God. Life. Hope. Despair. Atonement. Space.
These are some of the many transcendent influences Huntington electro-rock band Attack Flamingo lists on their MySpace page. But like so many great bands, you don’t need to read too much into what they’re trying to get across; it’s all in their music.
After hearing their debut CD No Star Could Be As Large, we picked up on what these five guys were trying to get across. Not just rocking out in the vein of bands like Radiohead or Muse, but, lyrically, trying to get at something deeper, in a spiritual sense, isn’t surprising considering the band pretty much came together through a Christian ministry at Marshall University.
The band has been staying busy recently; working on their sophomore effort, recording in frontman Sean Knisely’s home studio and floating a few test balloons in the form of potential new band names.
A few of the band members clued us into how the new CD is coming along, how the band came together, and exactly what’s in a band name.
“I get obsessive about music sometimes,” Knisely admitted, “so having control over our own stuff suits us well. If we recorded somewhere else, I’d end up with a huge list of things I would want to change but it would be too late or really expensive…We can experiment all we want. That in itself is a lot of fun, in fact, in its own way the recording process might be just as much fun as playing live.”
“We are extremely excited about the new album,” synth guy Joseph Spurgeon said. “We have been recording and writing pretty heavy. For us the recording process and writing process go hand in hand.”
The band, with a half dozen or so new originals down, plans to release something approaching a full-length before the end of the year.
Sam Hodge, a producer, programmer, and former center snare in MU’s drumline who goes by the moniker Sir-Boy, said recording at Knisely’s home studio isn’t just convenient, but cost effective.
“Financially, recording at Sean’s is a huge plus,” Hodge said, adding that if the band ever got around to actually needing to record live drums they may have to look around but “…because we do have a heavy electronic influence in our music, electronic drums are often used in much of the album work.”
Spurgeon seconded that, noting the creativity that ensues.
“We’re able to experiment and try things that you just don’t have the time or budget for in a studio you have to book.”
“Sean is definitely great at putting tracks together,” Hodge added, pointing out the band’s songwriting chemistry. “Each of us in the band has a different ear and it really helps when we’re trying to tweak the overall sound.”
Tweaking is something you may have heard the band do with some of their songs online, as Hodge remixed a few songs off the debut CD. For a rock band with heavy electronic tendencies, Hodge is a true asset to the team.
“He just gets it, it’s in his bones,” Knisely said of Hodge. “And he really holds us together, running the electronic backing tracks live from his computer and playing drums just explosively…He has an ideal understanding of both the rock and electronic elements of what we’re trying to do, and he has a great feel for balancing the two.”
Spurgeon said Attack Flamingo formed organically out of the member’s ministry work at Marshall.
“Phil (Smith), Marty (Brown), Sean and myself actually met through a ministry at Marshall University called Revolution. We all were leaders in that group and actually played in the worship band there.” Knisely, who had jammed with fellow guitarist Brown for a long time, knew Hodge from their high school days at Cabell Midland.
Regardless of what name they may take, Attack Flamingo wouldn’t have been if not for that elevator to space.
“Attack Flamingo first started as goofy electronic Nintendo-sounding stuff Sean worked on on his computer,” Spurgeon said. “But then we came across a news article about a scientist trying to build an elevator to space.” That article, about a very real (theoretical) project, led to AF’s rockin’ song “The Earth Grows Small Below” on No Star Could Be As Large.
Okay, so why change the band’s name? Spurgeon gave us something approaching a scoop on that.
“So the name was chosen for a goofy video game-like sound. The reason we want to change the name is purely so we can have something that represents our sound. We take our music serious and want a name that is just a little better. The problem in changing a name in a band with five people is that it is hard to agree on anything. We’ve been close several times but just haven’t nailed down the name.”
Spurgeon told us what the new name will not be. Awesome.
“Some close runner-ups have been Cloud City Control and The Ancient Future, but neither are it. What usually happens is we starting kicking around names and before long it breaks down into some of the goofiest and funniest names. I’m partial to Nickel Blimp -- just kidding! But yeah, finding a name is so hard.”
“We don’t have any top contenders,” Knisely added, “because the moment two of us agree that we like a name, invariably the next person will say they hate it. One time we had three people (Marty, Joey and I) briefly agree on Cloud City Control, which I still like, but then Sam and Phil hated it, and Joey quickly changed his mind and decided he hated it too.”
“We’ll find one, it just takes time. We need something that is more representative of what we sound like. Attack Flamingo is a fun name, but it can’t be taken seriously at all, and as a first impression I think it’s pretty deceptive as far as implying what we’ll actually sound like. I’m not saying we need a name that’s 100% serious, just something in the middle that fits our sound better.”
One thing that isn’t hard for these guys is making awesome music, whatever they call themselves.
“Actually the new CD will be a lot different then the first album,” Spurgeon said. “I mean it will still be us but I would say this is going to be much better…this CD will be more accessible. It’s at times more electronic and at times acoustic. In fact, so far there is not a song without the acoustic guitar on it. The album should keep our epic sound but also add even some psychedelic elements.”
“I would like to think that the new stuff will be a bit more rockin’,” Knisely said. ““No Parachute” is another new one that’s almost completely electronic, so that’s a bit of a change, but there will be other songs that are more earthy than usual as well; a couple of acoustic guitar-based songs, for example.”
“This album is not a concept album per se,” Spurgeon added. “It’s not a space theme or story. It does, however have the concept of despair and hope, but each song can stand on its own.”
“One of the songs is called “Nothing” and it’s a feeling we all have experienced in life. The feeling of just being worthless and nothing. If the first album was a search for purpose, this album is a search for hope. We just hope that our music might spark someone to begin their own search.”
Hodge summed up the subtle religious metaphors that permeate AF’s lyrics.
“I would say God is probably responsible for the band being what it is. I can’t speak for the lyrics because that is Sean’s unbelievable talent; he writes songs that have profound meaning but don’t necessarily have to be about God, but can be applied to any person with the mind to interpret them.”
“I think when you’re writing songs, whatever your hope is in is going to show through,” Knisely said. “I want to be genuine and honest in songwriting, and I want to say something significant. However, I don’t want to turn people off by saying ‘Watch out, this is Christian music here; are you sure you still want to listen to it?’”
“That doesn’t mean hiding what I believe, but it does mean thinking hard about how to present it in a fresh, attractive and creative way. I want it to be enjoyable for anyone to listen to, but I also want to make an impact on anyone who really analyzes the lyrics. I want it to be extremely real.”
Regardless of what they call themselves, Knisely said they have their priorities in order and know what they want to do.
“The next steps are to get this CD finished, play way more shows, and see what happens.”