Treasure Mammal Celebrates a Decade of Loosening Inhibitions
"You can't 3D-print Obamacare; it's too beautiful."
This is one of the things you could overhear at a Treasure Mammal practice. It's what they're talking about at the moment, but the subject may shift to the "rap-rock vortex," Juggalos, Bud Lite Lime, or bro culture. It's part of the consciousness of the band -- a fixation upon forces that make society generic, absurd, and tasteless -- that somehow is intermeshed with a narrative of positivity and self-improvement. If you've heard any record by the band, it's to be expected.
The obsession with 3D printing is ridiculous but relevant. In the same way you can't 3D-print Obamacare, you can't 3D-print Treasure Mammal. The band's bizarre legacy in the Phoenix music scene just can't be duplicated.
The group, composed of Abe Gil and whoever seems to gravitate around him creatively (the current lineup includes, but is not limited to Gil, Jeff Wright, "Jeff Wrong," Claire Slattery, Ryan Stephenson, and Dave Driscoll), celebrates its 10th year of channeling spirits, igniting bromances, and alienating a few people this year.
The band basically started in 2003 when Gil decided he was burned out on the morose indie rock band he was playing in at the time, Clementine, and decided to do something more constructive.
"I was still going to ASU at the time, and we had a practice one day, and I just thought, 'School sucks. I am singing these songs that make me feel worse. My job sucks. All of this shit sucks.'
"It still took a while to kill Clementine, but after that I was like, 'I'm going to try to have the best time that I can have and still try to change people but also be totally indescribable"
The early material was mostly noise and experimental music, functioning as a duo. However, it was in that period that the seeds were set for it to become a permanent and dynamic project, as Abe decided to persist with Treasure Mammal after his collaborative partner Nick Kroll set off for Yale.
"I was like, 'Fuck, I am sick of starting these projects over and over and over and them dying and having them waste my time.' So Nick left and I decided I wanted to do it on my own and take it into a new direction but keep the name."
Eventually, the project took it's inspiration from both dance music and motivational speakers, exemplified by songs such as "Total Winner" on 2006's Expect the Max.
"I wanted to be kind of like somewhere where Richard Simmons and John Cage met," Gil says.
"And Tony Robbins," says current drummer Jeff Wright.
"Yeah, I probably connected more with Tony Robbins," Gill adds.
"And Jared from Subway," Wright says
The band, oftentimes just Gil, was very volatile in this period, much more physically confrontational than it is now.
"Not that your energy level is down," Wright tells him, "but I used to think you were going to hurt yourself. I used to stand farther back and watch you from afar."
There were a few wake-up calls that this behavior wasn't sustainable.
"There was a show at Trunk Space where I was flailing around, and Djentrification -- we just did a song together and he was pretty excited about it -- [he] was dancing around and I went fwoosh! and hit the fuck out of his face."
"Like Metta World Peace and James Harden," Wright says.
Yeah, I Metta World Peace'd him. I thought, 'I'm trying to do this motivational thing and make people feel good, but at the same time I'm fucking myself up and fucking other people up, this doesn't make any sense.' I wanted to be more stationary, but work other things, work the crowd harder."
Other incidents include Gil breaking a rib as fans dogpiled him at a house show in San Diego in 2006 (he had drank a ton of Sparks, one of the precursors to Four Loko in the alcoholic energy drink market, and thus didn't feel it until the next morning), as well as a show at Modified Arts during the same period in which he accidentally damaged a wall after performing atop the venue's bathroom (this is architecturally hard to explain unless you were going to Modified shows in the mid-2000s.)
The latter incident supposedly compelled a justifiably irate Kimber Lanning to expel Randall, the stuffed unicorn who is often present during Treasure Mammal sets, from her venue.
The project eventually mellowed out a bit. It remains intense and fun, but body parts and inanimate objects are much less likely to be broken. If anything, the Treasure Mammal of today is something that people want to stand in the front for, something that welcomes them to participate. It's like Burning Man, but with a lot more yelling. Claire Slattery, a former fan and current member of Treasure Mammal in a capacity that could best be equated to that of a hype person and a backup dancer, explains the allure of the band:
"The first time I saw Treasure Mammal, just seeing that happen and being so invited by such a genuine person to participate in something that seemed real -- versus something that seems really forced -- felt really good and contagious to me."
Wright also explains the capacity the band has for going against the stiff upper lip of indie rock culture.
"That's what I like about playing with you," he tells Gil. "You challenge people to just let loose and not be pretentious. And that's challenged me as well, because I've come from playing with more indie rock bands and hardcore bands. I've enjoyed it because it's helped me loosen up too. That's what's cool about playing with you, just watching smiles over people's faces, people interacting, moving away from that introverted nature of just standing there."
Gil himself explains what Treasure Mammal's goal is by relaying a story his father told him about his attitude toward mountain biking as a child in Southern California.
"He always told me that the trail itself was pretty difficult. He would always tell me that there would be something inside of me that was unstoppable, but I would have to get mad. Like, I would have to fall off my bike or something would have to happen where I would get irritated and work through it, and then at that point I would destroy the rest of the trail," Gil says.
"I feel like that somehow connects with doing Treasure Mammal. I don't feel like I am a motivational speaker anymore. I feel like that time is done. For me, I feel like it's a good balance between love and hate for the system and weird things like that. The main purpose is to break down conservative walls and conservative mindframes and not just go to a show and be halfway into something.
"Go all in and lose your inhibitions," Gil says, not only with regard to how he and his bandmates should operate, but how the crowd should feel at a Treasure Mammal show as well.
"It's not for everybody. But, the people I think who are into it, the small percentage of people who are into it, I think a lot of them are lifers," Gil says.
"So, I'll do me and you do you," Gil says in the song "Stevie Wonder to the Bullshit" off of 2012's Checkognize. It's emblematic of how members of the band have worked with each other and how the band has worked with its audience over the past 10 years. It's an affirmation of asserting one's individuality and the awkwardness, but more importantly the joy that can bring. The talk is always real talk with Treasure Mammal, and you are always welcome to participate.
Treasure Mammal 10th Anniversary Shows
|Night #1 7:30 tonight at Trunk Space Pleasure Flannel Roar Back Ted N-Ted Cherie Cherie||Night #2 7:30 p.m. Saturday, November 2 at Trunk Space Treasure Mammal Less Pain Forever Playboy Manbaby Fathers' Day|
Get the Music Newsletter
Keep your thumb on the local music scene each week with music news, trends, artist interviews and concert listings. We'll also send you special ticket offers and music deals.