On the line is a guy called Coco The Electronic Monkey Wizard. He's calling from Astro Labs (first floor, cast wing), a research facility somewhere underneath Atlanta where he assembles bass, keyboard and sample parts for Man or Astro-Man?
That sets the general tone for a chat with this band. They don't talk the quest for recognition or how they fit into trends that so many other indie hopefuls drone on about. Instead, Man or Astro-Man? stick (almost) convincingly to the story that they're aliens from space. Making music is their way of blending in while they get their spaceship fixed.
The plot starts in earth year 1992 when Coco crashed their spaceship, "outside a small college town called Auburn. We could blend in quite easily compared to the strange mutations of lifeform elsewhere in Alabama. Graceland is relatively close and the hypersolids that they hold in its vaults had a very strong gravitational pull. If we'd crashed into Graceland it would have created more attention but we probably wouldn't be the free aliens that we are now."
Whilst in Alabama they pumped out mainly instrumental surf-punk, interspersed with cornball voice-overs. They sounded like the mutant grandchildren of Dick Dale and amassed a prodigious amount of recordings in that time. "Don't forget we can warp time, so we got an advantage over most bands," interjects Coco. Finding significant success in both the US and UK indie charts, they built a following of fellow sci-fi obsessives and people who liked a dollop of humour with their guitars.
They moved to Georgia just before the Olympics to "augment our mind-control systems directly on people from all over the world without having to travel. It was very nice." It also had a radical effect on the band's sound, with Coco informing that the working title for the new album Made From Technetium was actually The Earth Has Made Us Mean. "When we first crashed here we were happy-go-lucky space beings. The more contact we have with this planet is having an adverse affect on our optimistic outlook. Any darker tones you hear has to do with the fact that we can't get our spaceship fixed."
The new album features lots more vocals than before, though Man or Astro- Man? insist they always sang: it was just that the frequencies were sometimes too high for the human ear. The darkness draws comparisons to Sonic Youth with Coco claiming, "there are definitely cross-wave patterns that influence the two of those organisations."
What hasn't changed is the frivolity of their stage show. "We even bring along high-voltage devices so we don't appear in gaseous form".
Man or Astro-Man? (+Toenut) play the Garage, London N5 (0171-344 0044) 21 Nov. Then Leeds Duchess of York (0113-245 3929) 22 Nov and Glasgow King Tut's (0141-423 8822) 23 NovReuse content