Saturday, April 7, 2012

automatonic electronic harmonic

Before I get to the Minecraft entry (it's there! I promise! It's coming!), I wanted to announce a new steampunk music find.

Why yes! I still search out steampunk music! I just haven't done it in a while because...I got massively distracted with everything else.

Anyway, today's find: Steam Powered Giraffe.

(from the media album; the four members [in 2009] of Steam Powered Giraffe:
Jonathan Sprague, David Bennett, Christopher Bennett, and
Erin Burke. Photograph taken by Frances Delgado, All Rights Reserved, Copyright 2009.)

Yes. I'm serious: that's their name.
(from the media album)

And that's them. Steam Powered Giraffe consists (currently) of The Spine (pictured on the left), Rabbit (center) and The Jon (right). They have a great backstory which also explains (a little) where their fourth member, Upgrade, went.

Of course, the first song I heard from them was a cover of Rick Astley...



But it was enough to charm me entire. Then I heard one of their later works, "Honeybee":



Two years later, they'd lost Upgrade, but had considerably tightened as a trio. Yet the same things that made me like them in the 2010 performance vid made me like them here, too.

So who are these guys? Jonathan Sprague grew up in a family of artists and performers (their chosen artistry: unicycling) in California, and when he reached the mostly proper age, he went off to El Cajon's Grossmont College, where he met Christopher Bennett and Erin Burke in Jerry Hagar's mime class (he's on the right in that video). From there, the sparks that brought them together forged Steam Powered Giraffe, and several years of mime performance codified their abilities as strong performers.

(from the media album. Jonathan Sprague, "The Jon", of Steam Powered Giraffe.
Photograph taken by Josh Freeman, All Rights Reserved. Copyright 2009.)

Jon's robot, "The Jon", is mostly Art Deco in styling, with a gold face. "The Jon" is powered by Crystal Pepsi (a sadly failed marketing campaign he's now stuck with), which is wrapped around an unstable space-time rift (that must get uncomfortable).

David Bennett is the elder of the twin pair that forms the rest of the group; and, were it not for a seemingly savage divorce of his parents during his high school years, he might have gone on to become an accomplished IT technician and computer savant. Instead, the divorce forced him to concentrate on what was really important, and as a result, he dove out of computers and into performance.

(from the media album; David Bennett, "The Spine", of Steam Powered Giraffe.
Photograph taken by Frances Delgado, All Rights Reserved, Copyright 2009.

David's robot, "The Spine", is a retro-futuristic construction with silver skin and a titanium alloy spine propping him up (though he is known to activate an internal switch and go human for a while). He also uses a Tesla-designed high-voltage discharger to ensure smooth performance.

Finally, Christopher "Bunny" Bennett (where did "Bunny" come from as a nickname, I wonder?), the younger of the twins, is an accredited mime, actor, graphic designer, and illustrator. He drew constantly as a child, and his main dream was to become an artist. After seeing his brother in a play in high school, though, his interests changed to theatre artistry. Still, he pursued art through the Art Institute of California, majoring in game art and design, but as the first year wore on, he realized it wasn't going to take him where he wanted to go. He dropped out, joined Grossmont College, found the mime class, and the rest is history.

(from the media album; Rabbit as captured by jlares on deviantArt. All Rights Reserved, Copyright 2010-2012.)

His robot is "Rabbit", the copper-faced steampunk member of the troupe, and his construction comprises Victorian gear-driven motors, kinetic projectile chambers, red silk gloves, and an antique particle accelerator "lens device" (worn on his hat).

The last one I'm going to share (though there's a ton on their official YouTube channel) is "Brass Goggles", from just last month:



Now, there are two things I think are quite wonderful about SPG, apart from the costumes, their vocal stylings, their songs, and their history. The first is that these are classically trained mimes. They met in college, and studied mimes and clowns, theatre, costume, visual design, and music, and formed up as an actual group in 2008. They perform mainly in and around San Diego, California--in fact, they have a steady seasonal gig at the San Diego Zoo--but in 2011, they started to tour in the off-season, and they're still continuing that today.

But the even cooler thing about them is that they've teamed up with Patronism as a means to gain additional support. So what's so cool about Patronism? This is what's so cool about Patronism: it's a pay-as-you-like service that directly connects fans (and sponsors) of music to musicians (and, if it gets big enough, possibly other performers). It takes us directly back to the concept of patronage, but widens it out so that everyone can feel like they're participating. It's like an ongoing Kickstarter for independent bands and musicians, so they can keep doing what they love, without compromising their values.

There's a lot of great close-up shots of all four members of the trio (including Upgrade, played by Erin Burke), if you just want to know more about the costume/makeup angle. (There's another great entry here from 2009; where I found the great pic of "The Spine".) The rest, of course, is in the music. And such lovely music it is.

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