Where does conceptual instrumental music fit in today’s pop scene? Can music be considered pop if it rarely uses vocals and is formed around sweeping, large scope ideas? Conceived as a giant multi-directional performance piece, Austin, Texas’ the Octopus Project aims to find out with Hexadecagon. (The new double LP releases Oct. 26 via Peek-a-Boo Records.) I spoke over the phone with multi-instrumentalist Toto Miranda about taking the band’s big ideas on the road. That, and keeping your mouth shut.
The Octopus Project plays the Drunken Unicorn Sat., Oct. 2 with Starfucker and Spectralux.
Julia Reidy: I’m really interested in Hexadecagon and the whole concept of it, both the album and live.
Toto Miranda: It originally came up as trying to do something a little bit more expansive than we usually do. The idea that we ended up running with was of a surround sound system, not in a home theater kind of way. There are eight channels of sound that we put in a circle around the audience who is surrounding us. After we kind of tweaked that idea technically and made it work, we sat down and wrote songs we thought would really benefit from that setup, and then we had a show.
On the album, is there anything kind of simulating that effect or is it something that really can only be experienced live?
It was really created to be something live. We kind of rethought a lot of the tunes when we put them on the album. We thought briefly about trying to do something intense and crazy with a multiple CD or a 5.1 setup. We didn’t want to go halfway to the live experience and not make it, so we just decided to take advantage of everything stereo has to offer, so that everybody could take the record home and have the experience of the record. It’s more like a soundtrack or a souvenir of the actual show, although hopefully it’s something that stands up pretty well on its own.
Is it only music from this particular album that gets performed with that surround sound effect?
Yeah. I should make the distinction that we’re not able to do the surround show all the time. On this tour we’re just going to be in clubs, and aren’t’ able to bring that whole crazy rig with us. We are working on doing more shows the Hexadecagon proper. We hope to take that on tour later. The album really came after the show, once we finished putting three months worth of work into putting on the show. We put it on at this past SXSW in Austin, and everybody there seemed to like it, and we were really happy with the way it went. It was after we put on the show, that we thought about making those songs into a record, because we really liked the way the music went together.
How does the music from this album compare to what you’ve released before? Do you feel like it’s a continuation for you or a departure?
I’d say a little bit of both. It has a lot of the same feelings and ideas, but because we’re approaching it in such a different way as a concept for the whole thing, I think it’s led us to some different songwriting choices and arrangement choices.
I’ve always been interested in you guys because you seem a little bit more concept-oriented than a lot of other bands. I think it’s interesting that a lot of your music is instrumental. Was that a decision for you or is that what naturally comes up?
It wasn’t ever really a conscious choice on our part. Looking back, I think we started the band because we just wanted to experiment with sound as much as possible. Other things were just higher on the list than singing as far as things we wanted to pursue, like electronics or learning to record and studio tricks. We made the most exciting songs we could out of what those interests were. As things have progressed and we are always trying to come up with new things to investigate, we’ve done a little bit of singing. We have a few vocals just as something new. Something new for us is what it’s always been about.
What would be necessary for you guys to take that sort of stereo type of show in a realistic way?
It’s just on a totally different logistical scale than we’re used to working with. We need a big jump up in terms of budget. But we’re trying to figure out how we can do it because it’s something we’d really love to take on the road. We’re working with some pretty cool sound, and we’ve got a company to try and make it portable. We’re going to try it out at a few shows in Texas in the fall, and then we’ll try to roll that into something nationwide next year.
ooooohhhh, I'm so excited!! I can't wait to see them together!
come on man you know you got a bromance. you probably still rock that OutKast…
Yes, 14 is the correct answer. I'll pass your info along to the group's manager,…
That was January of 2007, and they are 21 now, so I'm guessing 14?