Mike Madriaga 9:30 a.m., May 25
Steam Powered Giraffe
Sound description: The sound is a blend of electronic, pop, disco, and musical comedy.
- "Wired Wrong" · Jan. 8, 2014
- As I Hear It · Dec. 16, 2009
Influences: The Beatles, the Band, ELO, Queen, David Hasselhoff
Created in 1896 by Colonel P. A. Walter I, the Steam Powered Giraffe robots still run off their original steam-powered engines and artificial intelligence. But you'll find no generic boilers or clockwork brains in these robots! How their steam-driven power supplies and antique Cylindrical Canister Pin AI functions is a secret that Colonel Walter took to the grave. None of his admirers, sons, grandsons, or other relatives could ever completely crack the mechanics, and those who have tried ultimately met disastrous outcomes.
Today the robots are all refurbished with better plating, rubber buffers, and hydraulic tubing. New parts have replaced any old ones that have worn and torn over the centuries, but the robots all retain their original chassis and are vintage relics of unmatched engineering.
“We’re a musical pantomime troupe,” says Christopher “Bunny” Bennett. “Most know us as ‘those singing robots.’ We’re trained in movement, music, and visual design. It’s a meshing of different art forms. Four-part harmonies and robot popping and locking may seem like a terrible idea, but that’s probably why it works so well.”
The group, which plays often at the San Diego Zoo, released a debut album in 2009, followed by a live album in 2011, the 2 Cent Show in 2012, and MK III in 2013. The sound is a blend of electronic, pop, disco, and musical comedy, with new songs such as “I’ll Rust with You,” “Wired Wrong,” “Ghost Grinder,” and “Roller Skate King.”
The robots are played by Sam Luke (Hatchworth), David Bennett (The Spine), Bunny Bennett (Rabbit), and Matt Smith (Drummer), with Steve Negrete serving as Sound Designer and Michael Reed as Musical Director. Former members include Erin Burke (aka Upgrade) and Jon Sprague (aka The Jon).
“Every performance is pretty fun,” says Bennett. “The audiences are always having a good time, even if there's some technical mishaps. That's just the nature of the show. Hopefully the audience doesn't see any of the problems we may encounter behind-the-scenes working with venues or tech. However, I will say our best shows are definitely in San Diego. We have our own high-end sound gear, projection work, lighting effects, stuff that we can't always get when we travel out of state. Those elements really make for a memorable experience. And we work with some really sharp local talent.”
There's also a SPG comic book. Says Bennett, “Sam actually storyboards it all out from our script, and I come in and do the line work. We have another hired colorist to do her thing, and we even use a custom made font for dialog. It's a bit Frankensteined together.”
“I like the idea that Steam Powered Giraffe is much more than a band...there’s all these little alcoves you can explore. Lore, characters, stories — however far the audience is willing to go.”
In 2014, the band produced the soundtrack to the SteamWorld Heist videogame, as well as appearing in the game scenario itself.