The energetic house music group Autograf are much more than musicians. Behind the cool beats and expertly produced tracks, the trio — Jake Carpenter, Louis Kha and Mikul Wing — are visual art and design experts who use house music to bring their art and design installations to life.

Beginning as curious art and design students in Chicago with a passion for music, Autograf is now touring the country and bringing with them a unique live experience most DJ groups haven’t offered audiences before. And with almost 100,000 soundcloud fans and a Europe tour they are in the midst of, they clearly have spearheaded a creative space they can own.

I met Autograf backstage after their set at CRSSD Music Festival this October, and we talked art, their influences and their killer party tour bus they built from scratch (still waiting on my invite.)

What’s one of the coolest instruments, or art installations, that you guys have made?
There’s a soup can, a giant soup can, and it’s sitting in a garage. It’s 8-feet tall and 5-feet wide and 5-feet deep circular. It weighs almost 600 pounds or something like that. It took about 2 weeks to make, and we don’t know what to do with it right now.

But a lot of what you make you’re incorporating into your shows?
Yeah, so we’re working on a big bus tour were we have a lot of instruments that we create and bring along that starts in February. We’re touring non-stop now, but a lot of January will be where we have time to work on songs. Then after that, it’s pretty much everyday. We’ll have more added into the show in February, like live instruments and visuals. We’re limited to what we can take on a plane, but when we do the bus tour we can really pack it in.

What do you guys think about festivals now becoming mostly DJs and less live music?
We love EDM and dance music so it’s really awesome, but I love it when dance music combines live elements and there are some artists who are doing that so well.

Photo courtesy of Autograf

Photo courtesy of Autograf

Totally agree, TomorrowWorld did a great job of having a live stage where DJs go unplugged. So what artists have influenced your style?
A lot of older soul artists, we’ve done Marvin Gay remixes and Stevie Wonder remixes with soulful vocals. These are older guys, but we also love The Chemical Brothers, Trentemoller, Basement Jaxx and a lot of acts that still have organic sounding instruments. All of them have guitar or live instruments in with their stuff so those have been really big influencers. We like that organic sound, but it’s also hard to get that raw feeling from electronic music, so we try to bring the two together.

We’re always interested in hearing this answer from DJs: What did you guys do with your first big paycheck?
Built a studio in the backyard, which took about 13 months! We also opened an art gallery at one point. And this past year, we bought a bus. [Laughs] We bought a party bus, well it wasn’t a party bus when we got it. There was nothing inside of it when we bought it, and now there’s wrap-around seating, a DJ booth and we have friends come in from Chicago and party in it. We’ve had Dillon Francis and Dr. Fresch actually DJ in it before.

Uh, how do I get invited to the next bus party?
It’s so much fun. It’s literally a party bus, and we really just bought it on a whim and had my friend trick it out for us. Our idea was to eventually take it on tour with us and have these mobile parties before our shows with like, 15-20 people. Everything we spend our money on we want it to go back into our music and to invest into it. It’s always been a thing for us to be building what we are doing, too. We are very much into D.I.Y, from building our own studio to doing our own artwork.

Since you guys are touring all over, what are some of your favorite cities to play in?
San Francisco, D.C., New York. East and west coast cities are the most fun in America to play in. I think the music scene starts on the east and west coast and sort of works its way into the Midwest. One of the reasons why we started Autrograf was because of the quote unquote, ‘Midwestern rave scene.’ We wanted to do something cooler, and it didn’t feel like we were being ourselves out there raging with a bunch of 18-year-olds. We wanted something cool and with a lot more of the art, the art is the big thing really.

For more Autograf, check out their Facebook and Soundcloud.