Posts Tagged ‘an elephant’

Fishboy at Babysue

This band reminds us so much of bands and artists from the 1990s when home recording was just hitting an all-time peak. During that decade, we received so many submissions from artists working out of their homes…writing and recording truly unusual stuff…and presenting it with highly original names, images, and packaging. Fishboy is a Denton, Texas-based band created by Eric Michener which also now includes Scarlett Wright, Grahm Robinson, and Samuel Escalante. This 100% independent band is taking the multi-media approach to marketing…creating music, videos, comics, and even books to get their point across. To quote directly from the band’s web site: “In 2014 the band will unveil An Elephant, an album and wordless graphic novel about the ghost of Topsy the elephant who was publicly electrocuted by Thomas Edison in 1903 and her attempts to avenge her death and pass into the afterlife.” The album is being released as a vinyl LP, a CD, and as a 160 page read along comic book (also being posted online). The music is much more poppy than one might expect after reading what the album is about. These songs are indie guitar power pop all the way, delivered with enthusiasm and a definite sense of humor. We love the music these folks make and we also love the way they’re presenting themselves to the world. We sure wish other bands would take a cue and not take themselves so seriously. Thirteen fun, uplifting tracks here including “Electrical Elephant,” “Thomas Alva Waiting,” “Dig A Grave,” and “When You’re Alone.”

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Fishboy at Under the Radar

And you thought a concept album about a deaf, dumb, and blind pinball player was silly. Well, get this: a pop-rock opera about the elephant that was publicly electrocuted by Thomas Edison’s Edison Manufacturing Company in 1903, in part to demonstrate the dangers of alternating current. Finally, you say, a piece of art that can bridge your love of power pop, large mammals, and the advent of electricity? Indeed.

Fishboy, the brainchild of Texas native Eric Michener, has been creating conceptual albums since its inception almost 15 years ago, but An Elephant might be its best. Musically speaking, the album is as good as power pop gets, from the trio of up-tempo ragers that begin Michener’s tale through the falsetto-laden “Dig a Grave” and the march-like “Bury My Body.” The narrative is as follows: the elephant (Topsy was his name in real life) is electrocuted, plans Edison’s demise, and attempts to stalk him from the afterlife. The elephant reminisces, meets a Jesus figure, gains perspective, and ultimately receives his proper final resting place, leaving the listener with some sage advice at the end.

Yes, I realize that all of this sounds monumentally absurd. Michener’s genius is that it works.  Very well, in fact. The music engages throughout and is sequenced to enhance the story. And the story draws you in, peculiarly so perhaps, the emotions of the deceased beast tugging at heartstrings while retaining a tongue-in-cheek humor and wink-and-a-nod presentation. And how can one go wrong with lyrics like this, all from the album’s first track: “Perplexing as the pachyderm harassment passes points of only being embarrassment; the outcome of the testing is clear, the end of its life is near” or “the underestimated intelligence of this five hundred pound living filament sparked an afterlife agenda that day, to haunt Edison to his grave.” An Elephant is a witty, whimsical treat, an unqualified success. That deaf, dumb, and blind kid’s got nothing on Topsy.

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Fishboy at Magnet

Fishboy plays a powerful mix of pop and indie rock and is currently working on a new concept album that includes a wordless booklet themed around Topsy, an elephant publicly electrocuted by Thomas Edison. Now the Denton, Texas, band has a new video for “Thomas Alva Waiting” that runs through chapter two of the booklet, titled Thomas Alva Waiting, and bring it to life. Check out the clip below.

Click through to stream the video!

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Fishboy at Big Takeover

Ambitious Denton, TX indie rockers, Fishboy, return with yet another narrative concept album.

Coinciding with a 160 page 5.5×5.5 comic, An Elephant centers on the apocryphal story of Topsy the elephant, who was supposedly electrocuted in a public execution by Thomas Edison in 1903, though historical sources refute the claim that the inventor had anything to do with it. Regardless, in Fishboy’s version told from the elephant’s perspective, Topsy returns as an angry ghost that haunts Edison after the electrocution, forcing him to face the consequences of his actions. Smart, snappy power pop-inflected songs become angry diatribes against an unforgivable injustice, like The Kinks filtered through the lo-fi immediacy of Crayon. It’s an emotional work of art that is an introspective as it is angry.

