Events Donations GuestBook Email Login

March 12, 2007 - Tralf Music Hall - Buffalo, NY
"The Morning will come for you, at last, No matter how far into Night you have strayed..."

Going Apeshit in Buffalo

"A showing of artifacts from the first years of the Non-Apocalyptic Era has been culled further for inclusion in the present volume as the humble assortment of lullabyes and headsplitters you hold in your dirty hands."
So begin the liner notes of Sleepytime Gorilla Museum's Grand Opening And Closing. Though much of the artwork and statements used on the cover of the album are strange and cryptic, Sleepytime Gorilla Museum is one of the most amazing, original, and confusing bands I've ever heard. When I first saw the video for the Sleepytime Gorilla Museum song "A Hymn to the Morning Star" on the show Underground Video Television (www.UVTV.info) I was blown away. I have included it for those who are unfamiliar with this band. I looked them up on the web and downloaded as much of their music as I could. I was like a man possessed. But, when you find something so original and intelligent, you just want more. I looked up their tour schedule and found out that they were playing in Buffalo and I went spastic. I immediately requested an interview and was psyched to find out that they said yes!

I was supposed to go to the show with Justin Wortman, but due to scheduling problems he was unable to go. Instead, I made the trek to Buffalo with my friend PJ Szuba. (Check out his MySpace Page.) PJ has been my friend for many years and finally got to go on one of the adventures.
We left Syracuse at 1:30 and had a lovely drive. The weather was perfect, clear skies and sunshine the whole way.We listened to lots of great tunes and discussed our plans for the evening.
When we finally got to Buffalo, we found the area the club was in and then hit a Wendy's for lunch. After lunch we had to find a copy store to print out the question sheets. On the way to the copy joint, we tried to find a gas station which led us into a small problem. PJ made a left turn and we got pulled over by Buffalo police. It turns out that the street we turned onto was restricted from left-hand turns, and the cops pulled us over in the parking lot of the gas station. Seconds later a second police vehicle pulled in to block us in case of an escape attempt.
PJ pulled out his license and registration and patiently waited for the officer to come up to his window. The cop asked if we knew why he pulled us over and then explained what we did wrong.
PJ appologized and explained we were from out of town and didn't see the "No Left Turn" sign.
The cop told us to be more careful and to have a nice day.
We assured him we would and the Police left. We got our fuel and were on our way.

