Octopus Nebula emerges from the depths

P.J. Nutting | Boulder Weekly

It`s becoming pretty clear that the summer of 2010 will be the launching point of Octopus Nebula’s success. This is the year when hard work is converted directly into new studio albums, national tour dates and even chumming around with the big names at Colorado’s crucial electronic summer fest, Sonic Bloom.


“It feels really good,” drummer Dan Raasch says. “We’ve only been playing live since August or September, and to see this momentum start to rise up is a little overwhelming. When you start to think about it, it’s like, ‘Whoa, this is what we’ve been striving for,’ but it’s happening really quick, a lot quicker than we thought.”

Original member and guitarist Robin Bloch has held down the O-Neb name since 2003, but back then it was about improv jams a la Jerry Garcia and pick-up bar sessions. Bloch plucked each of O-Neb’s current members from Sancho’s Broken Arrow in Denver, which bassist Fleeb Thomas reflects was an appropriate birthplace for a band that mirrored Colorado’s then-fledgling interest in mixing jam music with electronica.

“They bring such a diverse crowd of people,” Thomas says of Sancho’s. “Someone who may not necessarily like the Grateful Dead will be chatting with someone who loves the Dead or Phish. The jam scene and the electronic scene in Colorado have really melted together — it was such a jam-band oriented place and it’s grown from that. Now you have anywhere from The Motet to Future Simple Project, all these guys who are great musicians and delved into this new digital technology as well.”

It was the latest addition of Raasch who “changed the situation” for Thomas. “Octupus Nebula always had a rock-oriented drummer,” Thomas says. “What we needed was Raasch, who is a beat-oriented drummer, and it allowed us to produce this music we all heard in our heads but were never able to portray live because we always had this rock-influenced rhythm behind us.”

The band has honed their neo-pagan tribal sound with more than a year of steady rehearsal. Incorporating things like filter-swept synth pads with intricate percussion and backward-looped samples in Chinese, they produce a sound kindred to the type of early-millennial work that brought Sound Tribe Sector 9 its initial fame. O-Neb’s music is simultaneously welcoming and unnerving, like a peyote trip with a friendly but wild medicine man.

“Our newer music is definitely staged in that psytrance warrior kind of tribal thing that’s going on,” says keyboardist John Safarik. “We’re embracing that right now, but we’re not limiting ourselves to that. It’s what’s going through us right now. Who’s to say what’s going to happen in the future. Times change and people change, but that’s what’s going on right now.” O-Neb’s present challenge is to bring it all together for their first studio album due this fall. The band already has a collection of live performances available for free on their website, but they decided a fluid studio album would best present their artistic vision. Often, artists who thrive on live performance have trouble creating a stable and captivating studio effort, but O-Neb isn’t worried the transition will result in something overproduced or under-inspired.

“I don’t think it’s going to be too difficult,” Raasch says. “We’re used to playing songs from start to finish and maybe switching it around a little bit, capturing that live essence, as opposed to a band that starts in the studio and has never really played for a crowd.”

The band was just picked up by In the Pocket Artists, a booking agency based out of Oregon who promotes Colorado acts Head for the Hills, Juno What?! and Mountain Standard Time. The new partnership has opened a string of appearances in the northwest in support of larger acts. “We’re not going to play 150 times a year anymore,” Bloch says. “We’re being more strategic.”

O-Neb’s show at the Fox will precede their appearance at this year’s Sonic Bloom festival, where they will perform with guitarist Mike Rempel of Lotus and possibly Dominic Lalli of The Motet and Big Gigantic.

“It’s finally the right time for us to be in this situation,” Thomas says. “That’s why Jamie Janover invited us. It took a little bit of persistence on our part, and he finally invited us up after we got some representation for ourselves. That was huge. I don’t think the time was right until now. We all want this to happen, we made this our 9-to-5 and put the intention in our heart and souls into this. That’s what’s going to help us take it to the next level.”

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On the Bill
Octopus Nebula
plays the Fox Theatre on Friday, May
14. Doors at 8:30 p.m. Mikey Thunder and Eminence Ensemble open.
Tickets are $10-$12. 1135 13th St., Boulder, 303-443-3399.