Some Things Conspiratorial, Some Things Cosmic: An Interview With Our November Muse Reptaliens
" I've been obsessed with aliens since as early as I can remember. I think a lot of people consider themes like death, aliens, cults, and conspiracies in passing and I have a hard time letting them go." says Bambi. Outer-space inspired production, obsessive lyrics and surreal visuals are core themes in Reptaliens' music. As someone who is equally mesmerized by all these concepts, I was very excited to ask them a few questions about their unique perspective.
The band was created by Bambi and Cole Browning, a -very cool- duo from Portland. The couple met while filming a music video for a mutual friend. They both knew that they were soulmates as soon as they saw each other. After dating for six months they married under a blanket of smoke from the season’s forest fires. Of course something interesting and passionate would come out of these two's vision.
There are a lot of bands who take inspiration from otherworldly concepts but Reptaliens manage to create something completely unique by blending groovy beats with minimal synths and top that off with thought-provoking lyrics. Each track has the same base sound but they change the structure of each songs completely to create a cohesively put together album. Songs are crafted in a lo-fi manner however this doesn't make them boring or simple. Each song proposes a dreamy sound that is constructed with funky effects and filters. There are some tender love songs as well as very creepy and voyeuristic ones like Nunya
"Come over to your window girl / I can see you through the bushes / Lens under your windowsill" This duality is what makes Reptaliens interesting a band. You never know what you'll get until you listen to their songs.
Listening to Reptaliens is like doing drugs without its downsides. Each sound is very accentuated and precise. You get to escape reality for a bit and immerse in the world that they've created and strengthened with incredible visuals. Their visuals compliment their music and gets the viewers truly immersed in their vision.
Cole Browning explains the music video Shuggie as following: "The video for 'Shuggie II' cycles through an alien’s understanding of various Earthly archetypes--each one portrayed by a different band member--culled from a collection of short stories. Together, the individual characters create a Village People-type vibe and it was fun to lean into that concept and see how everyone reacted to their assigned roles. Our dog, Hambone, kept running in front of the green screen and getting in the way of shots, so we decided the only option was to add him into the video. He's chillin' with the alien because dogs are aliens too."
First things first, I have to ask a question about the bands’ name and the ideology behind it. With the songs like “666bus, Simulation and Satan’s Song” it’s evident that themes like conspiracy theories and occultism play somewhat of a part behind your music. Are you actually into conspiracy theories or is it more like a “that could be fun” thing?
Bambi: I've been obsessed with aliens since as early as I can remember. I think a lot of people consider themes like death, aliens, cults, and conspiracies in passing and I have a hard time letting them go. I will read books or go deep into internet research to try and gather enough information to satisfy my curiosity. A lot of the lyricism for each song is based around my interest or obsessions at the time we are writing and recording and my lyrics and some of the song's production will reflect that. I definitely take it seriously :)
On Captured Tracks’ website, it says that Reptaliens are inspired by “cult mentality” What aspects/themes of cults do you think your music embodies?
Bambi: What interests me most about cults is the lengths people will go to when they believe in something. If someone is searching for meaning in their lives and becomes so desperate in that search, they seem to become blind to reality for the chance to feel connected with others in their pursuit. I can identify with that desperate pursuit with creating art and music and finding people to share it with.
Listening to your songs is like floating in a romanticized version of the world that you’ve created in your daydreams. The synths, the basslines and the groovy vocals really underline that aspect. How did you come up with that soft psychedelic sound that you have?
Bambi: I really like soft, gentle, and minimal synth lines with a lot of layers of melodies and rhythms and gravitate to that style naturally. I have a tendency to record in a maximal style, layering a thousand different instruments, rhythms, and melodies and after it's crowded with music, I'll begin to strip away tracks until there still exists a complex world of tracks that still have a lot of space and definition between them. I had an orchestra teacher that once told me that music exists even in the space between notes, and that really resonated with me.
How did Portland’s music scene inspire Reptaliens?
Cole: The Portland music scene is a big group of friends who all make different sounding music but who all play shows together and hang out. I think this had something to do with a lot of our experimentation with different genres and styles. We would get excited about some new sound and create a new Reptaliens song and eventually would end up with a collage of unique and different sounding songs on an album; especially on FM-2030.
