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Performance art, art rock, experimental rock, heavy metal -- all are styles of music that have been used to explain one of the more hard to explain bands in all of rock, Sleepytime Gorilla Museum. Some critics have compared the band -- which hails from Oakland, California -- to one of the quirkiest bands of all time, Mr. Bungle, and they may have a point (after all, like Bungle, SGM are not opposed to any musical style, and one of their albums was originally released by a label run by an ex-Bungle member, Trey Spruance). Strange costumes, makeup, and instruments that are both traditional and homemade turn out to be some of the key ingredients to Sleepytime Gorilla Museum, who have built a sizable cult following along the way. Comprised of members -- deep breath now -- Matthias Bossi (drums, glockenspiel, xylophone, vocals), Nils Frykdahl (guitar, flute, vocals), Carla Kihlstedt (violin, percussion guitar, autoharp, organ, vocals), Michael Mellender (percussion, assorted melodic instruments, vocals), and Dan Rathbun (bass, piano log, trombone, lute, vocals), SGM originally formed in 1999. Along the way, the group has released several long-players, including 2001's Grand Opening and Closing, 2003's Live, and 2004's Of Natural History. In 2006, the group signed with the End label, which promptly reissued Grand Opening and Closing with additional bonus tracks, and a year later, the group's fourth studio effort overall, 2007's In Glorious Times. Additionally, most of the Sleepytime Gorilla Museum members have also be spotted in other bands past and present -- some of the more interestingly titled ones being Faun Fables, Idiot Flesh, Mute Socialite, Tin Hat, and 2 Foot Yard, among others.
Sleepytime Gorilla Museum (often abbreviated to SGM) is an American experimental rock band, formed in 1999 in Oakland, California. The band fuses classical, industrial, and art-rock themes throughout their music. They are known to perform elaborate routines on stage and discuss possibly fictitious stories of dada artists and mathematicians.Rivadavia, Eduardo. "Sleepytime Gorilla Museum > Biography". Allmusic. Macrovision. Retrieved 2009-02-20.
After the disbanding of Idiot Flesh, Dan Rathbun and Nils Frykdahl joined with Charming Hostess member Carla Kihlstedt (of which Rathbun and Frykdahl were also members) to form Sleepytime Gorilla Museum with Moe! Staiano and David Shamrock. Their first performance, on June 22, 1999, was to a single banana slug (Ariolimax dolichophallus). The following night's performance was their first to a human audience.
Some time during the recording of Grand Opening and Closing (2001), drummer David Shamrock left the band and was replaced with Frank Grau. Grau also co-released the album, instigated their first tour and managed the band.
During the recording of the follow-up, Of Natural History (2004), Grau left the band and was replaced with a new drummer, Matthias Bossi, formerly of Skeleton Key. The Of Natural History tour saw Moe! Staiano's exit, and new multi-instrumentalist Michael Iago Mellender's entrance. In January 2006 Sleepytime Gorilla Museum signed to The End Records who re-released their début Grand Opening and Closing with three bonus tracks.
Soon after, an announcement was made that a new album was in the works and had a tentative date of March 2007. During early 2007, the title and track list for their third studio album, In Glorious Times was announced with the release date set for May 29, 2007. Prior to the release, an mp3 and music video of "Helpless Corpses Enactment" were made available online.
In February 2011, the band announced that they would play three final shows in California. It was also their intention to release a final album, a short film, and a live DVD.
In 2013, Matthias Bossi and Mike Patton, Scott Amendola and William Winant performed a live score for the 1924 silent film Waxworks, with the performance said to be filmed.
Nils Frykdahl, Dan Rathbun, Michael Iago Mellender, and David Shamrock, along with Drew Wheeler, formed a new band called Free Salamander Exhibit in 2013.
