In the Octopus Project’s Garden

In the Octopus Project’s Garden (photo)

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“The last three months of our lives have been devoted to this night,” said Yvonne Lambert, dressed resplendently in a bustier-meets-Wild West parlor dress. She stood behind her keyboard on a circular stage positioned under a giant rectangular tent in the parking lot of Whole Foods. Surrounding her and her three tie-wearing bandmates, collectively an instrumental rock band from Austin called the Octopus Project, were a couple hundred curiosity-seekers gathered last Friday night for show one of a two-show spectacle.

Surrounding them were eight speakers blasting a cacophony of sounds, and above that eight screens transmitting all sorts of psychedelia: rocks piling up in supermarket aisles, animal headshots, cartoon planets, random patterns, the view of a snake slithering through grass, cityscapes, atom signs, pink Grimace-looking figures wearing mirrored masks like those found on the front of astronauts’ helmets, and, in the final scene, a pair of girls in matching blond wigs who could have been David Lynch characters.

And surrounding all that, buoying the entire operation with euphoria, was the Octopus Project’s music, a glorious waterfall of humming circuitry. You are now in “Hexadecagon,” an imaginative example of not only the convergence of music and cinema that’s representative of SXSW, but also the free, open-to-the-public scene built around the fringes of official festival showcases, in this case with visual stimulation in the vein of the Merry Pranksters’ Acid Tests and auditory aspiration on par with the Flaming Lips’ “Zaireeka” album.

03222010_wileywiggins.jpg“It’s either a 16-sided shape,” Wiley Wiggins said in an interview a week before the performance, “or a really crazy, giant tent.” Wiley’s an actor/multimedia man who first leaped onto the pop culture radar by playing Mitch Kramer in Richard Linklater’s “Dazed and Confused.” He was enlisted by fellow Austinite Josh Lambert, husband to Yvonne and a multi-instrumentalist who shares duties on drums, guitar and keys with Toto Miranda and Ryan Figg.

The band tasked Wiley with designing and broadcasting eight simultaneous videos at once live from his computer. “Each song has its own weird theme,” Wiley said of the vignettes. So while what might have looked and sounded like improvisation under that tent was really an orchestrated affair. And to hear the Octopus Project talk about the mechanics of it can make you feel clueless.

“Think of it like choreography for sounds,” Miranda said of the eight-speaker configuration and the possibilities therein. “Whether it’s clockwise, counterclockwise, bouncing from one side to the other — we’re just trying to think of as many different ways to have a sound move.” The Octopus Project also were able to manipulate the video through their audio using a MIDI and effects software called VDMX. “Like, a hi-hat hit will trigger images of some guys dancing around,” Josh said.

But all of that was lost on the crowd, who basked in the operatic melisma of Yvonne’s theremin, an instrument played by moving your hands in the air around it, like a conductor. The hour-long show had two-minute intervals of silence between songs to allow the computers and instruments to synch up. Josh said some of the songs will end up on the band’s next album. To see him watch it all play out was quite a sight — he spent stretches on the drums just staring at the underside of the tent with a smile that couldn’t have been wiped off with a full bottle of Windex.

03212010_octopusproject4.jpgBut things weren’t always so free and easy. The band knew it needed help if it was going to break its annual tradition of playing Emo’s for SXSW, without compromising the ambition inherent in a tireless creativity made manifest in its historically elaborate, costume- and prop-filled live shows. The Octopus Project needed corporate sponsorship. They contacted Whole Foods.

“It was the first time we’ve ever had to go into a boardroom and give a pitch,” Yvonne said. “But they said, ‘yes,’ like, within two hours. We were all pretty excited but there was also kind of this holy crap moment, where we were like, we actually have to do this.”

[Additional photos courtesy of Wiley Wiggins and Knoxy of knoxphotographics.com]


New Nasty

Whips, Chains and Hand Sanitizer

Turn On The Full Season Of Neurotica At IFC's Comedy Crib

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Jenny Jaffe has a lot going on: She’s writing for Disney’s upcoming Big Hero 6: The Series, developing comedy projects with pals at Devastator Press, and she’s straddling the line between S&M and OCD as the creator and star of the sexyish new series Neurotica, which has just made its debut on IFC’s Comedy Crib. Jenny gave us some extremely intimate insight into what makes Neurotica (safely) sizzle…


IFC: How would you describe Neurotica to a fancy network executive you met in an elevator?

Jenny: Neurotica is about a plucky Dominatrix with OCD trying to save her small-town dungeon. 

IFC: How would you describe Neurotica to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Jenny: Neurotica is about a plucky Dominatrix with OCD trying to save her small-town dungeon. You’re great. We should get coffee sometime. I’m not just saying that. I know other people just say that sometimes but I really feel like we’re going to be friends, you know? Here, what’s your number, I’ll call you so you can have my number! 

