On my walk over to the Grog Shop last night I was still a block or so away when my show partner for the evening texted me that she was waiting outside the venue. She also added that there was a long line. The fact that she beat me there, despite her 40 minute drive versus my own 15 minute walk, wasn’t all that surprising, considering my pre-departure procrastination. The fact that there was a line for a Sunday night show, well, that was another story. She must be exaggerating, I thought.
Minutes later, though, I learned that was not the case – Cleveland’s art school finest had turned out en masse, many carrying with them delectable-looking baked goods. My friend and I greeted one another, shared a shrug at the length of the line, and then made our way back to its end. When we finally got into the venue, after checking in with the door guy, we found The Octopus Project’s Josh Lambert near the merch table and set up a quick interview. As Josh went to find other members of the band, we headed to the debris and hipster-strewn steps outside. Soon Lambert emerged with two of his bandmates, Toto Miranda and Ryan Figg.
Ordinarily, at this point I would mention the instrumentation of each band member. With Austin-based instrumental indie-electronica band The Octopus Project, however, such description is difficult. Indeed, just about every member of the band plays just about every instrument, with switches occurring between (and often during!) every song. Generally, though, Lambert mans the lead guitar on most tracks, Miranda handles drum duties on most, and Figg holds down the bass. Unfortunately, the fourth member of the band, Yvonne Lambert, was unable to join us outside. Though it was disappointing that her voice wasn’t in our conversation, in a backwards way it made my job as scribe easier, as I wouldn’t know where to begin describing her role. Yvonne seems to play every instrument known to man, and some possibly unknown, switching comfortably from synthesizer to glockenspiel to the audience-enthralling theremin.
Even without Yvonne present in our huddle, we faced no shortage of things to discuss, and our conversation with the band moved swiftly through topics including whether their house is really haunted (it isn’t), their collaborative efforts with bands such as … And You Will Know Us By the Trail of Dead and Black Moth Super Rainbow, their “Visual Music” project of live scoring short films, the band’s tumultuous experience filming a video for their new Golden Beds EP off the coast of hurricane-ravaged Galveston TX, and their role in the diverse and exciting Austin music scene. We also learned that this show was the fifth set the group had played in Cleveland in less than two years, with the three previous shows coming within a single 12 week stretch.
As the members of the band discussed their views toward art and music it became abundantly clear the value each individual placed on diversity and complexity, emphases just as evident in their aforementioned collaborations and multi-media experiments as it was in the sound and spectacle the band brought to the stage. The Octopus Project played among a handful of giant lit bunny rabbit ghosts, with psychedelic cartoons and strange documentary footage projected onto a screen backdrop. Unlike the t-shirts and jeans the fellas were wearing during our pre-show conversation, the men in the group took the stage in shirtsleeves and ties while Yvonne Lambert donned a vintage dress that went perfectly with her adorable short bangs/flipped up in the back haircut.
Immediately the crowd gravitated to the stage and the sound coming from it, and for the next hour the band ripped through a selection of standards from previous albums and a healthy mix of tracks from Golden Beds (which, incidentally, will be released tomorrow). If the crowd response at the Grog Shop is any indication, this new EP should receive an enthusiastic embrace, for while the energy in the room never declined from the set’s start to its conclusion, show-goers were clearly most revved up for the new tunes, particularly “Wet Gold” and “Rorol.”
All four members of the band were hitting on all cylinders, but the sonic diffusion between Yvonne Lambert and Toto Miranda struck me as the single most engaging dynamic. The audience seemed to respond in kind as well, with things reaching fever pitch as Miranda’s drumming became heavier and more frenetic, while their attention became rapt and engrossed, much like a small child being read a nursery tale, whenever Yvonne created magic with her Moog theremin.
Just when you wondered how much more excitement could be wrung out of a crowd late on a Sunday night, the band wrapped things up with an up-beat closer and an immediate encore, including new single “Wood Trumpet.” As the members each said their thank yous to the crowd, Josh Lambert announced that the band would be over “by the merch” if anyone wanted to say hi. As my friend and I headed to the exit, we noticed a new line forming in that back annex, precisely where we had earlier found Josh standing alone. Clearly, The Octopus Project was not going to get out of the Grog Shop any time soon.
The Octopus Project – Wet Gold