The latest record by offbeat math rockers Giraffes Giraffes, called Memory Lame, is cut into 37 chapters, most with mind-bogglingly long titles that might seem like non-sequiturs. But in fact, they tell a story—one that begins right here in Santa Cruz.
The title of chapter 2 is “Free Concert at the Boardwalk and Eddie Money Rips Into ‘I Wanna Go Back’” which, for guitarist/vocalist Joe Andreoli, is an iconic Santa Cruz image.
“Eddie Money is playing in Santa Cruz. Every year he’s there. That’s just what happens,” Andreoli says. “That starts off this sort of stream of events that the person has.”
It shouldn’t be a surprise that Giraffes Giraffes would set their story in Santa Cruz; the band basically started here. Originally from the East Coast, the duo (Andreoli and drummer Kenneth Topham) relocated to Santa Cruz a little over a decade ago, after a friend told them how well their music would work here. The two had started jamming while still living on the East Coast. Andreoli previously played in a post-rock band; drummer Ke Topham, a spazzy psych-rock group. Together they started spitting out math rock, but with a fun, almost silly edge.
In Santa Cruz, they blossomed into a real band, and were almost immediately embraced by the scene here. They’ve since moved back to the East Coast, but the group recorded its first two records here, and still have fond memories of their early years in Santa Cruz.
“I often wonder if we had stayed in New England, if we would have really gotten the same amount of traction or interest,” Andreoli says.
The fact that Memory Lame starts at the Santa Cruz beach near the Boardwalk is just a setup. With some reluctance, Andreoli explains to me the premise of the record, which features a man in Santa Cruz falling and hitting his head on the ground. He has a rush of memories—some his, some other people’s. They continue as he drifts off into the unknown.
“I wanted it to almost feel like a book or even a classical movement, something with a lot of different sections that are like these memories, these different things that either happen to me or to Ken or the people that we know, or sort of like universal memories or scenes that a lot of people can identify,” Andreoli says.
This is all mostly instrumental music, so there’s no literal narrative. The songs jump around, often times in little spasms that last less than a minute. Some came to be by the band musically interpreting some element of the song title. For instance, one chapter called “Martian Tears” refers to a time when Andreoli was a kid and he and a friend used to burn sheets of plastic just to watch it melt. They called it “Martian tears,” and it made a weird whipping sound. So he tried to make his guitar mimic that sound from his memory.
Overall, the record is somewhat less aggressive-sounding than their past work, something Andreoli attributes to being essentially the first album they’ve done that was recorded in a studio. It’s also the first time they’ve worked with an actual label, Top Shelf.
“Our whole career, we’ve been independent. We just did everything. We like having total control over every aspect of our band,” Andreoli says. “There was some curiosity. What’s it like on the other side? There’s pros and cons, but it’s been a total net gain working with Top Shelf.”
Despite the math rock tag, the band tends to not play in an overly technical manner, or in a way that’s stiff or serious. There’s always this sort of goofiness to the way they assemble songs, which ends up impacting everything they do in the context of the band.
“We just want to have fun. That’s the only motivation for us to be doing any of this. It’s to be enjoying ourselves and enjoying seeing other people. When we play, we face each other, because it’s like this thing that we’re doing together,” Andreoli says.
Giraffes Giraffes plays at 9 p.m. on Friday, Aug. 10, at the Crepe Place, 1134 Soquel Ave., Santa Cruz. $10/adv, $12/door. 429-6994.