The Octopus Project
The Octopus Project are a four piece band made up of Josh, Yvonne, Toto, and Ryan. Blending contrasting sounds, experimental noises, and various instruments, The Octopus Project create a fun and happy atmosphere. Known to switch instruments around, their music encapsulates tiny melodies bursting with fervor. Josh was kind enough to share some info on the band from Austin, known as The Octopus Project.
1. How did the band come together and where is everyone from?
Yvonne, Toto, and I have known each other since we were 18, and were in bands together throughout college. Yvonne and Toto grew up in Houston, and I lived there for high school. Ryan grew up in Austin. Around 1998/99, we (Yvonne, Toto, and I) were all going to college at UT in Austin, and playing together in a band called Hidden Speaker. The band was led by a friend of ours. He wrote most of the music, and at some point we decided that we wanted to break out and do our own thing. So, we quit that band, and formed our own. Ryan joined up with us last year, and it’s been great!
2. For anyone who may not be familiar with the music, how would you best describe the style?
Loud, fun, and colorful.
3. Was it always your intention to be an instrumental band? Have there been considerations to add vocals at some point? Do you also feel there may be limitations with mainly being instrumental?
We never really made a conscious decision to be primarily an instrumental band. We just started writing songs, and let them develop naturally. We definitely weren’t concerned with singing. Instrumental bands weren’t as popular back then as they are now – I think Tortoise was really one of the only big ones. But, it just felt right. The songs that we were writing felt finished, so we never really talked about it. However, we’ve never ruled out vocals. We don’t have any rules in this band. We just take things as they come. And, lately we’ve written a few songs with vocals. The last song on our most recent record has the three of us singing on it. We also put out a single in the UK earlier this year which has two vocal songs. It’s pretty exciting to have a different tool to use, but I don’t think we’ll end up making every song have vocals. We’ll see! As far as limitations… I don’t think there are any. If anything, being instrumental opens up a million new avenues.
4. How did the name come about and do you have a set meaning behind it?
The name comes from a little-known experiment performed by the Japanese government in the 1950’s. I think it was called “Tako Kei Kaku,” which translates to The Octopus Project. But, basically, the army was attempting to build an enormous, robotic octopus (similar to a submarine) that could make manned missions to the bottom of the Marianas Trench. The details are fuzzy, but something went horribly wrong with the experiment, and the government abandoned the project after the robot was lost deep in the ocean.
5. Who or what have been some influences for the band?
It’s kind of hard to pinpoint because we’re always listening to so many different things. But, generally, I think we all like stuff with a little bit of grit on it. – sounds that have a personality. We have a tendency to be drawn to stuff that sounds interesting or exciting. I think that the best combination is amazing sounds + great music. Sonic Youth, Satyajit Ray, Madlib, Alice Coltrane.
6. What was the experience like working with an outside producer for the current record as opposed to primarily working on it your own?
It was definitely different from how we’d worked in the past. It was really fun, but also tough sometimes to find the bridge between our two ideas as to how things should work. We were coming from an unstructured, anything goes recording style, whereas Ryan Hadlock came from a very structured, professional world. We chose him because we wanted that mix of a crazy yet professional sounding record. And, I really like the way it turned out.
7. Do you guys ever just improvise on a song while playing live?
We have a bit of improvisation, but for the most part, things are pretty laid out. Many of our songs are played to sequenced beats and sounds, so it’s hard to change things around in the middle of a song. Some songs are loose, though, and we like to just see what happens.
8. How long does it take to get the stage prepared with all the decorations, etc...and do you feel that it is part of the overall setting of the music and goes hand in hand in a way?
We’ve gotten the stage setup down to a science, and it doesn’t take long at all. Touring so much, you have to be as efficient as possible. It’s taken us a few years to get it down, but lately we’ve figured out a good way of doing things. Most of our decorations, etc. are either built-in to our gear, or are things that can just be thrown up at the last minute. I definitely feel like our stage decoration goes hand in hand with our music. We’re all extremely excited about making things, and love any opportunity to get crazy. Being in a band is an amazing opportunity to let your imagination run wild visually as well as musically. But, being in our band specifically, I feel like we tend to veer toward sounds that are more colorful, or themes and ideas musically that might evoke certain visual themes and ideas to pop into your head. To me, the music and the visuals are all a part of the same entity.
9. If there was one person you could work with, who would it be?
10. What are some bands you are currently listening to?
Other than the previously mentioned folks…. Clipse, The Tammys, Caribou, Fela Kuti, Deerhoof, all of the Stones Throw stuff, lots more.
Some old favourites/favourite records?
We’re all totally obsessed with the Beatles and Led Zeppelin.
Anything you're looking forward to being released?
I just got the new Deerhoof and Dead Science records, and they’re both pretty stellar.
Last cd/vinyl/digital purchased?
CD – The Paris Sisters, “The Complete Phil Spector Sessions” Vinyl – The Kinks, “Lola versus Powerman and the Moneygoround, Part One” and John Cale, “Paris 1919” Digital Purchase – Deerhoof, “Offend Maggie” and Dead Science, “Villainaire”
Last movie and/or show you saw?
Movie – ‘Hausu’ Show – ‘Mad Men’