bill bodkin interviews Reptar, the Georgia-based synth-pop/indie-rock hybrid, who’ll perform at The Governors Ball on Saturday, June 18 and Maxwell’s in Hoboken, N.J., on Tuesday, June 21 …
Just a few months ago the Athens, Ga.-based group Reptar was performing at house parties. Now in the summer of 2011, this synth-pop group will be performing not only at the first annual Governors Ball Music Festival in New York but Lollapalooza in Chicago as well.
Pop-Break’s Bill Bodkin spoke with Graham Ulicny the guitarist and vocalist for Reptar about music in Georgia, The Governors Ball, touring and dinosaurs …
Pop-Break: When did Reptar form and how did you guys come together as a band?
Graham Ulincy: We started playing together two years ago in Athens. Me, William [Kennedy, keyboardist], Ryan [Engelberger, bassist] — we all knew each other well growing up. Then we went to different schools and moved to different places [but] we knew wanted to start a band. William our drummer Andrew [McFarland] in college at UGA [University of Georgia] and we moved in together to this shitty little house together in Athens. We started the band, we started playing, writing songs, had our first show and played probably twice a week that summer. We played shows all the time, because in Athens it’s really easy [to perform often] since there’s no one around in the summertime.
PB: I’ve heard a lot about the music scene in Athens. Obviously, it’s known for R.E.M. and IRS Records, but I hear it’s very much akin to a city like Austin, Texas, in terms of how artist friendly it is. How does being a band in Athens help you grow as an artist?
GU: I will say being a band in Athens, you have a lot more opportunities. There’s an incredible live scene here, which we were really into, so that’s why we formed our band. We’d play shows at our house all the time, which we had to stop because the cops would come to all our shows and then our keyboardist got arrested. There’s so many more bands here than any other place I’ve been. It’s such a small city that you know all the bands, there’s a sense of community. It’s awesome.
PB: When I looked your band up online, the first thing that popped up would be pictures of a dinosaur named Reptar that was a character in the show Rugrats. Is that were you got the inspiration for the band’s name?
GU: In a way, yeah. Our keyboardist, William, his bike’s name is Reptar. He would ride around on his bike to all the parties and it was kind of a thing within our group of friends. He’d just ride around on Reptar — it became a mythical thing between friends. It was the perfect vibe for our music, riding around to parties, being crazy and having fun and hanging out with your friends.
PB: The sound of your band is very unique, but it’s a sound that seems to catching on this electronic vibe that’s becoming popular in indie and mainstream music. How did you decide the sound for the band?
GU: I don’t know if we ever really did decide. Our keyboardist has gotten all of us into synthesizer; he’s really into electronic music and he’s very knowledgeable. Through that it’s been the sound [we’ve gotten into] … we’ve really gotten into samples, using sound samples [in our songs]. I think the electronic part came out of our collective interest in that kind of music, now we approach [songs] from an open ended stance. We can do the songs with synth and without, and they’ll still be good.
PB: You stated that the name Reptar evokes a spirit of fun and going to parties. But deep down, what is the heart and soul of this band? What are you guys really about?
GU: Right when you asked me that, I’m sitting out on our porch, it’s a beautiful summer day and it feels wonderful outside. And right when you asked me that, it started pouring. And it’s still pouring down rain outside and it feels absolutely incredible, rain drops falling on my head, cooling me off, making me feel totally centered. And I would say that is the heart and soul of our band, just feeling really great and being happy but at the same time being aware, having fun and getting rained on.
PB: You mentioned that a few months ago you were still doing house parties, playing local. How were you approached for Governors Ball and Lollapalooza? You guys are still pretty young — not that you don’t deserve to be on festivals of this magnitude, but it seems you were plucked out a local scene to perform these huge shows. How are you processing all this?
GU: It’s been a weird dichotomy because three days ago we were playing in my backyard in Savannah, Ga., with 30 people there. That’s what we love doing, those shows are special to us. Granted we haven’t played many big shows but it’s a different vibe [performing at festivals]. It’s a different genre of performance — doing in front of tons of people and a tiny crowd. If you can get it to where the experience is the same and there’s the same level of connection [with the audience] that’s just the most incredible feeling for someone performing music. We’re just grateful to have the opportunity to play in front of so many people. [Playing] something we started in our little house, our living room, between friends and now it’s being shared with so many people, it’s really exciting.
PB: Who are you excited to see perform at The Governors Ball?
GU: [without hesitation] Big Boi. I already had it planned out. I don’t know if we get to go backstage because we’re performing but I am going to try and finagle my way back there and meet him. Outkast is an incredibly important part of my musical upbringing. i’m really, really excited to see him. We grew up in Atlanta, all of us. I remember listening to Outkast on the radio, that was all i listened to in middle school.
PB: Finally, for those who’ve never seen you perform, what can they expect?
GU: It’s going to be really interesting [because] we have a lot of energy and good vibes. We give it 100 percent we play really hard and we like to dance a lot. Dancing and fun and good vibes, hopefully. And live drums! I don’t know how many other bands at the Governors Ball that are going to have them, there’s a lot of DJs playing; a lot of awesome hip-hop groups. There’s a lot of electronic music there and I think we straddle that sound. We have a lot of electronic elements in our sound but we’re definitely a live band experience.
Reptar will perform at the Big Apple Stage from 12:50-1:25 p.m. at The Governors Ball Music Festival. Pop-Break will be live on the scene with photos from their set.