The future’s so bright that artists of the present frequently shirk into the shade of tradition reimagined and, more often than not, come out ahead of their time.
While Man or Astro-man?’s “Lost in Space” surf punk doesn’t necessarily fit into the Tupperware-party Jell-O mold of its Atari-nostalgia peers, the band does smear the remains of moldy technology into its work like an inkjet printer. And in the process, the group has collected a strong set of followers who aren’t there because they own a subscription to the experimental-surf-punk-electro genre. Um, because there isn’t one.
It’s nearly impossible to find a hard-and-fast description for the band, which has been bleeping, clicking, chiming, grinding and rocking Earth’s crust since its intergalactic spacecraft crash-landed in rural Alabama almost nine years ago. There have been a few lineup changes: Longtime guitarists Dexter X and Star Crunch were replaced by Blazar the Probe Handler and Trace Reading. And then there was the all-clone tour, when other astro-men and women played Man or Astro-man? songs. And the present tour marks one more change: Blazar the Probe Handler has relocated in optical phase. (Actually, he started taking film classes in LA and editing for the VH1 show, “Fan Club.”)
Assuming the band’s drummer, Birdstuff, who also sometimes goes by the name Brian Teasley, would start rattling off 1s and 0s the second I posed my first question, I had prepared accordingly. Little did I know he’d take me seriously. Wipeout! After a few adjustments to my list of questions, we chatted about music and time in between his checking out of a hotel and grabbing a bite to eat.
“Jesus, that’s a long time,” he gasped after recognizing — probably not for the first time — that his band is nearing its ninth anniversary. “Gosh. Nine years. It’s weird — we always were supposed to be the fresh-faced teenagers and now we’re grumpier old men. I think what’s weird in terms of indie rock and whatnot, the last couple years, it’s the first time that there’s an obvious completely cut-off generation of people who are into independent and punk rock.
“As we age and as the band gets older, I want to get more youthful and open-minded. I don’t want to be one of those grumpy old guys complaining about shit backstage somewhere. But it’s a natural process. You have to actively fight it to not be one of those jaded old rock bastards.”
As the band evolves, Teasley tries to keep things fresh.
“We didn’t replace (Blazar) because we felt like we would have just kept going in a similar manner. It seemed like more of a challenge just to extend the gadgetry and the various gizmos and pull everything off as a three-piece. At this point, it’s like stepping up the difficulty level of a crossword puzzle. Every new challenge is kind of an exciting thing. Whether it be the best decision or not is left to be said, but for us, it’s the most exciting thing we could have done.”
The current tour supports the band’s latest album, A Spectrum of Infinite Scale, which was released last year, but the sets will include new songs Teasley plans to record for the band’s next disc, which is tentatively planned to come out in the spring. In the meantime, Estrus has released a B-sides compilation that originally was on an Australian label that is slowly shutting down. And Teasley hopes to release a live album around that time too, in conjunction with a fanzine filled with interviews and articles that M.O.A.M.? plans to write while on the road. Teasley also writes about music for a magazine in Atlanta. But all this talk of deadlines is making him uncomfortable.
“The greatest enemy of making good music is deadlines. It kind of perpetuates this attitude of ‘Oh, it’s good enough’ or ‘That’ll have to do.’ And screw that. I have no idea of how many records Man or Astro-man? has put out, but it’s a lot of records I think. And just to put another record out to perpetuate another tour so then we can tour to put out another record — I’m not as interested in that as I am in really trying to make a great record. And I realize in scope too, that the music Man or Astro-man? plays is a very niche-oriented thing. I don’t think we’re going to make a Sgt. Pepper’s, but within the limitation and the scope of what we do, that’s what I’m talking about.”Melissa Giannini is music writer for Metro Times. E-mail [email protected]