Hailing from the music mecca of Austin, Texas, The Octopus Project really made its name on April 30, 2006, with a performance at the Coachella music festival. The band won its slot on the bill in an Internet contest, and its distinct blend of experimental noise and pop sensibility wooed the crowd. The Octopus Project’s third proper album, Hello Avalanche, was released in October via Peek-A-Boo Records, and the band is in the midst of a nationwide tour. Here, Josh Lambert talks about the new album, how living in Texas affects the band’s music, and Harry Potter.
How would you describe your music to someone who hasn’t heard it? Crazy noises and tiny melodies joining together to make weird pop songs.
Why is “Truck” the first song that plays on your MySpace? How does it define your band? “Truck” is one of our favorite songs that we’ve ever written, so we were pretty excited to share it with folks. It concisely sums up what we do: combining furious drums and guitars with pretty melodies.
What is the short version of your songwriting process? Normally we start from a sound or short idea and build from there. There’s a bunch of trading MP3s back and forth. We usually tweak and change things in songs until the moment the record is finished. For example, “I Saw the Bright Shinies” was finished the last day we were in the studio. So recording is as much of the writing process as sitting at home with a guitar is.
What is the theme of the record? We don’t ever talk about themes or directions. Things usually just happen naturally. For the most part things go unspoken, and we only end up doing something if it feels right. So I don’t think there is any conscious theme for the record. Having said that, though, the mountain/snow theme seems to have crept in there quite frequently.
How did your band coalesce? We’ve all known each other and been in bands together since we were eighteen, and this band more or less mutated out of a bunch of other bands we’d previously been in.
Do you think living Austin enables your creativity? Absolutely. Austin is such a fantastic place to live. Folks there are incredibly supportive and open-minded. There’s so much amazing stuff going on there at any given moment, and it’s pretty inspiring.
How are you connected with the musical community/history of Austin? We’re friends with a lot of folks in the musical community in Austin and of course support the community as much as we can. Peek-A-Boo is definitely a local institution -- Travis [Higdon]has been putting out amazing records from Austin bands for a long time, and it’s very cool to have gone from fan to colleague in that relationship. The musical history of Austin is full of folks who weren’t afraid to break out and do their own thing, and I feel like maybe we fit into it in that way.
What “Texan” things do you enjoy? Frito pies and swimming holes.
How do you make the world a better place? Hopefully we bring moments of happiness to people.
Where is The Octopus Project best enjoyed? I think certain songs of ours are great for clubs, but generally I think I’d like people to listen to our records in a place where they can just focus on them as a whole. My favorite records are the ones that I can listen to from start to finish --- the ones that take me on a little journey for forty-five minutes or so. This is what we try to do with our records. In my mind, we’re creating this little place and inviting folks to come in and hang out with us. It’s like a little land of escape or a big warm blanket. What’s your favorite city to visit on tour? Too many cities are our favorites! Of course, New York, Chicago, Seattle, San Francisco, et cetera are all fantastic, but, surprisingly, Knoxville, Tennessee has become a real treat for us. We always play a club called the Pilot Light there, and all the people in Knoxville are outstanding.
Do you ever just want to say the hell with it and play in a Guns N’ Roses cover band? I don’t think that thought has ever crossed my mind. Who would play at your ultimate concert? The Beatles circa 1967, Led Zeppelin circa 1972, Flaming Lips circa 1995, and Deerhoof.
What are those things on the cover of your album? Drawings from the little guys that live in [Toto Miranda’s] head.
Have you read anything good lately? Yvonne [Lambert] and I are feverishly reading the Harry Potter books, but we’ve also been totally obsessed with Haruki Murakami for the past few years.
Did Coachella smell really bad? Coachella didn’t smell bad at all.