In a July 2014 press release for Rabbit Rabbit Radio, Carla Kihlstedt announced that a new track featuring almost all members of Sleepytime Gorilla Museum, including Michael Mellender who "penned the architecture of this one," will be released in August 2014. The track, titled "The Perfect Abomination" was released on YouTube on July 31, 2014 and featured Kihlstedt and Bossi (of Rabbit Rabbit Radio, to whom the song is credited) with Michael Mellender and Dan Rathbun performing guitar and bass, respectively.Sleepytime Gorilla Museum The Future Imperfect announcement on Facebook, February 14, 2011. Waxworks with Mike Patton, Scott Amendola, Matthias Bossi and William Winant. sffs.com. Retrieved March 29, 2013 Loyal followers of the Museum, the following will stop your bloody and beating heart. Mike Patton, Matthias Bossi, Scott Amendola, and William Winant will perform a live score to the 1924 film "Waxworks" on May 7th at the Castro Theatre in San Francisco. Sleepytime Gorilla Museum on Facebook. Posted March 9, 2013. Retrieved March 29, 2013. https://www.facebook.com/FreeSalamanderExhibit Kihlstedt, Carla (30 July 2014). "Back East from Out West" (Press release). Retrieved 2014-07-30. Rabbit Rabbit Radio - The Perfect Abomination - feat. Michael Mellender & Dan Rathbun on YouTube
According to their extensive liner notes for Grand Opening and Closing, their official history and repeated in interviews, the name "Sleepytime Gorilla Museum" comes from a small group of Dadaists, Futurists, and artists named the Sleepytime Gorilla Press who owned and operated what they called a "museum of the future" which was "anti-artifact, non-historical and closed."
The "museum" opened on June 22, 1916 (the same date as the bands' first concert, 83 years later). The exhibit was a fire which caused wide chaos and confusion. The following day the museum was closed (hence the name of the first album). The name itself apparently comes from a poem called "Of the Future Hides the Past," written by Museum members Lala Rolo and Ikk Ygg.
The only source of information on the internet regarding the Sleepytime Gorilla Press, Lala Rolo, and Ikk Ygg arises from the band's interviews.Album notes for Grand Opening And Closing, CD 2001. The End Records.
Their live performances have featured puppet shows, pseudo-scientific scholarly presentations, and performances by members of the Butoh group inkBoat.
The band uses many homemade devices as instruments, such as the Viking Rowboat. Dan Rathbun — who has created most of the band's idiosyncratic instruments — plays, among other custom-made instruments (though he uses a common bass guitar most of the time), a custom-stringed bass instrument referred to as the Sledgehammer Dulcimer (or, alternately, the Slide Piano Log), which uses piano strings and is possibly more than 7 feet long; it is played with two sticks: one in the left hand generally used as a fret, and another in the right hand to strike the strings.
Percussionist Michael Iago Mellender's instruments consist of restaurant kitchen equipment, trash can lids, and other "found" metal objects, in addition to traditional percussion instruments. One of the more infamous instruments used by the band was Moe! Staiano's Popping Turtle (now residing in Brooklyn, NY). It can be heard about 1:21 into the song "Sleep is Wrong".
SGM's music can be likened to experimental rock or avant-garde metal; however, as inherent to the music, the band attempts to escape any categorization. Some influences include Henry Cow, Swans, Einstürzende Neubauten, King Crimson, Mayhem, Bauhaus, The Art Bears, Igor Stravinsky, Thinking Plague, and Univers Zéro. In a review for SGM's second album Of Natural History, David Moore of Pitchfork Media states that SGM's debut album Grand Opening and Closing was an amalgam of Meshuggah and Secret Chiefs 3, resulting in "some truly cracked prog-metal anthems."Cite error: The named reference SGM was invoked but never defined (see the help page). Moe! Staiano - title "Grand Opening and Closing". Ground and Sky. Archived from the original on 2012-11-10. Retrieved 2014-08-25. Of Natural History | Pitchfork
Tony Levin, known for his work with progressive rock pioneers King Crimson and also with Peter Gabriel, stated that he is a "huge fan of" Sleepytime Gorilla Museum and chose the track "Sleep is Wrong", which he calls "very, very powerful" as one of the pieces which most influenced his current project, Stick Men. Levin also credited Sleepytime Gorilla Museum as doing "things that we never dreamed of doing in Crimson or in any band that I've been in," specifically their "radical" and "organic" shifts in tempo.Tony Levin: Piece 2: Sleepytime Gorilla Museum's Sleep is Wrong on YouTube
Some of the instruments are custom instruments built by the band.