The Octopus Project
The Octopus project expands its tentacles
By Joe Gross
Austin American-Statesman

Thursday, April 25, 2002

'Well, both," Josh Lambert says. Everyone bursts out laughing. "Like the White Stripes." Lambert's just given the best answer possible to the question, "Are you two married or siblings, or what?" and to look back on it, the person asking the question really should have seen that coming.

He's answering on behalf of his wife, Yvonne, who's sitting next to them in their Hyde Park house. Which, might we add, is exceptionally clean for a place where one person works at home.

"Yeah, there's a reason we're doing this here and not my place," Toto Miranda says.

Miranda, the Lamberts, 21-year-old Dustin Kilgore (the only person in the band who isn't 24) and the bearded, exceptionally affable Nik Snell are the Octopus Project. Their debut collection, "Identification Parade," on local label Peek-A-Boo, might be one of the year's best Austin albums. This is full-bore instrumental post-rock beauty: electronics, drum machines and samplers clash with live drum-thud, processed bass and guitar overload. No vocals: "None of us have sung, and it never really came up," Josh Lambert says with a shrug.

The band's been around more or less since 1999. Josh Lambert and Miranda have played in bands together for years, most recently rotating through Hidden Speaker, as did Snell. The band has origins in the Houston scene, most of the members moving here for school in the mid-'90s (except for Snell: He "moved here for rock").

"We were in this band Invisible Robot Fish in Houston," Miranda says, "Free form, rotating lineup, improv band. Anybody could get up there. Josh and I would end up bringing in different instruments."

The Octopus Project started out as another side gig, albeit an exceptionally slow-moving one: Only the Lamberts and Miranda play on the self-produced "Identification," and there are songs on there from as far back as '99.

They picked up Snell and Kilgore last summer. "We needed to create a fuller sound live," Yvonne Lambert says. "We used to play to backing tracks, and that caused a lot of problems."

Since forward-thinking instrumental post-rock doesn't quite pay the bills, the Project has the usual array of quiet rocker days jobs. Snell identifies himself as a "professional tire swing pusher" (he works at the Children's Discovery Center) and claims the kids love the new album. "They like the beat on '(Marshall Examines his) Carcass' the most."

Did you have to explain to them what a carcass is?

Snell shakes his head. Song titles haven't been discussed. "It doesn't have any words anyway," Snell says.

Yvonne Lambert just completed a music therapy internship at Austin State Hospital and wants to go into the field full time. "It's great when you have a good working relationship with (a patient). I've taken the CD in, and they'll get up and dance," she says.

The Octopus Project don't quite wear their influences on their sleeves, but there are a few folks close to their hearts. Japanese sampledelic electronic artist Cornelius comes up a few times. "Cornelius really needs to tour America," Snell says, "I think we need to make that happen, and I think we need to tour with him." They also aren't above a playful homage or two. When confronted with the flagrantly New Orderish bass line in "Righteous Ape and Bird," they own up instantly.

"Man, you're the first person who noticed," Josh Lambert says.

"You know, that's totally how we wrote that song, too," Miranda says, before playing all the parts in a band conversation. " 'OK, we need to drop out like in "Watermelon Gun," the Flaming Lips song.' 'Well, that sounds good. Now, what?' 'Well, we need some melody like "Blue Monday." ' "

While they identify with both the Houston and Austin scenes -- apparently Houston is littered with bands whose members used to be in Invisible Robot Fish -- the quintet says it has real allies in Austin. "We love Cue and Black Lipstick," Josh Lambert says. "We play with them all the time."

Then there are the side projects. In addition to time spent in Woozyhelmet, Miranda also plays in Terry Gross, an "instrumental metal band where all the songs are named after NPR commentators." Kilgore just started working with an R&B band that is at the "playing at a party" stage.

But right now, the Octopus Project is taking center stage. During a national tour scheduled for May, they'll be doing one-off dates with the likes of Buffalo Daughter in Philadelphia, Shannon Wright in New Orleans and Brendan Benson in Hoboken ("the guy from Jellyfish," Snell says. Remember them? Anyone?)

Which means they're going out by themselves, just the Octopus Project's beats and rhythms against the world. But with a group of friends this tight and amiable, do they really need anyone else?

The Octopus Project, Cue and Raised By Aliens play tonight at Room 710 (710 Red River St., 476-0997). The Octopus Project also plays live on-air on KVRX 91.7 FM at 10 p.m. Sunday.

The Octopus Project
(L-R) Josh Lambert,
Yvonne Lambert, Toto Miranda

© 2005 Peek-A-Boo Industries