Whether or not Thomas Edison actually had anything to do with it, Topsy’s murder remains a scourge on humanity’s collective conscience. Yes, she killed three people, but most likely wouldn’t have if she hadn’t been so horrendously abused by her captors. Thanks to Fishboy for reminding us what shits we can be.

It’s not pleasant, but you view a film of the electrocution, which took place in Coney Island’s Luna Park, here. Again, the accompanying historical information is suspect, though the brutality clearly is not.

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Fishboy at Raised By Gypsies

So I’m including the official Fishboy Bandcamp link up there, but I have this as a CD and there is no graphic novel included so I’m not entirely sure what the options are for how to buy it as such because all I see are the graphic novel, digital and vinyl options.    Was this CD made special for me?   Because if it was, I find it kind of cool that they could make this CD just for me yet rather disturbing that they called me “John” both when they addressed the package and wrote a note to me inside of it.

Now this album actually breaks down nicely into two different pieces: the content of it and what it sounds like.   For those unfamiliar with the story behind this one (and it is a true story) there is an entire book written about it.   Okay, so there might be more than one book about it even, but the one that I read and enjoyed can be found here: http://www.amazon.com/Topsy-Startling-Crooked-Tailed-Elephant-American/dp/0802146058

The second part of this is the music and to say that this straight up sounds like Modern Baseball might be a slight exaggeration as it has a somewhat more acoustic feel to it, but yeah, when this gets quieter in the music bits and I hear the vocals come through so strongly all I can think of is Modern Baseball and the various bands that already sound like them.

If the idea behind this sounds good to you then go for it and listen to it.   For me though, I’ll stick with the book and mostly just recommend that people read the book as well because I tend to find that most people don’t read enough.

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Fishboy at Get It On Vinyl

It’s always to see refreshing ideas. While the concept album is not a new achievement, concepts albums as a whole seem to be few and far between these days.

So, yes, An Elephant is a concept album. Denton based Fishboy has taken the story of Topsy, the elephant that was supposedly executed by Edison to prove the superiority of DC and the dangers of AC, and ran with it. Now, while Edison may or may not have had a hand in the execution of Topsy, the act of executing animals with electricity was in fact done quite often in the years leading up to Topsy’s unfortunate demise.

Enough of that, what does it have to do with this album? Well, everything, and it makes it pretty damn cool. The album not only covers the execution but takes it several steps forward, exposing the aftermath and ultimate demise of Edison himself. Ok, this makes more sense if you check out the comic that accompanies the LP. Cool huh?

So what about the music? It’s great! Having followed several artists and bands from Denton, TX, I am convinced that city just pumps out musical genius. Fishboy has some super deep indie rock roots, and gives full doses of energy throughout the first few tracks. It isn’t until “Cant Fade Away” when the mood and sound changes. While the pace is slower, the energy is there and hasn’t slowed down. “Bury My Body” is one of the best tracks with its subtle keys and crunchy as hell guitars. Musically, the album is not reaching new heights, but it’s meant to be followed lyrically and visually with the comic. With that in mind, the album works very well.

Admittedly, while the album was spinning we spent allot of time reading up on Topsy, Edison, and the truth and myths surrounding the unfortunate incident in 1903. Fishboy’s continuation of the story seems rather fitting, and we realize that is what makes concept albums so appealing. Some albums tell a story, but great albums make the story.

You can pick up your own copy here.

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Fishboy at Rock Decibels

Fishboy est un groupe indie pop au son éclectique embrassant aussi bien la lo-fi acoustique que la power pop pleine de panache. Mais c’est avant tout un combo qui sert de véhicule aux compositions loufoques de Eric Michener, un natif du Texas surnommé « fishboy » car il répondit à un défi consiatnt à manger un poisson vivant lors d’une excursion de son école.

Anecdotique, cet épisode en dit long sur l’excentricité qui préside à ses opus dont la plupart ont toujours une vague connotation conceptuelle (par exemple avec un titre aussi emblématique que Albatross : How We Failed to Save the Lone Star with the Power of Rock and Roll).

