Steam Powered Giraffe

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Steam Powered Giraffe
Steam Powered Giraffe Members in 2017.jpg
Steam Powered Giraffe in January 2017. From left to right: David Michael Bennett, Bryan Barbarin, and Isabella "Bunny" Benett.
Background information
Origin San Diego, California, United States
Genres Steampunk, folk rock, vaudeville
Years active 2008-present
Associated acts Rumbledore
Professor Elemental
The Cog is Dead
Website www.steampoweredgiraffe.com
Members David Michael Bennett
Isabella "Bunny" Bennett
Bryan Barbarin
Steve Negrete
Chelsea Penyak
Camille Penyak
Past members Sam Luke
Erin Burke
Jon Sprague
Michael Philip Reed
Matt Smith

Steam Powered Giraffe (SPG) is a musical project formed in San Diego in 2008 that is popular in the steampunk subculture. Led by twins David Michael Bennett and Isabella "Bunny" Bennett,[1][2] and long-time friend from college Bryan Barbarin, the act combines pantomime, sketches, pop culture references, improvised comedic dialogue, and original music of various genres.

Career[edit]

2008–2011: Formation and early career[edit]

The members of Steam Powered Giraffe met while taking Theatre Arts at Grossmont College. Afterwards, they became members of a local San Diego pantomime group called Troupe SD. Trained in pantomime by Seaport Village mime Jerry "Kazoo" Hager, and with collective backgrounds in clown, theater, music, and visual design, Jonathan Sprague, Erin Burke (a fellow pantomime artist) and the Bennett twins—Bunny and David—started street busking as quirky robotic characters (at the time known as Peoplebots) in January 2008 at Balboa Park, California. Due to personal reasons, Erin Burke left the group in 2011.[3]

Since their conception, the band has performed at venues including the San Diego County Fair the San Diego Zoo,[4] the Wild Animal Park, Legoland California, Ontario Mills, The Queen Bee's Art & Cultural Center, and at numerous Sci-Fi, Fantasy, and steampunk conventions.

In October 2009, the band released their first album, Album One. It contained the previously released single from May 2009 titled "On Top of the Universe",[5] along with the hit "Brass Goggles" in 2009. In early 2011 the band released a single, "Honeybee", announcing that it would be on an upcoming second album,[6] and in late 2011 the band announced the release of an interim "live" album entitled Live at the Globe of Yesterday's Tomorrow.[7] On 30 October 2011, the band was mentioned by name in the comic strip Luann. The strip showed the title character and two of her friends dressed in steampunk attire, going out to attend a SPG concert.[8] The title frame, which didn't appear in the online version but only in print, showed a giraffe's head and neck with steam escaping its ears and nostrils. Also, their music can often be heard on a number of steampunk radio broadcasts that stream worldwide, such as The Clockwork Cabaret.[9] The band's song "Electricity Is In My Soul" is available on the Rock Band Network.

2012–2013: The 2¢ Show and MK III[edit]

Steam Powered Giraffe in 2013.

Their second studio album, entitled The 2¢ Show, was released in May 2012.[10] That year, they were voted Best Live Comedy act (and runner up for Best Family Entertainment act) on San Diego A-List.[11]

Besides their musical endeavors, the band publishes a web comic[12] and has produced a card game based on characters in their backstory.[13] In April 2012 they released a DVD entitled, Steam Powered Giraffe: The DVD (and the Quest For the Eternal Harp of Golden Dreams).

On 24 September 2012, the band announced on their Tumblr page that Jon Sprague would no longer be a part of the group.[14] On 1 October it was announced that Sam Luke, the drummer for the band at the time, would become the new robot in the band, "Hatchworth".[15] On 2 November 2012, Hatchworth made his stage debut with SPG at Youmacon in Detroit, Michigan with interim drummer Mike Buxbaum (of A City Serene). Later, Matt Smith was named SPG's new drummer.

During this time, SPG also introduced the characters of the Walter Girls into their shows. The Girls started out by manning the band's merchandise tables at performances, but have started figuring in to the SPG stage show and back story. Described as "blue matter engineers", the porcelian-white skinned and blue-haired Walter Girls (now called Walter Workers) are essentially the robot's caretakers on stage.

