Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Interview with Giraffes? Giraffes!

Ithaca Underground’s Bubba Crumrine chats with Joseph Andreoli (gutiars/loops) and Kenneth Topham (drums/percussion) of Massachusetts math-rock/improv duo GIRAFFES? GIRAFFES! on the eve of their northeast tour to discuss “The Champaigne of Boners Tour”, the new album, recording, comic books, fan appreciation and some super-secret facts about G?G! so get reading! See them live with Brian! and Tzar this Thursday, August 19th at The Shop.

IU: What are you two up to this fine evening?

Joe: Right now we’re in Williamstown, VT in a cabin, on the deck. We’re just hanging out. We’re on our way out from western Massachusetts and decided to come out here the day before the tour, chill out, and cut our drive to Montreal in half. So, we figured we’d take a bunch of acid…

IU: Yeah?

Joe: Nah. (laughs) But yeah, we’re playing Montreal tomorrow. We’ve never played in Canada before so, we really hope there are no problems with the boarder to do the shows. We’re really excited about it.

IU: How many Canadian dates are you doing?

Ken: We’re doing six in Canada, then to Ithaca, with Burlington after that. We’re playing Montreal, Ottawa, Toronto, Waterloo, Windsor, and St. Catherine’s. The one in Waterloo might get moved. 

IU: Excellent! Good luck in Canada. I read that you’re working on new material?
Joe: Yes! We have four new songs. Two are about 8-10 minutes; the others are around 3 minutes. After this tour we’re going to finish up writing the new album, then record it, then tour again. I think we’re going to go down south. We received a lot of requests to go down there. So, that’s the loose plan.

IU: What sort of timeframe are you hoping for the new album to be wrapped up?

Ken: I think we’re going to stay safe and set the deadline as the end of the year. We do all the recording and engineering ourselves. It helps to be able to do that stuff ourselves so we can take as much time as we want. We have to set deadlines ourselves to make it happen though.

Joe: Doing all of it – performing, recording, and mixing – you really have to set your deadlines, otherwise it can just drag on and on and on. Sometimes we get impatient. Ken has a lot more patience than I do when it comes to these things. That keeps me in check though and we’re able to form the songs a bit more that what I might go out with. It’s definitely a good thing.

IU: Where do you record?

Joe: We have a space that we’ve been rehearsing in, down in the flats of Holyoke, MA. It’s this busted old warehouse that’s been gutted. It’s a nice big room with nice sound. We might try to record a good bit of it there then take it back to my house for the rest of it.  In the past, we recorded “More Skin” in Ken’s apartment when we were living in Santa Cruz and we recorded “SUPERBASS!!!!” in a warehouse.

IU: Do you record everything live?

Ken: We try to record as much as possible live with minimal overdubs. But for the sake of time and frustration sake, we do some overdubs.

Joe: Especially with looping. In a recording situation where you’re working with loops one little fuck up a loop 8 minutes in on a ten minute piece it’s just devastating. We write them live and play them like that so I know we can do it so it’s not like we’re trying to do things on the album that we can’t do live.

Ken: All bones, the structures are live. We record the bass, drums, and guitars together and then do any necessary overdubs after. Bones!

Joe: Bones! We record bones and balls first! We don’t really name our tours, it would be kind of weird to do that, but this tour is going to be really bare bones. We’re staying in people’s houses and doing everything as cheaply as tour. I’d hesitate to call it the “Bare Bones” tour but that’s kind of our mantra. Either the “Bare Bones Tour” or “The Champagne of Tours” because we’re drinking High Life right now… or “The Bare Boners” – “The Champaign of Boners”!

IU: (Laughs) That’s going in the interview…

You mentioned earlier that you two used to live out in California. What brought you to one coast and then back to the other?

Ken: Honestly, what brought us to California is that we went to college in New Hampshire and we were really, really good friends with this guy who moved out there a year before we did. He left a bunch of his gear with me on the condition that when it was time for me to graduate that I would move out there.  And I did!

Joe: Then I moved out too because I wanted something new. I’d always wanted to live in California for a while. It was very much a “Well why not?” sort of thing.  There was this community of friends from New Hampshire and Massachusetts who were all moving out there. It was nice, we moved into this community out there with places to crash and a built in friend system while still making a lot of new friends.  Honestly, that’s where the band really flourished. Down there in Santa Cruz there is such an incredible support for local art & music, especially on the more experimental side of things. It was a good reception out there. Ken and I had played in different bands and started experimenting out here previously while we were in college with this stripped down guitar and drums thing for fun.  We played one show the two of us as – little known fact – a band called “Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius” which is also a Dave Eggers book. We played one show and it set things in motion. Fast forward to about a year and that’s when we started to do the Giraffes? Giraffes! thing under the new name. The material really isn’t a heartbreaking work of staggering genius.  And that’s an asshole name. (Laughs)

Ken: So then we moved back here because this where we grew up and where our families. It’s something you do! 

IU: What about the band would I definitely not know?

Joe: I never, ever play in standard tuning. I know how to play in standard and I’ll mess around at home with various ones but in Giraffes have two and they’re both alternate. One is DADF#AD which is just a big D chord. The other one is top secret (laughs). You can probably figure it out but no one has yet. There’s some tab on the internet and some people are coming close. 

What else wouldn’t he know Ken? How about your tattoos?