An Elephant est un autre de ces disques à thème où le groupe creuse la vie de Thomas Edison et Topsy, an éléphant que Edison a tué lors d’une expérience visant à démonter les dangers du courant alternatif. L’album nous offre ainsi un conte peuplé de pachydermes fantômes de fantasmes de revanche et de tristesse, le tout délivré avec une énergie et une implication dont Pete Townshend serait fier.

L’histoire est, en effet, narrée avec clarté et de manière débridée avec des guitares qui vocifèrent et une section rythmique qui se montre pleine de puissance. Les compositions sont, en outre, imbriquées les unes aux autres mais chacune d’elle pourrait être un « single » de qualité avec un talent pour écrire des mélodies qui accrochent et qui sonnent à la fois minimalistes et arborent des dimensions épiques (« Elephant in the Room » ou « Bury My Body »).

Certaines plages touchent même à l’universel avec un «  Floating Away » qui raconte l’adieu de Topsy à la Terre de manière émouvante et sensible. Fishboy est ainsi capable d’alterner mélancolie et férocité avec la même crédibilité,An Elephant est, par conséquent, autre chose qu’un disque de pop rempli de riffs de plus mais un album avec lequel il serait bon de prendre le temps de s’attarder.

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Fishboy at Whisperin and Hollerin

As the wonderful lyric sheet for this cd comes bearing the legend “An Elephant Never Forgets” I have listened to it while watching both the legendary 1935 cartoon An Elephant Never Forgets and the even more Legendary 1952 film The Elephant Never Forgets both with the sound down and using his album as a new soundtrack and in both cases it works brilliantly well. Which considering this is actually a concept album about Topsy the Elephant that was publicly electrocuted by Thomas Edison in 1903 that comes with its own 160 page read along comic as well as being made available on Vinyl may seem an odd way to experience the album. Yes the comic is well worth a look most of it is up at www.an-elephant.com where you can also buy the album that comes with a direct pdf download of the entire book.

My review cd also arrived with a Bobby Ross baseball card and a free Whataburger coupon that just put a smile on this burger avoider’s face still onto the rock opera that is An Elephant that tells the story of this cruel event and asks the obvious question what was Edison hopping to prove by electrocuting an Elephant over some top notch indie rock as the sparks fly and Topsy suffers an awful death that causes her to come back and Haunt Thomas Alva and boy does he deserve a good haunting for that act.

Strangely as the ghost comes back to ask all the questions that need answering that makes sure Edison can’t ignore the Elephant in the room as Topsy want to drag him kicking and screaming to his grave that also worked very well while watching the politicians proudly consigning London’s trams to an early grave.

No Topsy won’t fade away, as her memory is brought to life, as she sets about giving Thomas Alva a good haunting, over the totally gross effects of the electrocution. That and just how the voltage destroyed the elephant. All the while hundreds of people watched on like it was a good thing to see an Elephant get electrocuted. Yes Fishboy wonders what qualifies anyone to make this a valid experiment.

The album then shifts to Topsy wanting to be properly buried as is fitting for a sacrificial elephant. Yes you must dig that hole so she can rest her soul. Yes she wants to be buried six feet down and wonders why she didn’t get a decent burial after her shocking death the music has a great resonance to the lyrics and works very well indeed as music to dig an elephants grave too.

Yes now Topsy is celebrating being a Ghost ready to come and haunt the very people who deserve to be haunted by an Elephant!! Yes she is floating looking at her old self down on the floor not quite believing she’s become a ghost. Yes as an Elephant she can never forget but she can forgive even if Mr Edison isn’t worthy of it for this act. Then she is just floating away and gone but certainly not forgotten and this album will not be easily forgotten either.

We now reach the rock opera’s finale called naturally enough Finale and just helps build things up towards the final track When your Alone that makes sure Edison knows that he’s never alone as Topsy is always there it’s also the slowest quietest song on the album but a perfect closer to a very good indeed rock opera that is well worth checking out and what is it with musical fish and there obsessions with elephants…