We soon found the copy center and I got my questions printed. After that it was on to The Tralf Music Hall. Which by the way, is kind of hard to find if you have never been there before.
After wandering up and down Main Street for a while, we finally found someone to ask for directions.
It turned out that the Music Hall was inside a Mall on the second floor. Personally, I think there should be some sort of sign, because we weren't the only ones confused. As PJ and I stood outside selling Buttons & Stickers, many people were wandering about looking for the venue as well.
Located at 622 main Street, the Tralf Music Hall is billed as Buffalo, NY's Finest Music Entertainment Venue. The Tralfamadore Cafe (aka "The Tralf") is a popular club in Buffalo, well known for experimental jazz and rock music. (FYI: Tralfamadore is the fictional home planet of aliens from several novels by the American author Kurt Vonnegut.) The room is large with a small balcany area and a large dance floor. There is also a kitchen which serves a limited menu, and there were plenty of tables, but it seemed food was not being served on the night of this show. The stage was medium sized and the road crew was busy setting up the equipment for the night's entertainment.
We found the sound guy, explained who we were, and asked to speak to SGM's tour manager. Moments later, he introduced us to
Nils Frykdahl, one of SGM's singers. We spoke casually with him for a little while and he agreed to round up drummer Matthias Bossi and sit down for our interview. We sat down at one of the tables in the club and I began the interview with the two of them.
Both Nils and matthias were incredibly friendly and unpretentious. They both had great sences of humor and were very easy to talk to.
About ten minutes later, we were joined by
Dan Rathbun, the band's bass player.
As the interview progressed, the sound check got increasingly louder and we decided to adjourn to the band's dressing room to continue.
Sleepytime Gorilla Museum has a habit of supplying a lack of relevant information about themselves. So, in order to give a comprehensive history, one must become somewhat of an Internet archeologist, digging around in the hopes of finding useful information about them.
From my in-depth Internet excavation and my comprehensive interview with the members of the band, I uncovered the following… Sleepytime Gorilla Museum came from the aftermath of Idiot Flesh's demise in 1998. Founding members of Idiot Flesh, Nils Frykdahl and Dan Rathbun, started Sleepytime Gorilla Museum less than a year later.
Nils assured me that the band's first show in Oakland, California was performed in an abandoned department store in front of a single banana slug. But no humans were allowed in until the second night...
During my interview, Nils told me that the name pre-dates the band by nearly one hundred years. And it was his brother, artist Pers Frykdahl, that brought it to the band's attention.
Sleepytime Gorilla Museum's name apparently refers to an obscure early printing press, that were the purveyors of Idiot Flesh's fabricated hero, philosopher/mathematician John Kane, who is said to have founded the "Wrong Way" theories of "Black Math" in which "1 + 1 = 0", and other archaic and anarchistic theories of destructive computation.
In 2001, SGM released their debut album, "Grand Opening and Closing."
The name of the album comes from an "exhibit" advertised by the Sleepytime Gorilla Museum Press where there was no actual show. People arrived to see the aforementioned spectacle but were treated instead to a burning building and a bake sale.
SGM's music can be roughly likened as something akin to avant-rock or avant-prog, but it practically escapes any rigorous categorization so that people usually have to name-drop different kinds of bands in order to give some sort of scope or conception of what they sound like.
The band nods to the complex British art rock of Henry Cow, chamber music and metal.
One could compare SGM to Captain Beefheart, Mr. Bungle, Art Bears, Frank Zappa, The Residents, Throbbing Gristle, and even King Crimson. They remind me of a bastard love child of Einstürzande Neubauten, Rasputina, and Ministry. They must been seen to be truly experienced.
Laced throughout Sleepytime Gorilla Museum's neo-chamber music foundation is a healthy dose of thrash, metal chunks, and some primal growling from guitarist Nils Frykdahl as well as powerhouse performances from drummer Matthias Bossi, percussionists Michael Mellender, bassist & producer Dan Rathbun, and Carla Kihlstedt on haunting violin, vocals, Autoharp, and pump organ.
This five-piece band showcases charismatic singer-guitarist Nils Frykdahl and versatile singer-violinist Carla Kihlstedt (also of Charming Hostess and Tin Hat Trio). Nils' incredible voice ranges from a deep resonant bass fit for Broadway shows, to a high falsetto, and he can growl with the best of Metal's screamers.
I love the off-kilter and continually shifting rhythms and male/female vocal harmonies. Their style of harmonizing together is so unconventional, it could be described as anti harmonizing, or harmonizing against harmonizing. Nils will simply recite the lines in a withdrawn sort of tone while Carla's breathy voice stings the ears. Together, the voices are just as good as any of their instruments, but you can still hear the separated voices looming above the music. SGM has long championed a hybrid of wildly complex distorto-rock and improvisational breaks, and on makeshift instruments no less. Its lyrics, loosely based on a mixture of religious imagery and post-industrial anxiety, are mirrored by the music, which reflects this new seriousness with thicker orchestration, bursts of musique concrete, and the juxtaposition of natural sounds. The band's music has been described as "a kind of dark carnival where one moment a clown is juggling and the next a trapeze artist is falling to his death. A musical exorcism, seething and undulating, building in front of the audience to its violent and painful but necessary finale, and no one gets out unscathed."

Many of SGM's songs address the terrifying isolation of man that results from the advance of technology. The band slides from nightmarish soundscapes, to happy go lucky doodles, to drone metal, to very rocky metal with little or no warning. There are multiple occasions where the listener is lulled into a false sense of security by sparse, pleasant arrangements only to be scared shitless a moment later by overly intrusive vocal and instrumental discordance.