I feel like visual representation besides the music itself is a big part of Reptaliens. When I watch your music videos I feel like I’m seeing a movie by Luis Buñuel. How do you come up with visual inspirations for your performances and music videos?
Cole: yes the visual component of Reptaliens is equally as a important as the music. We love projections at our live shows featuring anything from tripped out Simpson’s characters dancing to computer animated walkthroughs of grocery stores; the album art is all consistent and painted by one of our favorite artists Bekah Abraham. With music videos we just think of anything crazy we can do and make it happen. The entire “Shuggie II” video came about solely from a daydream I had of wanting to see Julian Kowalski (guitar) in a cowboy costume.
Taken from Captured Track's website
Perception, reality, presence and thoughts seems to be a recurring theme in your songs. Do you feel like writing songs and producing them are a good way of understanding what thoughts are occupying your head and the possible meanings behind it all? Your songs seem like a cathartic and imaginative outburst at times.
Bambi: it’s definitely a cathartic process. Those concepts occupy my mind quite a lot, especially relative to music, and it is a great outlet being able to conceptualize those ideas through music and lyrics. It’s also wonderful to discuss with fans and share ideas together on the fringe emotions behind these concepts. Music itself has such a contradicting way of being tangible and intangible simultaneously that it feels like such a natural outlet for them. Even a physical recording is a collection of passing and fleeting sounds that carry you and never stay still, and is itself, constantly passing.
From a musical and technical perspective it’s evident that you’ve established a specific Reptaliens sound. However, to me VALIS seems to be a bit more atmospheric. With Shuggie (I and II) and Baby Come Home, I really became a fan. There is a very specific dream-sound that you guys capture with your tracks. What did VALIS have that FM-2030 didn’t have?
Cole: I think with FM-2030 we were still writing songs and just recording what we had. They were a random group of tracks from a band that was still figuring out who they were. With VALIS, we were much more confident and knew what we wanted to do and had locked into a “Reptaliens” sound by the time it came to recording an album.
8The recording and the mixing sounds very peculiar. I can tell that each beat and loop has a vision and specifity behind it. It sounds very warm, dreamy and close yet far away. How does the producing process look like to compose these sounds?
Bambi: I have obnoxiously specific goals when producing our songs. It begins from the inception of the song itself. I’ll hear different sounds and have an idea of how to bring them to life with the gear we own, and if it fails to fully embody or convey what I hear in my head, I can’t let it go until I get the right sound and space in the recording. Often, many of these ideas don’t work when they come to fruition, but you gotta get them out either way.
How was touring with STRFKR? Their Ambient 1 album made me think of Reptaliens, both could be amazing soundtracks to 2001: A Space Odyssey if it was filmed today.
Cole: they are the best. Great live show, excellent recording artists, and sweetest boys. I look up to Josh as kind of a big brother for writing and recording and recommending gear and they really helped us out by taking us on two national tours when we were just a baby band that no one had heard of before.
Being in a relationship can blur the lines of private life and work life. How does being married effect your music life? Or does it effect it at all?
Cole: Reptaliens is an all engulfing part of our lives now haha. It’s always there in our conversations and our minds. It’s as much a part of our relationship as anything else and neither relationship nor band are separate from each other. I love it like that. We are always thinking of new ideas and fun things we can do together. We get way more done at a fast rate this way. It’s the best.
Where are you guys going to on your latest music video “Taking” ? It looks very Twin Peaks/Wayward Pines.
Bambi: We have been living on a farm in California for the past few months to escape the city and stay safe with a small group of friends during the pandemic. Unfortunately our safety was interrupted by the enormous amount of wildfires spreading across the state and we had to evacuate back up to our home in Portland. While driving home, more fires broke out along our evacuation route and while Cole was driving, I was filming from the passenger seat. The uninterrupted shot was filmed between Crescent City, CA and Grants Pass, OR. We were the only car driving the direction we were going and were afraid everybody else passing in the opposite direction knew something we didn’t. It was actually very terrifying. There is no cell service in the area.
Before you go, anything you want to say to Tonitruale readers?
Bambi: Keep exploring everything around you with love and intent! It’s so easy to navigate your experience based on your existing feelings and emotions, to the point that you can close yourself off to new ideas and concepts. Spread love and curiosity and see what you discover.