IFC: What’s your comedy origin story?

Jenny: Since I was a kid I’ve dealt with severe OCD and anxiety. Comedy has always been one of the ways I’ve dealt with that. I honestly just want to help make people feel happy for a few minutes at a time. 

IFC: What was the genesis of Neurotica?

Jenny: I’m pretty sure it was a title-first situation. I was coming up with ideas to pitch to a production company a million years ago (this isn’t hyperbole; I am VERY old) and just wrote down “Neurotica”; then it just sort of appeared fully formed. “Neurotica? Oh it’s an over-the-top romantic comedy about a Dominatrix with OCD, of course.” And that just happened to hit the buttons of everything I’m fascinated by. 


IFC: How would you describe Ivy?

Jenny: Ivy is everything I love in a comedy character – she’s tenacious, she’s confident, she’s sweet, she’s a big wonderful weirdo. 

IFC: How would Ivy’s clientele describe her?

Jenny:  Open-minded, caring, excellent aim. 

IFC: Why don’t more small towns have local dungeons?

Jenny: How do you know they don’t? 

IFC: What are the pros and cons of joining a chain mega dungeon?

Jenny: You can use any of their locations but you’ll always forget you have a membership and in a year you’ll be like “jeez why won’t they let me just cancel?” 

IFC: Mouths are gross! Why is that?

Jenny: If you had never seen a mouth before and I was like “it’s a wet flesh cave with sharp parts that lives in your face”, it would sound like Cronenberg-ian body horror. All body parts are horrifying. I’m kind of rooting for the singularity, I’d feel way better if I was just a consciousness in a cloud. 

See the whole season of Neurotica right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib.


The ’90s Are Back

The '90s live again during IFC's weekend marathon.

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Photo Credit: Everett Digital, Columbia Pictures

We know what you’re thinking: “Why on Earth would anyone want to reanimate the decade that gave us Haddaway, Los Del Rio, and Smash Mouth, not to mention Crystal Pepsi?”


Thoughts like those are normal. After all, we tend to remember lasting psychological trauma more vividly than fleeting joy. But if you dig deep, you’ll rediscover that the ’90s gave us so much to fondly revisit. Consider the four pillars of true ’90s culture.

Boy Bands

We all pretended to hate them, but watch us come alive at a karaoke bar when “I Want It That Way” comes on. Arguably more influential than Brit Pop and Grunge put together, because hello – Justin Timberlake. He’s a legitimate cultural gem.

Man-Child Movies

Adam Sandler is just behind The Simpsons in terms of his influence on humor. Somehow his man-child schtick didn’t get old until the aughts, and his success in that arena ushered in a wave of other man-child movies from fellow ’90s comedians. RIP Chris Farley (and WTF Rob Schneider).



Teen Angst

In horror, dramas, comedies, and everything in between: Troubled teens! Getting into trouble! Who couldn’t relate to their First World problems, plaid flannels, and lose grasp of the internet?

Mainstream Nihilism

From the Coen Bros to Fincher to Tarantino, filmmakers on the verge of explosive popularity seemed interested in one thing: mind f*cking their audiences by putting characters in situations (and plot lines) beyond anyone’s control.

Feeling better about that walk down memory lane? Good. Enjoy the revival.


And revisit some important ’90s classics all this weekend during IFC’s ’90s Marathon. Check out the full schedule here.


Get Physical

DVDs are the new Vinyl

Portlandia Season 7 Now Available On Disc.

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GIFs via Giffy

In this crazy digital age, sometimes all we really want is to reach out and touch something. Maybe that’s why so many of us are still gung-ho about owning stuff on DVD. It’s tangible. It’s real. It’s tech from a bygone era that still feels relevant, yet also kitschy and retro. It’s basically vinyl for people born after 1990.


Inevitably we all have that friend whose love of the disc is so absolutely repellent that he makes the technology less appealing. “The resolution, man. The colors. You can’t get latitude like that on a download.” Go to hell, Tim.

Yes, Tim sucks, and you don’t want to be like Tim, but maybe he’s onto something and DVD is still the future. Here are some benefits that go beyond touch.

It’s Decor and Decorum

With DVDs and a handsome bookshelf you can show off your great taste in film and television without showing off your search history. Good for first dates, dinner parties, family reunions, etc.


Forget Public Wifi

Warm up that optical drive. No more awkwardly streaming episodes on shady free wifi!



Internet service goes down. It happens all the time. It could happen right now. Then what? Without a DVD on hand you’ll be forced to make eye contact with your friends and family. Or worse – conversation.


Self Defense

You can’t throw a download like a ninja star. Think about it.


If you’d like to experience the benefits DVD ownership yourself, Portlandia Season 7 is now available on DVD and Blue-Ray.