Orchyd: Either we'd start a really cool band, or I'd get tortured to death
|Courtesy of the artist|
When bassist Charlie Milkey auditioned for Orchyd, he wasn't entirely sure what he was getting himself into. Percussionist Geoff Carl brought him into a basement. "That was kind of funny," Milkey says. "The first day meeting these guys, I go into their house and their house is kind of dark, and they're like, now we're going to go into the basement. I thought, we're either going to start a really cool band, or I'm going to get tortured to death."
The notion of descending into the dark underbelly of the home of Orchyd's founders, Geoff Carl and his wife, vocalist Shanna Carl, is particularly frightening when considering that the two name "broken things and bad dreams" as their primary influences. As for the invitation though, "Fortunately, it was for a band and not for death," says Milkey. The three were eventually joined by guitarist Tom Zempel, and thus Orchyd was fully realized.
This Saturday at the Kitty Cat Klub, Orchyd will celebrate the release of their full length, Mechanical Angels. Gimme Noise met with the group to talk about the album and delve into the philosophy and process behind their music and unique live performance elements.
Shanna and Geoff have been married for eight years, and recording music together for ten. Their collaboration began when Geoff heard Shanna sing Fiona Apple's "Criminal" one night at a karaoke bar. "I was like, I should probably do something with that," he says. He purchased a laptop, installed Ableton, and taught himself how to navigate music programming while experimenting with synth design. "I was afraid to even do karaoke," says Shanna. Now, she finds being on stage like "fear mixed with liberation."
Their songwriting process today with the full band builds upon the original method from ten years ago. Geoff begins with a framework, utilizing loops and midi with various synth patches and other electronic elements. Shanna fleshes out the vocals, and they present this skeleton of a song to the other bandmates. Milkey then adds layering to it, or adjusts the bass line. "It's almost like remixing it," Geoff says. "I think that gives us a chance to play Shanna and I's music in a more progressive, powerful post-rock way," allowing them to expand from the computer-centric Numbers, which Geoff and Shanna released on their own in 2012, into the fuller sound of Mechanical Angels.
It is impossible to avoid referencing Portishead when describing Orchyd's music, yet the songs on Mechanical Angels contain a bit more of a forceful, ominous feeling of impending collision or rapture. "Roads," which begins with Shanna singing, "Separating from this physical body, this broken mess, uncertainty...'cause nothing's ever for sure in this body..." is sexy and suspenseful, growing from a deep vibrating bassline bouncing off of Shanna's silky vocals into a burst of synth and Zempel's intriguing guitar elements, achieved by running a drum stick over his strings while utilizing delay pedals.
"Roads" cemented Zempel's position in the band. "I was being lame and old, sitting on my couch like, I don't know," he says of Geoff inviting him to play with the band. "I could really only fall asleep so many nights, so many Wednesday nights on my couch, before Geoff didn't believe me anymore." His unique idea to play guitar for "Roads" with a drum stick was enough to convince everyone that he should forgo the couch once and for all.
Zempel describes the song "Pork" as the group's "pop song." The track begins with a distorted sample, disappearing beneath a gloomy synth. Shanna's voice grows in volume as she seems to admonish the listener: "Don't say I'm here, don't say I'm here." The chorus is an allusion to characters from fairy tales, namely Little Red Riding Hood and the Three Little Pigs. "Geoff came up with the lyrics, and to him, he says it's about sexual deviance," Shanna says. "To me, it's about when the prey becomes the predator. It's about being in a cage, and then revenge." The song is somewhat disarming -- even more so as it ends abruptly with Shanna counting "one, two" and then disappearing without a "three."
"Imagine if Red Riding Hood was a wolf," says Geoff. "It's like, the wolf and the three pigs and Red Riding Hood, so Red Riding Hood is the wolf, Red Riding Hood kills a pig, the pigs are pissed so they go after the wolf, that whole thing." For their Halloween performance last year, Shanna dressed up as Red Riding Hood, the rest of the band as pigs wearing police uniforms.