Heading up our live stream show on 25th February is nine piece art punk marching band Perhaps Contraption! We were originally planning to bring them to Sheffield in October 2020 to perform their wonderful show ‘Nearly Human’ at the Abbeydale Picture House, but then… y’know. Until real life gets its act together, we’re going to be enjoying some of their works online, with some of their incredible lockdown performances on the Buds & Spawn live stream show on Thurs 25th February. We had a chat with Christo Squier and Mickey Bones from the band to get the lowdown…
Let’s start with the basics – an ‘art-punk marching band’ is a pretty unusual concept for a live music act, how / when / why did Perhaps Contraption first come together?
Christo: Perhaps Contraption as a ‘thing’ has been going since 2004. But since 2011 it’s been this twisted, art-rock version of a marching band. Before that it was more of a guitar-driven project with 4-6 members.
The band was initially formed on an Access to Music course in Bristol in 2004. A group of individuals with a healthy interest in spiky prog and shouting were thrown together.
After many years gigging in avant-garde arts clubs, rock toilets, the London improv scene, and, wherever we were allowed really, I personally got very bored with the colours that guitar based music created (as well as being sick of lugging amps around). Around 2010 I began busking in London with my flute and some other jazz musicians, I really loved the freedom of being able to play acoustically and wherever we liked. That same summer I ventured to Burning Man and joined a huge marching band for the event. We paraded all over the place blasting out songs and making people boogie. I was so inspired by this feeling of freedom and mobility, that I vowed to morph Perhaps Contraption into a brass-fuelled endeavour and remove the crutch of the guitar for a while.
Luckily, through a combination of existing friendships, arts jobs posts and shout outs on Resonance 104.4FM, I found a group of amazing brass and woodwind musicians who wanted to try out this idea.
We all connected and hit the UK festival scene in 2011 and have been parading and parping ever since.
There’s quite a few of you in the band – who have you got and which instruments do they play?
There are currently 9 members –
Catherine Ring – Percussion, Voice
Christo Squier – Flute, Tenor Sax, Guitar, voice
Iain McDonald – Sousaphone, Voice
Jin Theriault – Soprano Sax, Voice
Letty Stott – French Horn, Voice
Mickey Bones – Trombone, Voice
Riccardo Castellani – Drums
Stephanie Legg – Tenor Sax, Voice
Yusuf Narcin – Bass Trombone, Voice
What track / video / other piece of content do you think gives the best introduction to Perhaps Contraption and your music?
Christo: I think this promo film for our last album Mud Belief shows our approach to performance really well and the journey of the band so far. It’s a compilation of festival adventures from 2015/16.
If being an art-punk marching band doesn’t set you apart, then developing a piece of gig theatre about our place in cosmos (‘Nearly Human’) and taking it to Edinburgh Festival certainly does! What inspired you to create it?
Christo: I’ve been doing chunks of theatre work since about 2008, I’ve always had a bubbling desire to build something for theatrical venues, as I think the band’s approach to performance lends itself really well to the medium.
This combined with a long standing fascination with science that began when I went to art college and got really into Carl Sagan after reading ‘The Demon Haunted World’.
Putting the two passions together, we wanted to make something that would give people a sense of wonder and appreciation for their existence, as viewed through a cosmic lens.
In 2017 we pitched the nascent idea for the show to Snape Maltings, as part of their 2 year artist residency ‘open space’. Thankfully, we were accepted and began developing compositions in earnest on their beautiful creative campus in Suffolk.
In early 2019 we performed a 10 minute sketch of the show for the Les Enfants Terribles award. To our amazement we won, and this catapulted us into the Pleasance Theatre at Edinburgh Fringe. It was an incredible experience, but definitely the toughest thing we’ve ever done!
Perhaps Contraption have played at festivals and venues all over Europe, which experiences have you enjoyed the most? Any places that you particularly hope to return to once the gods of pandemic and Brexit have been put back in their boxes?
Christo: Glastonbury! I’ve been going there since I was 15, it never ceases to amaze me what an incredible event it is. We normally have to work really hard when we are there, (we usually do 8-10 shows in 3 days!) but there are some special late night venues that have become tradition for us to perform, it’s always so memorable and the crowds are extraordinarily silly and passionate. CS
Mickey: The ‘in town’ festivals we’ve played across Europe have been what I have been missing most. As much as I enjoy a muddy festival, I find it odd that there aren’t more street festivals in the UK. Dole in France (Cirque et Fanfares), Bern in Switzerland (Busker’s Bern), Pennabilli in Italy (Artistii in Piazzi) and Amorebieta in Spain (Haizetara) all hold very fond memories, but almost every time we’ve headed to the ‘mainland’ has been wonderful.
If you had to pick the artist / band that is mostly highly rated by all members of the band, who would it be?
Christo: Oh that’s really tricky as there are 9 of us!
Mickey: Has to be The Display Team 😉 Yes, a bit difficult with 9 of us, but there are bands that we have played with that have certainly impressed and inspired us. Strobes, Captain Stambolov and L’espérance de St-Coin were all terrific.
Christo: I second L’espérance de St-Coin – they’re this obscure French ensemble with not many videos online, but give their album ‘Auguste Fantasy’ a listen, it’s phenomenal.
Any recent musical discoveries or new obsessions that you’re evangelical about?
Mickey: In terms of ‘newer’ music, Rubblebucket’s back catalogue is a pleasant musical journey. Mk.Gee and Ava Luna (try the track Roses and Cherries) are also great for a spin.
Christo: I’m still addicted to Sleepytime Gorilla Museum after many many years (the Donkey headed adversary of humanity opens the discussion is a great introduction to that band).
More recently I’m listening to lots of Piniol (try the track Shô Shin), and have recently discovered Richard Reed Parry (for heart breath and orchestra is incredible).
It’s been a very testing year for all of us, but there have been some wonderful shoots of outstanding creativity. Which lockdown performances have really impressed you?
Mickey: I have found ‘distanced’ music performances hard to get into. I think comedy and spoken word translated a little better. Daniel Kitson and Tim Key’s online shows were both excellent, but I’m just waiting for real-life.
Christo: Similar to Mickey, I’ve found it tricky to let go, but I did really enjoy Brian Cox and the BBC SO at the Barbican, obviously because it featured loads of science and music!
Finally, though we all know we’re not out of the woods yet, what are Perhaps Contraption’s best hopes for the year ahead?
Christo: We’re on track to release the album version of our theatre show Nearly Human, that should be ready by Autumn all being well. We also have another EP’s worth of material semi-recorded, we would love to get that out this year too!
Aside from that, we’re working on a new live, socially distanced performance that will incorporate multi-sensory ideas and loads of choreography. We’re currently beavering away on new ideas for that and hope to present the first incarnation in the Netherlands in September…