photos by Brittney Bollay
interview/review by Jason Kinnard
Tuesday was a fantastic night at Chop Suey with a great band from Austin, The Octopus Project. Visually, the band was stunning and the stage was completely full with various instruments and several large white ghosts with fuzzy ears in front of a crazy video backdrop. Plus, they even feature a theremin. When was the last time you saw one of those? Even though the band is almost strictly instrumental, their songs exploded off the Chop Suey stage to many of their very suspecting fans. It’s easy to see why this Austin 4-piece elicits so much joy from their loyal followers. They do the quiet things well and it was great to hear the vocals on “Wet Gold” live, but this band really comes together when they’re getting loud. And that was often. The band played for a little over an hour and performed a fantastically loud version of “Porno Disaster” for an encore. Afterward, there were nothing but smiles as we all went onstage to touch the fuzzy ghost ears. This was one hell of a fun show.
I had a chance to chat with the band backstage just before their show and got to know a little more about this great Austin Band. You could tell they were all really good friends and we shared a lot of laughs. Here’s what they had to say:
One thing I don’t think has been talked about a lot is that you all are foodies! It seems like you really know where to find good food wherever you’re at.
Yvonne: Oh Yeah!
Toto: I think its just more when good food pops op on tour, it’s such an anomaly that we get excited about it. Holy Shit, not Wendys!
It seems like you’re seeking out good places to eat. Any Seattle fFavorites?
Toto: I don’t know that we have a Seattle favorite.
Josh: We always go to Dick’s Burgers. And Honey Hole.
On the same topic, any favorite types of food?
Yvonne: We’re all pretty adventurous. We like Japanese, Thai, Vietnamese.
Toto: We eat a lot of Thai on the road, cause if you’re looking for a place based on restaurant names, they actually have “Thai” in the name, as opposed to “Joey’s”; that can really run the gamut.
Yvonne: Thai is also good for healthy food.
Josh: Yeah, you know you’re going to get something probably pretty good. I haven’t had too many bad Thai experiences.
Yeah, we’ve got a lot of great diverse food up here like that.
Josh: I remember, we recorded a record here a couple years ago, and there were like a million of these Mongolian BBQ places.
You mentioned recording here in Seattle and I know you did your last album at Bear Creek Studios which is a pretty well known Studio out here. What was that experience like?
Josh: Being at Bear Creek was just awesome because we just kind of immersed ourselves for almost a month. We really didn’t know many people up here, and still it was like a half an hour outside of town. And so, we were just in the woods, making a record for a month. It was awesome, it was just complete immersion.
Toto: We took 1 day off in like 3 solid weeks.
Josh: Even the days when we weren’t working we were still kinda hanging out at the studio. Working anyway.
It’s definitely a beautiful setting for making music. So what about on the new Golden Beds EP? What was that recording process like?
Josh: The new one we recorded, the first couple songs we recorded at my parents’ house. They were gone, they weren’t there. We just kinda went there for 2 days.
Toto: It was a much more subdued version of going out into the woods. We went to the suburbs instead.
Was there a clear intention of doing this new album outside of the studio?
Josh: I don’t know, we were just excited to do it ourselves. We recorded as much as we could on our own, and then we have a friend who has a studio in Austin and we went there and recorded some stuff too and then mixed it with him. So it was kind of a combination of full recordings vs studio and I like the results.
Toto: It’s a little bit of an odds and ends collection anyway so that approach seemed to make sense. To kind of deal with each piece as it seemed appropriate.
Speaking of the new material, one of the things that really stood out to me was the song “Wet Gold”. You sound like almost a completely different band when you’re singing. Was it a plan to be strictly an instrumental band? You sound great when you’re singing!
Yvonne: Thanks. We never had a clear intention on being an instrumental band. It just happened that way. It seems vocals never came up until now. Now, it’s like an exciting new thing to work with, a new texture to play with.
Yeah it seems like you’re real experimental, trying different sounds. It just seems like something else you can add.
Josh: We don’t treat it as “Oh, it’s time to sing now”. We have this other crayon in the box.
It seems like you guys always seem to have good things going your way?
Toto: Yeah. I think we’re really lucky in that we stay excited about doing it and opportunities seem to crop up. We try to always just be busy doing something. And then be ready for when things appear.
And you all have been friends for a long time haven’t you?
Yvonne: Since we were kids.
And I didn’t immediately pick up on the marriage thing (Josh & Yvonne are married). That’s got to make touring interesting!
Yvonne: I don’t know. I’ve known Toto, we grew up in the same neighborhood as kids, we went to Sunday school together and Josh and I met when we were 18 and we’ve been married 8 years now. But you know, touring with a spouse -- I think we’re more like all of us are friends. So the marriage thing doesn’t really come into it that much.
I’m excited to see you live tonight and I noticed you have a pretty unique stage set up. There seem to be some ghosts on stage, what’s the story there?
Yvonne: We travel with these big speakers, very tall kind of PA speakers.
Oh, is that what they are?
Josh: Oh yes, they’re functional!
Toto: We wanted to make the biggest impact without having to carry around something gigantic cause we were already dragging around these gigantic things so we had the idea to dress them up.
I had no idea they were speakers.
Toto: That’s kind of the thought, to make the biggest impact with the least amount of material.
I was also wondering because of the name, you probably get a lot of octopus related things. What’s the weirdest octopus thing you’ve ever got from a fan?
Yvonne: So many things!
Toto: We had somebody knit us an octopus once.
Yvonne: We got octopus cupcakes, it was pretty amazing.
Josh: We get a lot of baked goods. Somehow we get only the really “creative” bakers.
Now when you say “creative” bakers?
Toto: We mean legal foods! Legal foods! Artistic Bakers!
So after you’re done with these last couple shows, what’s next?
Toto: Start working on new music. Shift in that direction a little bit.
How are you as far as songwriting goes? Some bands can pump out songs, what about you guys?
Toto: Ideas. Making a “Song” with a capital S is a little bit harder. We’ve got tons of ideas, the trick is to stick it all together.
Josh: It’s also frustrating being on tour and listening to so much music driving around you’re like “Oh My god, if I can take this and add it to this it would be awesome”!
Ryan: You drive around, I’ll play guitar.
Lastly, what do you think about social media sites like Twitter? Have you enjoyed connecting with fans like that?
Josh: It’s pretty awesome to be directly in touch with fans, like instantly.
Thanks, Octopus Project!