a time to regenerate and relax — Sound Bath's motto is "listen while you steam."

Run by Joe Linden (formerly of El Club) and Bradley Gorand (the Schvitz's general manager), these two music aficionados seek out local and national artists to put a modern twist on the ancient "sound bath" practice.

Metro Times: Where does your interest in electronic music come from?

Bradley Gorand: I became interested in electronic music at a time in my life when I was getting burnt out on blues, folk, and rock music. I had of course been very aware of its existence, but I guess it really began to speak to me only when I was ready to listen. I don't know if I can say that my interest came from a specific place, just that at the time it was all new to me and very exciting. A lot of electronic music is not so much focused on performance, and that was very refreshing to me. Losing yourself completely in sound is different than focusing on a performer or a band. There's a lot of idol worship in music, and I think it's fun to try to separate the finished product from the performer, especially as part of a shared experience with others.

MT: What elements of ambient and downtempo music helps create the experience for a sound bath?

Joe Linden: If you think of the production of a lot of ambient — drones, pads, delay, reverb — these tropes naturally fit in a space like the Schvitz with all of its dripping water, natural reverb, and general dank subterranean vibe.

MT: How does the space itself cater to Sound Bath's purpose?

Linden: The downstairs has an amazing natural reverb that frames the music purposefully. Toward the end of each night people generally congregate around the cold plunge pool where the main DJ setup is situated, and it turns into this whole Greco-Roman bath house vibe with a great combination of people lounging and dancing to the music. The upstairs decor is perfect with the big leather chairs and couches matched with a lot of plants everywhere. The first-floor lounge area lends itself to be a good place to get out of the heat. We have a second DJ setup on the beautiful intimate patio and the wonderful Dr. Sushi serves fresh and delicious food. It's big enough for everyone to find their own space, yet at the same time intimate enough for you to meet a fellow partygoer and spark up conversation.

MT: Since Sound Bath has begun, what are your thoughts on placing electronic music in a health setting rather than a nightclub or bar?

Gorand: I think that electronic music is vast and varied enough that it can fit most any other situation beyond a nightclub or bar. Music and bars have a close relationship in this city, and it's very nice to have the chance to offer something different.

MT: How can Sound Bath teach others to think differently about the lifestyle one must lead, for a person who listens to electronic music?

Linden: I think so much about electronic music and its consumption is focused around staying up so late, substance abuse, and this sense of community in dark, problematic spaces. Sound Bath teaches people that you don't have to be so hard on your body to typically enjoy electronic music. Electronic music is a spectrum of moods and feelings and the spaces it is showcased in can reflect that as well.

MT: Are there any other ways the Schvitz would like to experiment with the inclusion of music within the venue?

Gorand: To date, we have had opera, klezmer musicians, an R&B act, along with numerous dance parties and art exhibitions. We wish to host as many different types of musical acts as possible in the coming years, as our passion for music and the arts runs deeply.

MT: Why is Detroit an ideal place for an event like Sound Bath to be happening right now?

Linden: Detroit has been suffering from a drought the past couple years with a lot of DIY venues closing — which usually translates to ideal places for electronic music. A lot of venues catered for bands and performances don't always lend themselves for electronic music events or DJs. One of the main goals of Sound Bath was to provide a totally new location for this kind of music in a city that seems to have less and less authentic locations.

Sound Bath No. 4 featuring Galcher Lustwerk, 8ulentina, Foozool, Beta Librae, Rawaat, Pablo R. Ruiz will take place starting at 8 p.m. on Friday, Oct. 26 at the Schvitz, 8295 Oakland Ave., Detroit; 313-724-8489;; $15-$50.

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