Published on January 30th, 2014 | by Ballard Lesemann0
The Gory Truth Behind Octopus Jones’ Cool New Slab
Raleigh, N.C.-based four-piece Octopus Jones is ready to get back to Charleston on celebration of their brand-new studio album Phantasmagoria — a powerfully rhythmic album with generous lashings of New Wave/No Wave guitar riffs, off-kilter melodies, and chilly atmospherics.
The quirky indie-rockers recorded the dynamic collection in their home studio in Raleigh and in downtown Charleston at the Space with musician and studio wiz Ryan “Wolfgang” Zimmerman (of Brave Baby) at the helm.
Frontman Danny Martin, drummer Darrin Cripe, guitarist/singer Tyler Morris, and bassist Clay Carlisle will share the stage at the Royal American on Morrison Drive on Sat. Feb. 1 with Charleston-based pop/rock powerhouse Brave Baby (of the Hearts & Plugs label) and Charlotte, N.C.’s Tyler Bertges.
Metronome Charleston chatted with Cripe about the making of Phantasmagoria, the mix of styles in Octopus Jones’ strange rock music, and the plan for the rest of 2014.
Metronome Charleston: When and how did the band first start working on ideas for songs on Phantasmagoria? Were there some stray pieces already in the works that gradually came together, or did this collection spark from something in particular?
Darrin Cripe: We knew we wanted to put out a full length. We started writing demos summer of 2012 at Clay Carlisle’s beach house and in Ryan Zimmerman’s rehearsal spot. Once we moved to Raleigh, the demos started progressively forming into the songs that make up Phantasmagoria.
Metronome Charleston: How did you first become acquainted with Zimmerman as a drummer and studio guy?
Darrin Cripe: We’ve been playing shows with Ryan and the Brave Baby guys for the past few years. They are close buds. Initially, Ryan asked if we’d be willing to give him drum lessons in trade for studio time. We figured we had nothing to lose, so we went along with it.
Metronome Charleston: How does the making of Phantasmagoria compare to your previous experience in the studio making Treat Yourself?
Darrin Cripe: On Treat Yourself, we went into the studio with complete tracks. For this record, we had more ideas than actual songs. Ryan and Stevie Walker came up from Charleston for two week-long sessions to record at our home in Raleigh. The atmosphere was relaxed and pretty loose, working on ideas well into the morning.
Metronome Charleston: Describe the music on Phantasmagoria. What kind of rock music is it? Or is it even rock music at all?
Darrin Cripe: There are a lot of dynamics to this album. Some tracks get pretty heavy, like on “World of Steers,” and more smooth on others like “Super Good.” I wouldn’t say this is your typical rock album. We like to think it’s pretty futuristic material.
Metronome Charleston: Is it accurate to say there are two different musical personalities of the band these days? A trippy, sonic exploration side and an aggressive, rhythmic, dance-punk side?
Darrin Cripe: Yeah, I think those are fair descriptions. This record was an experimentation of polarity in some sorts; exploring lightness and darkness. These days, we’re finding more of the common ground between the two, not focusing on one or the other.
Metronome Charleston: How have you and your bandmates adjusted and developed your approach to playing between Treat Yourself and Phantasmagoria? Do you think your own technique and playing styles have evolved or changed considerably?
Darrin Cripe: We’ve matured in our writing and playing abilities since releasing Treat Yourself. The more we play, the more we realize the importance of space. Focusing more on listening to one another, rather than being wrapped up in what we’re playing individually.
Metronome Charleston: What was it like cramming into small studios with Zimmerman and company last year. Quick and intense, fun and casual, wildly creative?
Darrin Cripe: A mutual friend of Ryan’s referred to us as his “cosmic friends.” That seems like a genuine description. The atmosphere is always positive and always expanding. There’s an energy shift when we’re all get together. It feels like we’re onto something good.
Metronome Charleston: How do these new songs come off on stage? Does the band try to render them closely to the sound of the recordings, or is it a bit more wide-open with a sense of spontaneity?
Darrin Cripe: At first it seemed like a daunting task to pull these songs off live. They’re pretty dense recordings. When we first started playing these songs live, they were pretty loose. Over the past few months, we’ve rehearsed them heavily. Now, I think it’s safe to say the live set is an accurate portrayal of the record.
Metronome Charleston: What’s the plan for 2014?
Darrin Cripe: Our main goal this year is to get to a point where we can tour full-time and quit our day jobs.
Metronome Charleston: What might someone who has never seen an Octopus Jones show expect on stage at the Royal American?
Darrin Cripe: Dance moves, good energy, and lots of big and floppies.
Metronome Charleston: Have you tried the Royal American’s house-made cinnamon whiskey yet?
Darrin Cripe: We haven’t tried that delicious sounding concoction yet, but we’re looking forward to it.
Top photo by Kristen Abigail.
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