The Octopus Project, a band from Austin, Texas, that blends pop, rock and electronica, has spent lots of time on tour since the success of their 2007 CD Hello, Avalanche on Peek-A-Boo Records, a disc praised by such media outlets as Spin, Wired and Rolling Stone.
In fact, the Octopus Project is just beginning a new tour, this time in support of their CD Hexadecagon, to be released on Peek-A-Boo in late October. The band will play in Birmingham at Bottletree on Friday, October 1, with opening act Isidro and headliners Starfucker.
According to band co-founder Josh Lambert, the group hasn’t wasted all that time spent traveling from gig to gig in their 15-passenger Chevy Express van. Rather they’ve used it as an opportunity to find creative inspiration. They listen to a lot of music, with minimalist composers Terry Riley and Steve Reich high in the rotation.
“There’s one Reich record, Music for 18 Musicians, that we listen to pretty much every tour,” Lambert says. “It’s just one continuous piece—18 musicians playing rhythmic, repetitive things and moving in and out of each other. On first listen, it sounds like the same thing over and over. But when you get into it, it’s this well-crafted stuff that puts you in this hypnotic mindset. It’s awesome being the driver and going through the desert and realizing that you’ve driven an hour. Without doing drugs, it sort of still puts you in this weird, hypnotic, other world. I don’t know how to explain it. I’ve never done any meditation, but you lose yourself in your mind. Even when other people would play it, I would lie in the back seat and think, ‘Wow, this stuff is awesome.’” The stuff is so awesome, in fact, that The Octopus Project used it as the inspiration for Hexadecagon, for their touring show and for two special performances at this summer’s South by Southwest music festival in Austin.
According to Lambert, the band thought that it would be exciting to surround the audience with sound and use elaborate video projections, creating a totally immersive experience. “I think our ideas were a little bigger than reality,” Lambert says, but with the help of long-time Austin friend and tech wizard Wiley Wiggins, the band was able to make their dream come true at the SXSW shows. The band’s shows on tour will be less elaborate, Lambert says, with the band playing on stage and using one large video projection.
The eight tunes found on Hexadecagon, including the single “Fugefat,” wash together in what the band hopes will be a rich, multi-layered experience for listeners. On the new CD, according to Lambert, the band has kept some of the feel of Riley and Reich but tried to leave their own mark. “Our new record is influenced by this stuff but different,” he says. “We took those elements and made them a little poppier or concise. We were excited to go with that idea and see where we could take it with our own standard of writing songs and our instrumentation. I think we’re going for something exciting and new and colorful and happy and hopeful.”
The Octopus Project, formed in Austin in 1999, consists of Lambert, his wife and long-time collaborator Yvonne Lambert, Toto Miranda and guitarist Ryan Figg. The group blends guitar, bass, drums and keyboards with lots of electronics. They recorded their first of three albums for Peek- A-Boo in 2001.
The Octopus Project once had a reputation—cited on their web page at the Peek-A-Boo Records site—as the band that “hooked up their half-broken electronic shit all wrong.” According to Lambert, the band had to go through a learning curve with electronics. “In the beginning we just kind of didn’t know what we were doing,” he says. “We had a few pieces of crappy equipment. But it was more fun figuring out our own ways to do things, rather than reading a manual. I think we still do that to an extent, but we’ve gotten better at figuring things out.”
Starfucker is a trio from Portland, Ore., known for wild costumes, theatrical silliness and infectious pop hooks. Their self-titled debut CD was released in 2008 by Badman Recording.
The Octopus Project will appear with Starfucker and Isidro at Bottletree Café, 3719 Third Ave. South, on Friday, October 1, at 9 p.m. Tickets are $10. For tickets, visit www.thebottletree.com.