SGM plays conventional instruments and many homemade devices as instruments, such as the Percussion Guitar, the Vatican, & the Pedal-action Wiggler; or rare Autoharp, Glockenspiel, Toy Piano, and the Viking Rowboat, which is actually a Nickel Harp (a Scandinavian instrument that is a cross between a hurdy-gurdy and a violin). It looks like a rowboat, hense the band calling it such.
Though he uses a common bass guitar most of the time, Dan Rathbun, (who has created most of the band's idiosyncratic instruments), plays, among other things, a custom six-stringed bass instrument referred to as the "Sledgehammer Dulcimer", which uses piano strings and is about eight feet long. It is played with two sticks: one in the left hand generally used as a fret, and another in the right hand to strike the strings. Percussionist Michael Mellender's instruments consist of restaurant kitchen equipment, trash can lids, and other "found" metal objects, and the "Electric Pancreas" in addition to traditional percussion items.

The band's modus operandi includes performing in nightgowns with blacked-out teeth and Butoh-styled face paint. Butoh is a Japanese dance form that requires performers to make precise, slowed movements that reflect the emotion of the dancer. The stage show is done in mostly darkness with very few lights. This gives the band a somewhat creepy image that works incredibly well with their sound.
SGM doesn't make things complex for their own sake - or simple for their own sake. Everything comes from the meaning, from the emotion the music needs to convey. The tunes don't sound impressed by (or even aware of) their own cleverness.
However, the band's considerable virtuosity shows in compositional smarts, in fiendishly difficult rhythmic synchronizations, and in performing some pretty solid music with both utter precision and the manic intensity of a three-chord hardcore band.

It is this intelligent and unique combination that draws the band a crowd that seeks something out of the ordinary. It drew me in immediately and kept my attention through every track and that's no small accomplishment.
But, I will say this: Sleepytime Gorilla Museum is not for everyone. Some listeners may be put off by the band's imagery and sound. Others may find the concepts outside their personal comfort zone. But like any great art, at least these performers make you take the time to think about what is being offered before making a decision, and in the end, that is what art is all about.
I would recommend this to enthusiastic avant-garde fans, people who like anything progressive, or just anyone who is sick of the same old crap and needs a kick in the face with something fresh.
In January 2006, the band signed to The End Records. A reissue Grand Opening and Closing, with three previously unreleased tracks, was released on September 5, 2006.
Sleepytime Gorilla Museum plans to release a new album entitled In Glorious Times in March 2007. The lyrics to the album are taken from James Joyce's Finnegan's Wake in which the text is written in an inscrutible mix of languages and jibberish. It should prove very interesting.

mp3 Interview
with S.G.M.

SGM Website

The End Rec.

Leave Comments
SGM tours frequently. They have played often in the San Francisco Bay Area and the Los Angeles area, but also have travelled other parts of the U.S. by tour bus. Sleepytime Gorilla Museum will be touring across the United States and Europe in March and April.
For most of the tour, they are slated to appear with former label mates Secret Chiefs 3, which features Trey Spruance, former guitarist for Mr. Bungle and Faith No More. Catch them if you can. It is something that should not be missed.
And, if you meet the band, which isn't hard because they are all friendly people, tell them TomAroundTheWorld sent you.

(Tom's Note: My full interview, which clocks in at just under 23 minutes, is available to download and save for FREE! Just right click and "Save Target As..." The first six seconds sound weird, but after that the interview is clear and very listenable, as well as funny.)

Win A Copy of the Autographed Interview Sheets

There are five in all. I am keeping one, PJ gets one, and that leaves three copies of the interview sheets from this show that are up for grabs.

Each sheet is printed on Heavy Card Stock, features a Photo of Sleepytime Gorilla Museum and my interview questions, and is numbered & certified by Me. All of them are signed by Nils Frykdahl, Dan Rathbun, & Matthias Bossi.

To Enter: Send an Email to: ContestPix@TomAroundTheWorld.com by April 1, 2007
Please Include: Your Name, Mailing Address, And Age. (You MUST be at least 13 years old to enter.)

I will select the winners at random from all recieved entries and mail them out to you. My decision is final.

So, what are you waiting for? Send in your entry...




Events Donations GuestBook Email Login