Fishboy at Dallas Observer

How’s this for an album release party? A band records a concept album about an elephant that was killed by Thomas Edison, and releases an accompanying “wordless graphic novel” that helps fill out the poor creature’s story. The band then decides to celebrate the release not at, you know, a concert venue, but inside of a bookstore. Certain scenes will be acted out from the story. And there will be costumes involved.

The first thing you’d probably say would be, “It must be happening in Denton.” And you would be right. More specifically, it’s happening at Recycled Books and Records this Sunday, and the band behind it all is Fishboy. It may just be the funnest thing happening in North Texas all weekend.

Fishboy is the brainchild of Denton musician Eric Michener. It started simply enough — i.e. as a rock band — back in 2003, but over the years Michener (a videographer by trade) has gradually morphed the band together with his love for visual art. In recent years that’s meant increasingly incorporating elaborate artwork into Fishboy’s aesthetic: intricate vinyl inserts, self-published tour diaries, conceptual 7-inch comics. Anything is fair game.

“Comics were something I had always wanted to be a part of,” Michener explains. “So I used the band’s small but dedicated fan base as a testing ground for self publishing my own stuff. We still sell more records than comics but hopefully one day my talents will be somewhat equalized and I’ll have an audience for both.”

In the case of An Elephant — which tells the story of Topsy, an elephant that was publicly electrocuted by Thomas Edison in 1903, and her attempts to “avenge her death and pass into the afterlife” — that means a 13-song LP accompanied by a 160-page comic. (Check out both at “‘Wordless graphic novel’ is a fancy way for saying a comic book with only pictures,” Michener says of the format. The reasons for the lack of text, he says, are twofold: One, Topsy (being an elephant) can’t speak, and two, he wanted to honor the silent movies that Edison helped pioneer.

All in all, some pretty high-concept stuff.

But it should all be a hell of a lot of fun to see done live and in-person, too. Songs will be performed on a host of acoustic instruments, including brass, woodwinds and “a xylophone with two broken keys.” Michener will also be walking the audience through the story. In Pied Piper fashion, he says, “[I may] possibly guide them to different locations in the maze-like store depending on how tolerant everyone is.”

An Elephant actually already had a release party, but Sunday’s show is for the vinyl edition. At the first release party, Michener says that many of the characters’ handmade costumes were destroyed or given away, but that there should be new ones this weekend. If all goes to plan, things should wind up getting a little carried away. (See photos below.) Either way, it should all be a blast.

Click through for photos!