Steam Powered Giraffe
Steam Powered Giraffe
The three main "robots" of Steam Powered Giraffe in January 2011. From left to right: Jonathan Sprague, Isabella "Bunny" Bennett (then Christopher Andrew Bennett) and David Michael Bennett.
|Origin||San Diego, California, United States|
|Genres||Folk rock, pop, vaudeville, comedy music, steampunk|
|Associated acts||Professor Elemental|
The Cog is Dead
|Members||David Michael Bennett|
Isabella "Bunny" Bennett
|Past members||Sam Luke|
Michael Philip Reed
Steam Powered Giraffe (SPG) is an American steampunk musical comedy project formed in San Diego in 2008, self-described as "a musical act that combines robot pantomime, puppetry, ballet, comedy, projections, and music". Created and led by identical twins David Michael Bennett and Isabella "Bunny" Bennett, the act combines music and improvisational comedy on-stage, although their studio works focus almost solely on music.
Steam Powered Giraffe has its own fictional mythology, with the band members portraying characters both on stage and on record; its fictional universe has been explored via several comic books mainly written and drawn by Isabella Bennett. Although the band underwent several line-up changes, it always focuses primarily on three robot characters (played by the Bennett siblings and a third performer, although the original line-up featured four robots), with several "humans" assisting and performing comedy, music and dancing on stage, and several smaller robots being performed via puppetry or voice acting. To date, they have released five studio albums, two live albums, several live concert films, provided the soundtrack for the 2015 video game SteamWorld Heist, and released an official single for the 2016 video game Battleborn.
2008–2011: Formation and early career
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—Isabella and David—started street busking as quirky robotic characters in January 2008 at Balboa Park, California. For their first performance in public they called themselves Steam Powered Giraffe Presents: Peoplebots . Later that month they changed their name to just Steam Powered Giraffe). Erin Burke left the group in 2011 to pursue a career in acting.
Since their conception, the band has performed at venues including the San Diego County Fair the San Diego Zoo, the Wild Animal Park, Legoland California, Ontario Mills, Downtown Disney, and at numerous science fiction, fantasy, anime, 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", in 2009. In early 2011 the band released a single, "Honeybee", announcing that it would be on an upcoming second album. In late 2011 the band announced the release of a "live" album entitled Live at the Globe of Yesterday's Tomorrow.
2012–2013: The 2¢ Show and MK III
Their second studio album, entitled The 2¢ Show, was released in May 2012. That year, they were voted Best Live Comedy act (and runner up for Best Family Entertainment act) on San Diego A-List.
Besides their musical endeavors, the band publishes a web comic and has produced a card game based on characters in their backstory. 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. 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". 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. The album was released on December 3. In September of that same year, the band released a cover of Icona Pop's "I Love It" on their YouTube channel.
2014–2016: The Vice Quadrant and Quintessential
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, Isabella Bennett began to transition the character of Rabbit from male to female, coinciding with her own status as a transgender woman. She legally changed her name to Isabella Bennett on 22 January 2016.
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 Exposition in Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario. They returned for the 2015 Exposition 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 presenting 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.
In December 2015, video game developer Image & Form released the game SteamWorld Heist for the Nintendo 3DS, and later released it in 2016 on other platforms. The game's soundtrack was composed and recorded by SPG, and they appear in-game.
The video game Battleborn by Gearbox Software released on May 3, 2016, and included an unlockable theme song created by Steam Powered Giraffe for the character of Montana; the same day, the band released it on digital platforms as a single.
On June 20, 2016, Steam Powered Giraffe announced on their website that their fifth studio album, Quintessential was available for pre-order. According to the article, a free downloadable digital copy of the twelve-track album would be included with the purchase of the CD.
2016-present: New member, recent events
On December 19, 2016, the band announced on social media that Samuel Luke would be leaving the group so he could focus more on his independent work as an artist and musician. He then announced 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 18, 2017, at The Center Theater at The California Center for the Arts in Escondido, California.
It was confirmed on March 12, 2017, following her appearance on The Bennettarium, that the 2009 original release of the band's Album One album, featuring a song and some vocals by past band member Erin Burke would be re-released. Both the 2009 and 2011 version now co-exist.