In June 2013, SPG released a cover of Rihanna's "Diamonds", essentially a solo performance by the Spine. The accompanying video, released to YouTube, introduced a new character to the SPG canon, a robotic giraffe puppet named GG (voiced by Bunny Bennett). GG appeared again in July when the band released a comedic video, "Walter Robotics Rap", to YouTube.

On 9 August 2013, Steam Powered Giraffe announced the title to their third album, MK III, on the band's website and Tumblr page. The album was released on December 3. In September, the band released a cover of Icona Pop's "I Love It" on their YouTube channel.

2014–present: The Vice Quadrant and Quintessential[edit]

On March 18, 2014, it was announced that Michael Reed and Matt Smith would no longer be performing members of Steam Powered Giraffe. The Bennett twins stated that the reasons for their departure was to focus more on the theatrical elements of the act and to reduce the cost of touring.

Early in 2014, "Bunny" Bennett began to transition the character of Rabbit from male to female, coinciding with her own status as a transgender woman.[16] She legally became Isabella Bennett on 22 January 2016.[17]

More videos have followed in the meantime. In May 2014, they released their third cover, a mostly acoustic version of Daft Punk's "Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger". The video marked the first "official" appearance by the female Rabbit to the general public at large (although the band had played some dates prior and some photos and raw audience footage had been seen). The band then followed up with two new videos: "Fancy Shoes" in June and "I'll Rust With You" in July, with the latter featuring live footage recorded at Anime Midwest in Rosemont, Illinois.

In September 2014, Steam Powered Giraffe gave their first international performance, playing at the Grand Canadian Steampunk Exhibition in Niagara Falls, Ontario. They returned for the 2015 Exhibition to do a collaboration show with Professor Elemental.

On September 1, 2015, SPG released The Vice Quadrant: A Space Opera, a 2-disc space opera concept album containing 28 tracks, although iTunes released it as two separate albums for download. The release followed a number of video releases to promote the work. This marked the band's first recorded work with Rabbit as a woman, as well as the first full album recorded strictly as a trio. The album featured an appearance by Professor Elemental as well as vocals by Walter Worker Chelsea Penyak.

On June 20, 2016, Steam Powered Giraffe announced on their website that their fifth studio album, Quintessential was available for pre-order.[18] According to the article, a free downloadable digital copy of the twelve-track album would be included with the purchase of the CD.[18]

On December 19, 2016, the band announced on Tumblr that Samuel Luke would be leaving the group so he could focus more on his independent work as an artist and musician, and that he would immediately be replaced by Bryan Barbarin and his character Zero. The next day, the Bennetts, Sam, and Bryan came together in David and Isabella's new podcast, The Bennettarium, to discuss the robot transition, among other things. Zero's first live show occurred on February 18th of 2017 at The California Center for the Arts in Escondido, California. It was confirmed on March 12, 2017, following her appearance on The Bennettarium, that Erin Burke's contributions to Album One would be restored. It was additionally confirmed on Isabella's Twitter account.[19][20]

Backstory[edit]

The band's fictional backstory explains why they pantomime as robots. According to that narrative, the "musical automatons" were invented by a rich San Diego inventor named Colonel Peter A. Walter in 1896 and kept in the Walter family over the years. Called the 8th 1/2 Wonder of the World, the robots were a technological marvel that ran off steam powered engines and the mysterious Blue Matter, discovered and harnessed by Walter. They were originally developed as war robots, intended to guide Walter's first robot, a giant mechanical giraffe named Delilah, in a battle across the African Savannah against a robotic elephant that was built by his rival, Thadeus Becile. Once the battles were over, the robots were decommissioned and re-tooled into musical robots for purposes of entertainment. A fictional timeline on the band's website chronicles the band's supposed "appearances" throughout the years at such notable places as the 1933 Chicago World's Fair and The Ed Sullivan Show.[21]

In addition to the band's origin, some individual cast members have origins that pertain to their characters. The Spine was re-cast in silver and began wearing a fedora in the 1940s. Former band-robot The Jon was said to have left the band to travel the world, and Hatchworth was brought up from the Walter's basement, forgotten due to a defective power core, repaired and placed as The Jon's replacement.

