ACL Interviews: The Octopus Project

Before things really got started during Saturday’s ACL Festival events, we got together with Josh, Toto, and Yvonne of the Octopus Project at Austin Java to ask them a few questions about their band (including the upcoming Fun Fun Fun Fest). You can read the interview in its entirety after the jump.

ATH: How did you guys come about being a band with limited to no vocals?

Josh: I think it came about pretty naturally.  We just started writing songs and it kind of felt right to make them the way they were.  It didn’t really feel like we needed them at the time.  It wasn’t a conscious decision and we never really talked about it, I guess it just came together that way.

ATH: How do you come up with song names for songs that have no words?

Toto: We just try to remember some of the more interesting and ridiculous ideas that we have and attach them to songs once their finished being written.

Josh: We tend to have a lot of lists.

Yvonne: It’s a pretty fun process coming up with names that are funny to us but don’t really make sense in the context of the song.

Josh: Sometimes it kind of lends itself to inventing a story or a theme for a song.  In that sense we feel like we give people an option to make up their own themes or take it however they want

ATH: Are there any bands in Austin that you stay pretty good friends with or have an allegiance with?

Toto: Yeah we have a lot of friends that are musicians.  We just went on tour with a band called Diagonals who are old friends of ours.

Yvonne: Yeah they are one of the new upcoming Austin bands and one of my favorite bands right now. We’ve toured with Trail of Dead and they’re fantastic guys. We’ve also played some shows with Explosions in the Sky, who are also just really down to earth amazing people.

ATH: What’s your favorite venue in Austin?

Toto: I think I’d have to say Emo’s, we usually have the most fun there.

Josh: Everybody there is really nice, really cool, and open minded.

Yvonne: They let us make big messes in decorating the stage or throwing out props. They let us go crazy and that always makes for a fun experience for us and hopefully for the crowd.

Toto: It kind of has its ups and downs as a space, but the staff is so awesome and something about the energy of those shows always makes it really fantastic

ATH: How about favorite venue in the country or a couple… or three?

Toto: Different venus for different reason obviously.

Josh: We’ve never actually played the Doug Fir in Portland so that’s our favorite place we’ve never played.

Yvonne: Oh yeah, that’s our dream venue.

Josh: Yeah it’s just really nice inside, very well designed and plus they have a hotel/restaurant attached to the club.  They seem really artist friendly and concert goer friendly.

Yvonne: As far as favorite venues we’ve played, I really like Bottom of the Hill in San Francisco. I think we all really like that one.

ATH: While we’re on the subject, what do you think the current state of music is in Austin?

Josh: It seems like it’s going really well. I mean Austin has tons and tons of bands that are doing totally different things.  It seems like the ones that aren’t necessarily the best, but that are doing their own thing, seem to be doing really well.

Toto: So much is always happening in Austin that it gets kind of convoluted.  Something is always going on and it’s always gonna be good.

ATH: Do you think it’s harder coming out of Austin with so many bands in town?  Is it harder to make it outside the city?

Toto: I think there’s a lot of structure and activity that helps and maybe makes it easier to get going.  A pretty crucial next step to develop what a band is doing is to get out of town and to start touring because Austin sort of has the reputation of encouraging laziness.  You have the spirit and the energy to help you get started, but it’s important to get out of town to really find out what your band is all about.  Once you take yourself out of the context of home, you start to really find out what it is you’re doing and that makes it an even easier place to come home to once you’ve been away.

ATH: Are you guys headed out on tour after ACL festival?

Josh: We’re heading east for two weeks and everyday we’re playing a show which is exciting.  We’re headed up to New York, a little bit in Canada and then we head back into town.

Yvonne: We’re playing a festival called CMJ in New York so the whole tour is based around getting us up there and getting us back.

Josh: Then a break from touring.

ATH: What’s the plan after touring?  Will you start another album?

Josh: Before we leave on tour, we’re going to record an EP and get that together for an early release next year.  As soon as we get back, we’ll starting writing songs for our next record.

ATH: I’m sure you get asked about influences a lot but I’m always curious with instrumental bands.  How about two or three big ones?

Josh: We all listen to a ton of stuff but all different.  It’s hard to pinpoint a few things.

Toto: Now I’m really into sounds that are sort of a little bit muddy or dusty but still really vivid.  Not necessarily an old recording but a messed up recording and/or both.  Madlib the producer does a lot of over compressed beats and weird sample manipulations and in my mind that sort of ties into really older kind of weird music from other parts of the world.  Last tour we started listening to music by Satyajit Ray, the Indian director and that’s one thing in my mind that’s sort of this greenish grey music that I really like.

Josh: Currently, Toto got me into listening to this band Clipse and I liked that a whole lot.

Yvonne: They’re actually playing Fun Fun Fun Fest.

ATH: Speaking of, are you guys playing Fun Fun Fun Fest?

Josh: Possibly…

Toto: We’re not supposed to say yet, but yeah we are.  They’re just waiting until after this festival to announce it.

ATH: I’ve seen you guys several times and you seem to switch instruments live a lot.  Does that make things more fun or more difficult?

Josh: It makes it a lot more fun and less cumbersome.

Yvonne: It keeps it a lot more interesting for us.

Josh: We all play everything really.  A song will get written with one person playing drums or one person playing bass and another song with someone who plays drums playing guitar or something like that.

Yvonne: Sometimes switching mid song only happens because that’s what the song calls for.  If there is an extra part that needs to happen live and it happens to come at a point where you can stop playing this other instrument and move onto the next one.

Toto: It’s largely because the live and recorded versions we do are pretty separate and so the connection between them is whatever we want it to be. and we can kind of re-invent things from scratch when we learn to play a song.  The same person may have written the guitar, bass and drums so they can pick what their favorite part is and then we’ll figure out who’s going to do the rest of it.

ATH: Yvonne, what’s it like being in a band with a bunch of boys?

Josh: It’s awesome!

Yvonne: No, I feel very lucky to be in a band with these boys.  They’re very much perfect gentlemen, clean and they shower daily.  They’re not what you would think are the stereotypical rock guys.

Toto: Yvonne on the other hand…. We have to put up with soooo much…

ATH: In ’08, who gets your vote?  Also, in 5 words or less, tell me why?

Josh: I think we’re all voting for the same person and we can leave it at that.

Toto: I’m voting for Obama but 5 words or less for an explanation will be hard.

Josh: How bout: “Did you watch the debate?”

So if you hadn’t heard Octopus Project will be playing this years Fun Fun Fun Fest in Austin so make it out if you can. Thanks again to Yvonne, Josh and Toto for giving us the time to do the interview.

Photo credit for the cover image goes to Aubrey Edwards.

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