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Fishboy at Dagger

You can be forgiven for not knowing about this long-running (well, about a decade) Denton, Texas-based bunch led by erstwhile Eric Michener (aka Eric Fishboy). If I’m counting correctly (using my fingers) this is full-length number four (and a graphic novel/comic book, too) and hot on the heels of their previous one, Classic Creeps that was released in 2011 (and the one before that was 2007’s Albatross; How we failed to Save the Lone Star State with the Power of Rock and Roll). OK, so yeah, the band is big on concept albums and a lot of the time you have no idea what Michener is on about. Re: this new record there is some concept in there though I’m not 100% sure what it is….but I hear something about elephants that turn into ghosts (in fact, speaking of ghosts, one of the best songs on here is “I’m a Ghost”).  Sometimes the band goes off on tangents, but on many of these songs Michener and his crew execute a level of commitment and determination not seen in a lot of indie rock/pop these days. In other words even if you’re not down with the concept album thing , don’t even worry about it, get An Elephant simply for being a record full for rockin’, catchy songs. Other songs worthy of your precious time include “Thomas Alva Waiting,” “Elephant in the Room,” “Dig a Grave: and a handful of others. If you dig most or all of the Elephant 6 catalog (specifically the Apples in Stereo, Neutral Milk Hotel and Of Montreal) then this will float your boat. www.yofishboy.com

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Fishboy at Azltron

I had a chance to talk to native Texan Eric Michener, who founded the Fishboy music project in 2001. He got the nickname Fishboy after he ate a live fish on a dare. His latest release An Elephant is also a 160 page graphic novel that he created as a companion piece for his album. An Elephant  comes out January 20th.

What draws you to a narrative style both in art and music?

I naturally gravitate towards stories in any medium. I’m a filmmaker/video
professional by day but I’m also very practical. The great thing about both
songwriting and making comics is that they are both essentially no-budget
mediums. I can take big story ideas that would cost 200 million dollars to
produce as a film and make them for free!

How did you devise the name Fishboy?

The official answer to this question is that I swallowed a rare fish from a
local aquarium on a middle school field trip putting myself in legal and
financial hot water at the age of 15. It turned into a nickname, and then
performer name, and then band name.

Are you planning on submitting An Elephant to any graphic novel shows?
Like the Mocca comics art fest? You should consider it.

I am exhibiting at STAPLE an Austin indie comics fest in March. I have
exhibited there before and had a great time. Mocca seems like more of a
gamble because airfare would be involved. If they are friendly to self
publishers then maybe I’ll give it a shot.

Do you write the story first and then work on songs based off of the scenes
of the story?

Nope. Quite the opposite. I wrote the album linearly song by song based on
how I think the direction of the music should naturally flow. I figured out
lyrics and story points as I progressed which was tricky.

The first song starts at as a revenge fueled anthem and as I wrote it
became clear to me that the character needed to grow out of that anger and
learn that forgiveness is more powerful even in the worst of all scenarios,
in this case murder.

I envisioned the project as a darker all-ages cinematic story, so I wanted
to adhere to a classic three act story structure but a vinyl record is two
sides. So it required a bit of a detour story-wise in the middle to allow
for side B to start off strong.

Making a perfect album was my first priority and recording was wrapped
before I story boarded the comic and fleshed out the details. Fishboy was a
band for ten years before I started seriously drawing comics and most
people come at it from the music angle, which is great. I’m good at writing
song and love doing it, but my goal with this project was to raise my
comics up to the level of my music.

What kind of tools did you use to make the comic? Pens? Pencils? Paints?
Photoshop?

I use all photoshop with a tablet and very self consciously try to make
everything look as physical as possible. I am at the end of the animation
progress for an-elephant.com which has been really fun. I’ve been able to
transform pages to short promo videos as well. I’m in the beginning stages
of figuring out a  full music video with the artwork.

How difficult was it to see the whole project all the way through?
160 pages is a lot!

Honestly, making the music was more difficult that drawing the story. I put
a lot of pressure on myself to make classic albums that stand the test of
time so I have to have a gut feeling about every song in order to move on
to the next one. This took about a year just for songwriting. The recording
process took seven days because we mostly track guitars, drums and bass
live and came in to the studio well rehearsed.  Once we wrapped that, I
wrote a script out on square paint samples I stuffed in my pocket from
Lowe’s. Each square had a different description of what was happening on
that page and how many panels I think it should have. From there it was
just about the daily routine. Having already finished the music to what I
think is my best album yet really inspired me to finish the comic. I knew
it was coming out no matter what, so I may as well finish drawing!

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