INTERVIEW: GIRAFFES? GIRAFFES!
Giraffes? Giraffes! opened for Tera Melos in the Strafford Room at UNH on November 20th. Needless to say, it was mind-blowing, eye-opening, and head-spinning, and probably a bunch of other hyphenated adjectives. Local math rock gods Comma opened the show, and man oh man did they kill it hard. G? G! played flawlessly, gallivanting from blistering taps and fills to slow, visceral melodies, and back. Unfortunately, the show took place on a stage, and the duo could not play as the usually do, surrounded by ravenous fans (note: this happened last year at UNH in the Wildcat Den, a significantly smaller venue. If you missed that show, you’re a sucka.)
Though I had thought about interviewing one of the bands, I never planned for it. Big surprise, huh? Well I’m a busy guy and this is the best you’re gonna get from me, so shut yer traps, all of you. Anyway, I caught Joe just hanging out with a couple of my friends so I figured I’d use the moment to ask if he and Ken wanted to answer a couple of questions. They agreed, but as soon as we were about to start, Tera Melos started their last song and we decided to watch the finale of their show, a seven or eight minute avant-garde noise ballad, which included several parts of songs from their new album. Well worth watching. As soon as they finished, we hopped over to a quiet room to chat.
RM: I don’t know if this is an obvious question or not, but I was reading Questionable Content a while ago and there was one of the strips that had your name in the background, with the same punctuation and everything. So is that where your name comes from?
Joe: we got the idea from this book from a publishing company called McSweeney’s.
RM: never heard of it.
Joe: well you know those Time-Life books? [McSweeney’s] wanted to make one like that but really bizarre and random instead. I’m pretty sure the Questionable Content guy got it from that and not us, but I don’t know.
RM: where do you get the crazy names for your album titles?
Joe: usually the titles are the last thing. They’re the cherry on top.
Ken: or the turd.
Joe: or the turd.
Joe: so “Superbass” comes from when I was trying to mix the album, and nothing was working out right, so I decided to try and put it through my stereo receiver, which has a button called SUPERBASS on it. And strangely enough, it sounded really great! But for some reason it only sounded good on my stereo at home. On other people’s stereos, in cars, everywhere else- it sounded really really bad, so we didn’t end up using it after all. We thought the SUPERBASS idea was a funny one though, so we titled the album after it.
Ken: and “More Skin With Milk-Mouth” comes from this one time at my family’s Thanksgiving dinner. My little cousin had been drinking milk, and he had all that phlegm in his throat from it. He was asking my mom for some more turkey skin, and it came out all gurgly.
RM: why do you choose to stick with only two people?
Joe: we’ve never been opposed to the idea of adding more people, but it would have to really work perfectly. Right now we’re content with two. It’s really easy to make decisions with only two people.
RM: you guys move a lot. can you give us a history of your travels?
Joe: well we met at Keene State, then we moved out to California for 4 to 5 years. I moved back to New Hampshire, then Ken moved back to Mass, and then we both moved back to western Mass. It’s our home.
RM: what’s the reason behind moving?
Ken: it was all pretty ‘spur-of-the-moment’ to tell you the truth. When it all boils down, making the big decisions to move after having established a routine in any given place is a huge gamble. i guess the idea of not knowing what’s in store is exciting to me, enough to just go out on a limb and try something new. Whether it’s an enjoyable experience or a temporarily miserable experience, we grow from it and learn from it. Above all, after having graduated college there was nothing more dreadful than the thought of moving back to my home town!!…which is where i now live.
Joe: moving around a lot isn’t really the smartest thing to do, but we do/did it a lot anyway. It costs a bunch of money and it’s totally weird to join these social/musical communities and then leave them and start again somewhere else. BUT it is a lot of fun too. They’re little adventures. It’s great to experience new things and meet new people, but think I’m done moving around and Western Massachusetts is going to be our home base for a while. It’s nice to be back in the area.
RM: how long you been growin’ that beard?
Joe: for years now, but you know, I’ve been trimming it. I’m contemplating taking it to the next level…
RM: favorite places to tour?
RM: what’s up with those bells on your drum set?
Ken: those bells actually came from a teeny tiny little world-percussion store that used to exist in downtown Santa Cruz, CA. The shop was called Rhythm Fusion. It was located just off Pacific Avenue. they had some amazing stuff. I bought the bells and arranged them into what I felt to be the appropriate order of pitches. I then fixed them to a wooden dowel. I then fixed the wooden dowel to a busted old drum stand I had lying around. And the rest…is secret.
RM: are there many authors/philosophers that influence your music? And in what way?
Ken: only a few. Most of them influence me in a positive way, but not all of them.
Joe: Um.. Yes? It’s hard to say who directly influences us, since we don’t have lyrics that reference authors or philosophers. I mean writers have different styles of flow, tension, release, and humor and I think that can translate to styles of music. I want our band the be the Kurt Vonnegut of bands… whatever that means.
RM: both of you guys just recently came out with albums that you attribute each to your individual selves. Can you explain a little bit about each of them and why you decided to do these albums separately?
Ken: the albums were contributions to a worldwide compositional project that takes place during the month of October called “International Album Making Month.” Pretty clever name, huh? It kind of says it all. The participants have one month (31 days) to conceive, write, record, and produce 36 minutes of music. This year i was inspired by a book i had been reading called “Jacobson’s Organ and the Remarkable Nature of Smell” by Lyall Watson. My idea was to create audio interpretations of certain scent characteristics (i.e. fragrant, nauseating, aromatic, etc.). “Synesthesia” is a neurologically-based condition in which stimulation of one sensory or cognitive pathway leads to automatic, involuntary experiences in a second sensory or cognitive pathway. So my idea was for the listener to hear scents and have a multi-sensory experience. We did these albums separately because it’s an alternate musical outlet. Actually, Joe is on my album.
Joe: Yeah, Ken and I like to make music a lot at home and this project is like a little test to see what we can do. We did it last year too- I released Wackadoo! and Ken released Crepustulingua. It’s fun. This year I did a noisy pop sort of thing called Eye Candy And The Breath Of Heaven Themselves. Oh yeah, I sing on it too, so that’s sort of different from the G? G! stuff.
RM: does this have any impact on the future of ‘the band’?
Ken: are you referring to the band The Band, or our band? Because I’m pretty sure the band The Band has been out of commission for years. Our “band” is only empowered by our side-projects. We grow as musicians and as people.
Joe: we’re pretty good jugglers and can do a few things at once, but G? G! will always remain a constant. Like forever. Sometimes we’re more active with it than other times, but it’ll always be there. Like a funny looking birthmark.
RM: I want your music on vinyl. why can’t I do that?
Ken: because we are poor. We want to make it possible and plan on attempting to do so for our next LP.
Joe: that’s the plan for the next album. Get that bad boy out on vinyl and CD and then see about issuing More Skin With Milk-Mouth on vinyl. I don’t see Superbass ever getting put on vinyl. Maybe if we re-recorded it. But don’t hold your breath.
RM: so… new record soon?
Ken: new record soon!
You can listen to Joe and Ken’s solo albums as well as Giraffes? Giraffes!’s two albums here.
Photos from the show can be found here.
^^This is my brother’s facebook page. I don’t know if he sets his profile to private or not. If you can’t see the pictures, let me know and I’ll upload them to the blog.
Woohoo another interview! Robot Messiah’s blog credibility went up ten points. Only 75 more points until Robot Messiah will evolve into Blogger With Way Too Much Time On His Hands!
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