Rabbit's transition from male to female was explained in the backstory and Isabella's comic, Red Core, that the robot was originally intended to have been female, but due to time constraints, was left unfinished and appeared to be male. Nearly a century later, Rabbit began to malfunction badly, and in the process of repair, the robot's long-lost blueprints were located. Once the mistake was discovered, Peter Walter VI completed Rabbit's build according to her original blueprints, and, for the most part, the malfunctions ceased.

Other characters[edit]

In concert[edit]

  • G.G. the Giraffe, a diminutive robot giraffe who was recently found and activated. She has been known to call the band in the middle of performances, and will often pose with them during photo shoots. She has recently started to appear onstage to sing her theme song, GG the Giraffe, from Vice Quadrant. (puppeteered by Bunny).
  • Bebop and QWERTY, two digital AIs who help Steve run the systems during the show and presumably during other times. There is speculation that Bebop may be a digital representation of an actual robot who is several stories tall (both are voiced by Steve Negrete, yet heavily modulated).

In webcomic[edit]

  • Peter A Walter VI, the head of household in Walter Manor and the current caretaker for the robots. He is depicted wearing a wooden keyhole mask, for reasons not yet fully explained. He was involved in an explosive accident in 2013, roughly corresponding with the time that Hatchworth became active (played by David when shown onscreen).
  • Marshmallow, Peter VI's giant white cat from the 8th Dimension.
  • Annie Burnette Walter, Peter VI's mother.
  • Peter A Walter V, Peter VI's father who is alive but not the head of household for reasons as yet unknown.
  • Wanda Walter Becile', Peter IV's sister and Peter V's aunt. Though currently very old, she appears to be in good health and still lives in Walter Manor. Her hair is a light shade of blue.
  • Norman Becile, a disfigured member of the Walter Household who appears briefly in the comics. His history with the Beciles and the Walters is still unclear.
  • Buster Becile, the CEO of Becile Industries, the current competitor of Walter Robotics.
  • Lorene Keaton, the current protagonist of the webcomic, with unknown relations to the Walter family.

In lore[edit]

A visual representation of the Walter family tree
  • Col. Peter A Walter (deceased), the creator of the robots and first scientist to discover and work with Blue Matter.
  • Thaddeus Becile (presumed deceased), friend and rival to Col. Walter. Discovered and worked with Green Matter, an alternative power source which was derived from rock candy and required a human operator.
  • Delilah Moreau (deceased), friend to Becile and Walter, Delilah served as the inspiration and motivation for many of their technological creations and rivalry. In March 2015 Delilah made an appearance alongside Vivianna Broodwell (played by Bunny Bennett and Carissa Keil respectively) in what appears to be an undead duo of vampire hunters. It was revealed in the song "The Ballad of Delilah Moreau", from Quintessential, that she was raised from the dead by Thaddeus Becile using Green Matter.
  • Peter Walter II and Peter Walter III, a pair of twins born to Col. Walter and Iris Tonia, a servant of Walter Manor. Peter II is the father of Wanda, Peter IV, and Mark Ray Walter, father of Peter V.
  • Ignatius M. Becile, rival to the Walters.

Band members[edit]

  • The Spine (David Michael Bennett) is a futuristic dieselpunk robot with a titanium alloy spinal column. His skin is smooth silver, and he wears a black fedora and a vest.
lead and backing vocals, guitars, bass, mandolin, keyboards (2008–present)
  • Rabbit (Isabella "Bunny" Bennett) is a copper clockwork robot with a porcelain faceplate, often "malfunctioning" at shows and their panels. She wears a black dress with red and black tights. Her costume and hair change frequently.
– lead and backing vocals, accordion, keytar, megaphone, kazookaphone, melodica, tambourine (2008–present)
  • Zero (Bryan Barbarin) is a swing-styled robot with a gold and gray colored face. According to his lore, the robot was hastily put together from left-over scrap robot parts in 1896, but was forgotten deep in the Walter family's workshop until rediscovered in 1992. (2016–present)
Session members
  • Steve Negrete – audio engineering (2011–present)
  • Chelsea and Camille Penyak – Walter Workers and onstage ballet accompaniment (2014–present),

Past members[edit]

