Issue #16 Sept. 1st - Sept. 14th, 2006

11 Questions with The Octopus Project
By: Robert Cole

Too many talented groups to name have erupted from Austin’s rich musical heritage. Band after powerful band has been spun into recognition from the South by Southwest music festivals, not to mention the dozens of venues along the Austin downtown streets. After extensive touring The Octopus Project has proved to be a capable talent, delivering mesmorizing melodies and amazing live performances, securing their place as one of the most imaginative bands out there.

On September, 13th The Octopus Project will be playing at Norman’s Opolis to meet the hundreds of avid listeners they’ve aquired in Oklahoma. The drums will crash and snap, the guitars will vibrate, the keyboard and electronic apparati will chirp and purr. When all is said and done you will only have one word to decsribe the feeling nestled snuggly in your chest...


Q: So what are you guys up to nowadays? What other fun do you guys get involved in between albums and shows?

Josh: Since we’ve been home from our last tour, working on the split with Black Moth Super Rainbow as well as writing songs for our next record have consumed most of our time. Although, we have been swimming a bunch! Otherwise, Yvonne is always sewing and making things, Toto has been creating his own shirt designs and selling them at stores in Austin under the name ‘Book of Ax’, and Brandon and I do web design on the side.

Q: Tell me a little bit about how the project got started?

Josh: Yvonne, Toto and I have known each other and been in bands together forever. Toto and I started this band as a side project to another band (Hidden Speaker) that we were all in at the time. We were mostly just goofing around with no expectations or restraints, just trying to have fun! We didn’t have much to do in the way of the direction of the other band, so we quit to focus on The Octopus Project full-time. We played a couple of ramshackle shows, and Yvonne quickly joined up. We’ve just been pushing along ever since!

Q: Did you decide to keep the music instrumental before hand or did that just happen on its own?

Josh: It sort of happened on its own. I don’t think we ever made any conscious decision to keep it instrumental. None of us have ever been singers in bands before (although I think we can all sing pretty decently!), well, except Brandon. He’s the singer for his other band, Palaxy Tracks. We’ve definitely talked about doing some singing at some point though. It seems like a new challenge. We’re always excited to try something that we’ve never done before!

Q: You’ve referred to your style as ‘Kid Music’. What influences, if any, helped to create your unique sound? Did you aim for a younger audience, or to make the older audience feel young again? Maybe both?

Josh: I think our influences are all over the place. We try not to borrow anyone’s sounds or ideas directly, but are influenced more by how folks approach making music. Our favorite bands are the ones that are willing to be creative and go off the deep end without compromising the enjoyment of a song. Look at bands like Deerhoof, Sonic Youth, and of course The Flaming Lips. All of those bands are totally insane, but write the most beautiful songs. Proof that you can be a weirdo and still touch people. I think that’s what we’re aiming for.

We’re not trying to target any specific audience. Hopefully people of all ages can get into what we’re doing! We’re just trying to have a fun time, and write songs that we love. We’re hoping that translates to the audience as well. If we didn’t love what we’re doing, it would be totally obvious. How can we expect anyone else to care about what we’re doing if we don’t?

Q: Does songwriting come naturally or is it approached with more of a pen and paper setup?

Josh: It definitely comes naturally. I took a couple of years of music theory in college, but other than that, none of us have any musical training. So, it’s pretty rare that we ever talk about the theory of what we’re doing. For the most part, at least for us, that seems to kill the feeling in the song. We just go with what feels right. Sometimes it ends up being some weird time signature or something, but that’s definitely not a decision made beforehand.

Q: How much of an influence was it to live in the Austin area where innovative music seems to thrive?

Josh: Living in Austin has been a major influence on us. Here, especially, people are really open to new things, and support folks trying new things. Living and working in an environment where you’re constantly applauded for doing your own thing. There’s nothing better.

Also, it’s also great working alongside so many wonderful bands. It causes you to try harder. Like, Wow! I can’t believe so-and-so is doing that! Well, now we’ve got to top it! Friendly competition is a fantastic fuel.
Q: You guys have a new split coming out, “The House of Apple and Eyeballs”, with another band, The Black Moth Super Rainbow. What can people hope to expect from this new album? What’s changed from “One Hundred Thousand Million” to this new album? What’s the same?

Josh: People can expect to really have fun with this new record! Black Moth Super Rainbow is such an amazing band, and certainly an enormous pleasure to work with. The way we approached the record is by not making it a true split, but by making it more of a collaboration between both bands. There are a couple of songs here and there that each band did by themselves, but 90% of the record was done together. It was a really easy process. We traded files back and forth, adding a little each time, until we got something we were all happy with.

About half of the songs are upbeat and have crazy sounds, the other half is pretty mellow and almost ambient at times. One song, “Elq Milq”, features an orchestra of Theremins, which is something we’re going to be doing a lot more of in the future. I don’t want to sound like I’m tooting our own horn or anything, but Yvonne has gotten pretty amazing at playing the Theremin since “One Ten” came out.

This record, in a sense, is more like our first record, “Identification Parade”, in the way we wrote it. It was pieced together as we were recording it, rather than by the whole band working on it in a room together, playing each part. As a result, we can’t really play most of these songs live. We’re working on doing a couple of them, though.

Q: You guys tend to frequent Oklahoma a lot. What keeps you guys coming? The whiskey, the hot clubs, or just the adoring fans?

Josh: Oklahoma has sort of become a second home to us! Everyone there is so friendly and down to earth, and obviously into weirdo rock music. We’ve managed to make so many friends, The Starlight Mints and everyone associated with them...just fantastic people. You guys are all so damn nice!
Q: I’ve heard strange stories about your drummer, Toto Miranda. I was once told that he’s a complete genius that works with computers and never talks because he’s beyond speech. Maybe that’s a little far fetched, but maybe you could fill the mystery blank and give us some info on the history you have all had together?

Josh: Most of that statement is true! Toto is a complete genius and works with computers, but is definitely not beyond speech. He’s actually totally hilarious. There’s no one else like him!

I’ve known him for about 11 years, and Yvonne’s known him since they were 12 years old. So, we’ve all been great friends for a long time. Even though Brandon is pretty new to our group, he fits in perfectly, and it feels like we’ve known him our whole lives as well.

Q: Your stage sets are always amazing. Projectors, pinatas, masks, cartoony figures- even the album art reflects a certain theme. Are these parts of your band’s collective imagination or is there one person in particular who brings the visual aspect to the music?

Josh: Thanks! It’s more from a collective imagination rather than coming from one person. We come up with most of our ideas by brainstorming, throwing things back and forth. So, an idea that starts from one person usually gets entered into the band machine, and spit back out as something entirely different. We all love creating things, and we all have a similar aesthetic, so things usually end up fitting into the band theme. This democratic process is sometimes to our detriment though. It took us months to make the artwork for “One Ten”. And, songs can take years to come to fruition. Most of the songs on the Black Moth split that originated from us were songs we’ve been kicking around for a while.

I appreciate you taking some time to talk with NONzine. Is there anything you’d like to say to your fans here in Oklahoma?

Josh: No problem! Thanks for asking us! See you folks in Oklahoma!

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