Ken: OK, I’ve got a frog on my stomach. I have some sort of Galaxy thing on my chest. I have this demon on my back. There is an EKG reading on my forearm. On the other forearm I have a graphic design. I have a centipede on the back of my left arm. I have some other design on my left shoulder. I have an eyeball on the inside of my left bicep. There’s an octopus on my right arm and I have an atom of lithium on the inside of my right bicep. 

Joe: And Joe has a barcode on the inside of his leg.

Ken: Oh! Here’s something people won’t know. I ran a half marathon! I ran over 13 miles without stopping once. 

IU: That’s fucking crazy. I like it!

Joe: My favorite skateboard trick that I can do is a 180 variable kick flip. There you go!

IU: We will have all the facts of Giraffes? Giraffes!  What about playing out live or recording in the studio – which do you like better?

Joe: Definitely live.  Ken agrees. Live is just where it’s at.  Studio is nice because people can take something home to listen do but live is where we’re really in our element. I like how the two things are different. The recordings are what they are but the live shows are a bit better, a bit freer with more experimentation.  That’s where we shine as musicians. We really respect each other; we’ve been playing with each other for around 6 years so we can really read each other so is such a fun time playing live. 

Ken: I would have to agree.  There are bands that you hear the recording, then you see them live and you think “Eh, that was OK… I get it” But then there are those bands you get the recording, but THEN you see them live and you can really feel their energy radiate and you feel that they’re excited.  I really feel that we throw off that radiation. I LOVE to play and I LOVE to perform.  The way that we play, we just stare right at each other, across from one another so there’s a lot to watch, a lot of interaction that you don’t get from a CD at home.  I almost feel that if you’re feeling it, it doesn’t matter if you mess up or if it’s not perfect. When you have that feeling, the audience receives it and that’s what it’s all about. It’s like in Pootie Tang when he recording that song and there was nothing there. It was a hit and there was nothing fucking there! (Laughs)

Joe: That’s the goal. To not play anything live and have people feel it! (Laughs)

IU: The ultimate goal is to not play, or do anything at all, and just FEEL it then, right?

Joe: I think Henry Mother said it, that the goal is not to make the art but to make life itself the art.   Now, I’m dipping from stupid-ass Pootie Tang to something real, in a very small way we’re trying to do the same thing. 

IU: Anything else coming up on the horizon coming up for the band or any major goals you still look to accomplish?

We’ve got this tour we’re on and we have a lot of side projects that we’re working on as well. We just released a 3 song collaboration between Ken, myself, and Fred - who also goes by the name Two Year Curse – we just posted it on Facebook and website. There’s more information on how we collaborated on the page itself. We really live musical games.

Ken: MUSICAL GAMES. It’s where it’s at.
Joe: Ken recorded a bunch of material for Fred and for me. Fred recorded a bunch of stuff for Ken and for me. I recorded a material for Fred and for Ken. We all traded at the same time without letting each other know what type of music we’re making, what key, or what meter. Then it was our job to take those tracks from everyone else, add whatever we wanted, and somehow cut, paste, and alter these things into songs. It ended up sounding more cohesive together than I thought they would.  

I have this other project I do with my wife called I Am This Big Black Cloud that is overdriven indie pop sort of thing, which will probably be out in September. We recorded all the songs and Ken mastered it for us. Ken does a shitload of stuff he does by himself that he’ll have on tour. 

Ken: Almost all of it is available online.

Joe: There are previous bands of ours, bands when I was on drums. Pretty much everything we’ve done and will do in the future is available for free download on http://giraffesgiraffes.bandcamp.com/.

IU: What do you guys do outside of G?G!

Ken: Like extracurricular activities? I spend as much time out in the woods as absolutely possible. I like to hike through the mountains with my girlfriend and my red-boned coon-hound. 

Joe: Besides making music I listen to music, watch movies, and spend time with my wife. I’m really happy with the simplicity of hanging out with people I like.  What the fuck do I do? I skateboard! Oh, and we both LOVE comic books & graphic novels.

IU: What are you guys into?

Ken: Pretty much anything that Allen Moore has written.

Joe: I agree. I’m a big fan of Warren Ellis as well. I’m looking forward to his documentary that’s coming out. Grant Morrison – these are the major writers. Avatar Press is great… Oh shit, my two favorite graphic novels of all time are “Asterios Polyp” by David Mazzucchelli and “Blackhole” by Charles Burns. If you had to go one graphic novel, that’s it. I heard that they might make a movie out of it even.

IU: Great! We’ll have to go check those out! Do you have any final words to those who are coming out to the show on Thursday?

Ken: If you’re coming out to the show, we’d really like to talk to you because we like to meet new people and we like to talk about things we don’t get to talk about with the people we usually hang out with!

Joe: I agree. That’s part of doing the live thing. Making these connections is just as much fun as playing. It’s bullshit when bands don’t want to hangout, they think they’re better than everyone else, or they just sit in the green room or whatever. These people are there to see you. You wouldn’t be shit without those people so just talk to them! That’s what it’s all about.

Ken: No matter how disgusting, sweaty, and horrible I look after I play… you can still talk to me!

Joe: Is really approachable even though he’s usually not wearing anything, is really stinky and sweaty, and making faces like he just puked.

Ken: I’m still a nice guy!

Joe: Don’t feel afraid.  For anyone who comes out, we appreciate it and we hope that you like what we do!