Ever wonder what kind of music aliens would play if they made a pit stop on Earth? Maybe dubstep? Droning metal machine music? Lady Gaga covers?
Turns out, they'd probably be into a mix of surf rock and punk, as Alabama's Man or Astro-Man? demonstrate. Claiming to be extraterrestrials that took the form of college students, MOAM? mind-meld Dick Dale with Kraftwerk with a little Devo thrown in for good measure.
During the '90s, MOAM? was one prolific rock group. Between 1993 and 2001, they released eight LPs, two EPs, and a huge stack of 7-inch singles. Their latest album, Defcon 5...4...3...2...1, broke a nearly decade-long hiatus, hopefully hinting at another seemingly endless supply of bizarro albums.
MOAM? also tends to tour nonstop, which, as you can imagine, might give you interstellar culture shock (or least a very bad case of solar jet lag). But when we spoke to drummer Birdstuff (sometimes known by his adopted Earth name, Brian Teasley), he was quick to explain that MOAM? is used to these voyages by now.
MOAM?'s live shows are notoriously wild, heavily dosed with "retro-futurism," including obscure gear like theremins, Tesla coils, and even vintage dot-matrix printers. But MOAM? is just as keen on modern technology, as proved by the band's infamous cloning period. In 1998, too lazy to go on tour, the band "cloned" itself twice, once as an all-male group, a second time as an all-female ensemble. But where are these replicas now?
"It's like kids. You think they're gonna turn out a certain way, then they start getting into the rebellious teenage years . . . except it's a relationship where we had to kill our children. Which I think a lot of parents want to do," Birdstuff says, adding that the clones were programmed with planned obsolescence, a finite lifespan, á la Blade Runner. Because the clones weren't "human," it wasn't illegal for MOAM? to Xerox itself (sheep are freebies, however), but the band avoided the whole meta-spiritual question of clone-murdering ethics by not giving them souls.
"It was a little more expensive [to give them souls], kind of like manual windows versus power windows," Birdstuff says. "We're kind of on a budget."
Birdstuff explained his band's obsession with obsolete human technology correlates to reaching the Singularity, that hypothetical point when computers finally become smarter than people. MOAM? prefers to look back on a time when people were thinking of a future decades or centuries away, rather than three months in the "boring future we actually have now."
"One of our many mottos was 'Bringing you yesterday's technology tomorrow,'" Birdstuff says. "Everything moves so fast now. You see that also in how we, not to get too political, use our resources. You can tell no one's thinking past 2016, of how this planet is going to continue on."
But that isn't to say MOAM? is pessimistic about the future. Naturally, having the ability to streak across the space-time continuum at will makes one less concerned about global warming, World War III, and the Rapture. But, Birdstuff says, it looks pretty gloomy for us stuck in this timeline, begging the question, "How many times are you guys gonna dodge asteroids? [It's like] a baboon playing pinball, he's gonna hit the bonus round at some point, right?"
Yes, always those little crashing reminders that Earth is just a speck easily wiped out by a bigger speck. Speaking of baboons, Birdstuff predicts the Singularity will really occur when the supercomputer Deep Blue loses to an ape in chess. The question is, will it be able to compete with Watson on Jeopardy?
Man or Astro-Man? is scheduled to perform Monday, July 21 at Crescent Ballroom.
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