The Octopus Project Bring the Party and Go Lightly on the Vocals
Austin's the Octopus Project are bringing their brand of lively, technicolor "indietronica" to Dallas on Thursday for the latest installment of Red Bull Sound Select. If you hate impassioned performances, dancing and having a good time, stay far away.
This will be the first time the Octopus Project will play Dallas since their appearance at the Homegrown festival in May 2012 and the first time they'll be touring here in support of their 2013 release, Fever Forms. The band has been around for 14 years now and has ascended from being another fantastically weird Austin band to playing at Coachella and Lollapalooza.
Josh Lambert, who plays guitar, bass and keyboard in the band, said it formed as a result of wanting to expand from standard indie rock roots.
"We all just really wanted to branch out and try different stuff," Lambert says. "We wanted to experiment with samples, keyboards and crazy sounds."
This was in 1999. Lambert noted that although keyboards and electronic beats are a staple for songs now, it was breaking new ground to combine elements of indie rock with dance-y, digital sounds at the time.
Though vocals are used in certain songs, the Octopus Project does not have a designated singer and is largely instrumental. In writing their songs, Lambert said that the idea of vocals never came up and the absence of vocals wasn't even discussed. "It just felt like the songs were ready the way they were," he says.
When vocals are introduced to songs, they're never the centerpiece or at the forefront, relegating the rest of the band to be backup. Instead, Lambert said the sparing use of vocals adds another texture to their intricately woven songs.
Austin, ever the melting pot for ideas outside the norm, was a welcoming environment for what the Octopus Project was trying to do from the beginning. Lambert said being surrounded by fellow bands helps create camaraderie to pursue any crazy concept they can concoct.
Throughout their tours, there was one incident that proved to be an insurmountable trial for the band. In 2002, after putting out their first record and halfway through their first national tour, the Octopus Project had a day off. They went out to watch a band play, but when they came back, their van had been stolen. Luckily, all their gear had been stored away in a friends' apartment, but the band was in a bind because they were too young at the time to rent a van.
So they scrounged together every dime they had to buy a cheap van to get through their tour, which took days in itself. But just when they were about to get on the road, their clunker kicked it.
"When the van broke down we just had to cancel the rest of the tour. It super sucked," Lambert says, laughing.
However, the limited bad experiences have been outweighed by the surreal and "awesome experiences" the band has had over the years. In particular, when they were going to open for Devo at the 2010 Moogfest in Asheville, North Carolina, the band got a call from their booking agent on the way there saying that Devo's guitarist had sliced his hand and would be unable to perform. But Devo remained unfettered in their desire to play, and asked if The Octopus Project would help with their performance and play two songs.
"It was the weirdest thing that's ever happened to me in my life," Lambert says. "We got to meet them, become friends and even got to tour with them after that."
Now headliners themselves, they've been touring on Fever Forms. The Octopus Project aimed to capture the madness and energy of their live shows and described it themselves as "a tattoo of an 18-wheeler bursting out of your chest."
The band originally recorded a full album and played some of the new songs live, but changed how they were played slightly in their live performances. They then realized they liked the live versions better and decided to re-record the record and adapt the songs to how they would play in front of an audience. "I definitely feel like it's a lot crazier and louder and more rocking than any of our other records," observers Lambert.
Before every show, the Octopus Project has one ritual in order to make sure the show goes swimmingly: "We usually just sacrifice a few cats," he said, immediately turning silent for a few seconds before laughing. "We usually just put on our outfits and stretch before a show."
If you're free Thursday night, you would be hard pressed to find a more energetic show than with The Octopus Project. RSVP for $3 here, and make sure to get there early. Those going should be ready to cut loose. What else should concert-goers expect?
"Lots of crazy noise, colors and visuals and sweat," Lambert says with a laugh. "Lots of sweat."