  • The Jon (Jonathan "Jon" Sprague) was a gold art deco robot and part of the original four members. He left the band in 2012 and currently works as an artist and photographer.
– lead and backing vocals, guitar, mandolin, bass, drums (2008–2012)
  • Upgrade (Erin Burke) was a silver and pink stylized robot and part of the original four members. She left the band in 2011 to pursue an acting career.
– vocals, tambourine (2008–2011)
  • Hatchworth (Sam Luke) was a copper art deco robot who was previously a drummer for the band, as a human, before replacing The Jon as a robot. He left the band in late 2016.[22]
– lead and backing vocals, bass, guitars (2012-present; session drums, bass and backing vocals: 2011–2016)
Former session members
  • Michael Philip Reed, known as the "One Man Band" – guitar, banjo, synthesizer, ukulele, bass, piano, vocoder, drums, percussion, lead and backing vocals, recording engineer, recording producer (2008–2014)
  • Matt Smith – drums, backing vocals (2012–2014)
  • Brianna Clawson – Walter Worker (2012–2013)
  • Paige Law – Walter Worker (2012–2014)
  • Carolina Gumbayan – Walter Worker and occasional bassist (2013–2014)

Chronology[edit]

Note: Timeline denotes main live role. Members have played other instruments.

Discography[edit]

Studio albums[edit]

Live albums[edit]

Singles[edit]

  • "On Top of the Universe" (2009)
  • "Brass Goggles" (2009)
  • "Honeybee" (2011)
  • "Prepare for Boarding" in collaboration with the 2014 video game SteamWorld Heist

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Whut is Steam Powered Giraffe". Steam Powered Giraffe. Retrieved April 26, 2014. 
  2. ^ "GG: The Giraffe". Steam Powered Giraffe. Retrieved April 26, 2014. 
  3. ^ "Steam Powered Giraffe - Artist Bio". ReverbNation. Retrieved 2011-10-31. 
  4. ^ "San Diego Zoo : Extended Summer Hours and Entertainment at Nighttime Zoo". Random San Diego. 9 June 2011. Retrieved 1 November 2011. 
  5. ^ "New Single With An Album On The Way!". Blogspot. Retrieved 6 December 2012. 
  6. ^ The Spine (February 2, 2011). "Steam Powered Giraffe Blog: Honeybee Now Available!". Blogspot. Retrieved 1 November 2011. 
  7. ^ Steam Powered Giraffe (2011-11-16). "Live at the Globe of Yesterday's Tomorrow". Facebook. Retrieved 2011-11-19. 
  8. ^ Luann comic strip at Comics.com Retrieved 2011-10-30
  9. ^ "The Clockwork Cabaret Podcast". Retrieved 1 November 2011. 
  10. ^ "The 2¢ Show Now Available!". Blogspot. Retrieved 6 December 2012. 
  11. ^ "2012 Award Winner". San Diego A-List. Retrieved 2012-09-24. 
  12. ^ "Steam Powered Giraffe The Webcomic". The Webcomic List. Retrieved 2 November 2011. 
  13. ^ "Steam Powered Giraffe The Card Game". Game Night Guys. 24 February 2011. Retrieved 1 November 2011. 
  14. ^ http://officialsteampoweredgiraffe.tumblr.com/post/32204911846/jon-sprague-departing-steam-powered-giraffe-dear
  15. ^ Spine, The (1 October 2012). "Steam Powered Giraffe Blog: Welcome Hatchworth!". Retrieved 28 October 2016. 
  16. ^ "Info: Meet the Band". Steam Powered Giraffe. 2014. Retrieved March 12, 2016. 
  17. ^ Bennett, Isabella (22 January 2016). "Isabella now and forever...". Facebook. 
  18. ^ a b Bennet, David Michael. "New Album Quintessential Available for Pre-order!" Web log post. Steam Powered Giraffe. N.p., 20 June 2016. Web. 13 Sept. 2016. <http://steampoweredgiraffe.com/>.
  19. ^ http://thebennettarium.libsyn.com/episode-21-erin-burke-is-actually-her-own-cat?tdest_id=436262
  20. ^ https://twitter.com/Bunny_Bennett/status/841080076993101824
  21. ^ "Steam Powered Giraffe Pseudo-History". Retrieved 2011-10-31. 
  22. ^ "What's Next for Steam Powered Giraffe in... - Steam Powered Giraffe | Facebook". www.facebook.com. Retrieved 2016-12-19. 

External links[edit]