Friday, August 01, 2008

Band of the Week

The Octopus Project

The most difficult aspect of electronic and instrumental music is the translation to live performance. I've seen to many shows with a card table, laptop, and smoke machines to sit through another. Yes, there is a video screen and crazy images, and yes I was bobbing my head and biting my lower lip, but seriously you are just pushing buttons. Yet there are a few bands out there that value one thing, and that is having fun. Whether it is their live shows, their videos, their cover art, or their music, Austin's The Octopus Project is out to have fun.

Josh and Yvonne Lambert, Toto Miranda, and Ryan Figg all play multiple instruments, and everything came together nicely on the bands third full-length album Hello, Avalanche (Peek-A-Boo Records, 10/07). There sound is really about exploration, adventure, and imagination. They allow the listener to wandering through their sounds and textures until the various images become clear. As they will explain, their live performance of these adventures is full of live instrumentation and energy. If you are heading to Lollapalooza this weekend, The Octopus Project are playing Sunday morning on the Myspace Stage @ 11:30.

Recently, The Octopus Project was kind enough to answer a few of my questions.

Orange Alert (OA): What are you thoughts on the label experimental? What does that mean to you, if anything? Do you see yourselves as experimental?
The Octopus Project (OP): I, personally, don’t mind being labeled “experimental.” To me, that means a band, artist, or anything really, that’s interested in trying something new and taking chances. I think, to a lot of people, that experimental means boring or so obtuse that no one can connect with it. But, I think that it’s much more positive than that. It’s a progression forward. The end result might not always work out and be amazing, but it’s the effort that’s important. Folks have to always try new things.

OA: I've really enjoyed the video's that you have made, especially for "Truck". Do you enjoy that process? Do you feel that music videos are more or less important than they were ten years ago?
OP: I think making videos is a blast. It’s another opportunity to put something new into the world. As a band, we’re always looking for an excuse to draw a picture, film something, or do some kind of craft project. It’s all an extension of what we’re all about (I have no idea what that is though). For the “Truck” video, we had the opportunity to work with some friends of ours, the Zellner Brothers. We drew some heads for them to animate, and they put everything else together. They’re really talented at what they do, and it was a pleasure working with them.

As far as music videos in general… I think that they aren’t necessarily as important in the sense of them being a calling card, or advertisement for the band. You can find a million more videos of bands playing live on Youtube than you can find videos for their songs. I’m sure that just as many people watch those as the official videos. But, hopefully, music videos are becoming something a band does just because they feel the need to – out of a desire to create something exciting, and not just to make money.

OA: What are your thoughts on new media (blogs, myspace, youtube, etc) in general? Does the buzz translate to new fans, increased sales, and concert attendance?
OP: I think new media is great. The internet has made the world incredibly small, and given everyone a chance to reach infinitely more people than they would have 15 years ago. Anyone can express their opinion, put up some songs or videos and have them instantly accessible by millions of people. That’s fantastic!

I don’t think we would have reached nearly as many people as we have without the internet. We’ve definitely seen a huge jump in folks interested in our band because of online promotion.

OA: I loved the collaboration you did with Black Moth Super Rainbow. How did that come about, and what was that process like?
OP: We were asked by Black Moth’s label, Graveface, if we would be interested in releasing something with them. We felt like whatever we did had to be something special, so we all decided to do a collaboration rather than a split or a traditional record. Both bands had a bunch of unfinished song snippets lying around, and we traded them through the internet. We would add stuff to each other’s songs, pass them back and forth a couple of times, and that was about it. We didn’t even meet in person until it was all pretty much done! It was kind of a strange, but totally easy process.

OA: You will be here in Chicago soon (Aug 3rd) for Lollapalooza, and it is rumored that you first gained attention from a festival performance. What can fans expect from your live performance? Is it difficult to maintain the highly electronic sound while on stage?
OP: I think fans can expect mind-numbing noise + total party-time. We do what we can to make the live versions of songs close to the records, but also as exciting as they possibly can be. So, we’re not just staring at laptops, but we’re also not ignoring the electronic side of things. We tend to write songs first, then figure out how to actually play them later. Sometimes they change a lot, sometimes they don’t change at all. For example, we have a song called “I Saw the Bright Shinies” (mp3), and on the record Yvonne recorded three harmonized Theremin parts. Obviously, she couldn’t do this live, so we have to cheat it a little and break the parts up between Theremin, guitar and keyboard.

OA: What's next from The Octopus Project?
OP: We’re working on new songs at the moment. We put out a single in the UK with two new songs on it in April, and we’ve been talking about maybe releasing them + some more songs in the US as an EP. We’ll see! I’m sure we’ll have another full length out next year. These things always seem to take forever for us. But, we’re always working on new stuff. I have no idea what things will end up sounding like, but ideally I’d like our next record to sound like the weirdest dance party you can imagine.

Bonus Questions:
OA: What's the coolest bookstore in Austin?
OP: Book People

OA: What was the last great book you read?
OP: Anything by Haruki Murakami.

Snow Tip Cap Mountain/Truck (mp3)/Bees Bein' Strugglin' (mp3)/An Evening with Rthrtha (mp3)/Black Blizzard/Red Umbrella/Upmann/Mmaj/I Saw the Bright Shinies (mp3)/Ghost Moves/Vanishing Lessons/Exploding Snowhorse/Loud Murmuring/Queen

More Tour Dates:
08/04 Kansas City, MO @ Record Bar
08/05 Norman, OK @ Opolis
08/06 Lubbock, TX @ Tequila Station
08/11 Phoenix, AZ @ Rhythm Room*
08/12 Tucson, AZ @ Congress Theater*
08/13 San Diego, CA @ The Cashbash*
08/14 Los Angeles, CA @ Knitting Factory*
08/15 Visalia, CA @ Cellar Door*
08/16 San Francisco, CA @ Bottom Of The Hill*
08/18 Portland, OR @ Satyricon*
08/19 Seattle, WA @ Nectar Lounge*
08/20 Vancouver, BC @ Richard’s
08/22 Edmonton, AL @ Velvet Lounge
08/23 Calgary, AL @ Hi Fi
08/25 Salt Lake City, UT @ Urban Lounge
08/26 Denver, CO @ Hi Dive
08/28 Dallas, TX @ Lola’s*
08/29 Houston, TX @ Warehouse Live*
09/28 Austin, TX @ Austin City Limits Festival

For more infomation on The Octopus Project please visit their website. Photo above by Aubrey Edwards.

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