When Austin’s The Octopus Project takes the stage, it’s more than a concert — an immersive and organized chaos ensues. Thickly layered instrumentals, colorful projections and a conscious commitment to putting on a show come across clear as day.
It’s frenetic, to be sure, but it’s also accessible in a way unique to this quartet. The band’s members — Josh and Yvonne Lambert, Toto Miranda and Ryan Figg — are multitalented and charming oddballs who are somehow approachable while being just a little out of this world.
But rest assured there’s a method to that madness. A tremendous amount of work goes into this revelry, and it’s evident everywhere — even in places often overlooked by other bands.
“It’s easier for us to connect with people at live shows, since we’re able to do the whole music/visuals/party experience,” Miranda said. “But we do work really hard on making the albums as engaging as possible, and a big part of that is the artwork and packaging.”
Merchandise offerings in recent memory include stuffed creatures, buttons and temporary tattoos — all produced by hand by the band members themselves. A 3-D View-Master stereoscope with an Octopus Project reel inside was available for pre-order with the band’s newest LP, Fever Forms, released July 9. True to form, the album is a spectacle in itself; the CD version has an extensive fold-out booklet, and the vinyl version is translucent gold.
Optional flair aside, Fever Forms offers something new for longtime fans: They’re singing now. While vocals have appeared here and there on previous recordings, they haven’t yet been featured as prominently as on several tracks on the new album.
“Adding vocals was definitely not a decision made before we started writing songs but rather came about more organically,” Josh Lambert said. “On this record, with a few of the songs, we got to a point where we didn’t feel like they were done, but didn’t really know where to take them. Adding vocals just seemed like the best decision.”
While pop songs tend to focus on vocal melodies — a niche often filled by Yvonne Lambert’s renowned theremin skill — tracks like “Whitby” and “Sharpteeth” have discernible lead vocals, though the band views the dynamic shift a little differently.
“I’m not sure that the tracks that have vocals are necessarily focused on them,” Miranda said. “I’m definitely more interested in using voices as part of the sound palette than pushing them way out front as the main element of a song. The vocals just feel like another plate we need to keep spinning onstage, along with all the other elements of the show.”
If one’s last experience with The Octopus Project was at the band’s headlining slot at the first Norman Music Festival way back in 2008, it’s your lucky week: The band — with all their metaphorical spinning plates in tow — makes a stop at Norman’s Opolis Wednesday, Sept. 11, along with Canadian indie rockers Paper Lions and local electro-crooner Colin Nance.