On July 20, 2017 the band performed a show during San Diego Comic Con with former member Michael Philip Reed joining them on stage. Since this show, Michael joined the band at most shows and as of August 1, 2018 he is scheduled to appear at all of the band's shows going forward.
On January 27, 2018 Steam Powered Giraffe celebrated the band's 10th anniversary with a special concert featuring all members in the band's history, including all five former members: robots The Jon, Upgrade and Hatchworth, and humans Michael Philip Reed and Matthew Smith. It was later released as a live concert film on Blu-Ray, DVD, and digital video.
On April 18, 2019 the band announced the production of their next album, the first to feature Bryan and the first since MK III to feature Michael Philip Reed. They also confirmed that they would be releasing two new songs every three to four months alongside music videos for each song.
On March 3, 2020 the band announced that backing musician Michael Philip Reed was suddenly leaving the band to move out of the country. Reed had provided some contributions to multiple tracks on the band's 6th album 1896 prior to his departure.
After Michael Reed's departure, fans began reaching out to the band with allegations against the former member. On July 1st, 2020, David Michael Bennett made a statement on Twitter. The tweet stated that over a dozen individuals had informed the band that they were manipulated by Michael Reed during his time as a member. David Michael Bennett commented that there was no defending his actions and that Reed will never be working with the band again. Michael Reed has not yet commented on these allegations.  Following this incident, on July 10th, 2020, the Steam Powered Giraffe Patreon account announced that longtime member Steve Negrete had resigned from the band after he announced that he also had relationships with fans. He apologized for his actions and stated he will not be working with the band any further.  Isabella Bennett commented on the incidents in a tweet, stating that, although neither member committed any crimes, their actions go against what the band stands for and she does not want to have any further contact with these members.  Since the removal of these two members, all recent singles have been re-uploaded, removing the images and vocals of both past members.
- The Spine (David Michael Bennett) is a futuristic dieselpunk robot with a titanium alloy spinal column. His skin is made of silver-colored, articulating plates, and he wears a black fedora and a waistcoat with accompanying red handkerchief.
- – lead and backing vocals, guitars, bass, mandolin, keyboards, recording engineer, producer (2008–present)
- Rabbit (Isabella "Bunny" Bennett)1 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. Bunny also performs the character of GG The Giraffe via puppetry and voice acting.
- 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 he was re-discovered in 1992.
- – lead and backing vocals, bass (2016-present)
1Isabella Bennett was credited under her given name, Christopher Bennett, until 2016, when she legally took the name of Isabella; the character of Rabbit had become female since 2014, when Bennett came out as a trans woman.
- Walter Worker Chelsea (Chelsea Penyak) and Walter Worker Camille (Camille Penyak) – on-stage comic characters and onstage ballet accompaniment (2014–present)
- The Jon (Jonathan "Jon" Sprague) was a gold art deco robot and part of the original four members. He left the band in 2012.
- – lead and backing vocals, guitar, mandolin, bass, drums (2008–2012; guest: 2018)
- Upgrade (Erin Burke) was a silver and pink stylized robot and part of the original four members. She left the band in 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 2016.
- – lead and backing vocals, bass, guitars (2012–2016; session drums, bass and backing vocals: 2010–2012; guest: 2018)
- Matthew Smith – drums, backing vocals (2012–2014: guest: 2018)
- Michael Philip Reed – guitar, banjo, synthesizer, ukulele, bass, piano, vocoder, drums, percussion, lead and backing vocals (2008–2014, 2017–2020)
- Brianna Clawson – Walter Worker (2012–2013)
- Paige Law – Walter Worker (2012–2014)
- Carolina Gumbayan – Walter Worker, bass (2013–2014)
- Steve Negrete – live show audio engineering, also performs the characters of Beebop and Qwerty via voice acting on projection screen (2011–2020)
- Album One (2009) (remastered and re-released 2011)
- The 2¢ Show (2012)
- MK III (2013)
- The Vice Quadrant: A Space Opera (2015)
- Quintessential (2016)
- 1896 (upcoming, 2020)
- Live at the Globe of Yesterday's Tomorrow (2011)
- Live at the Walter Robotics Expo 2013 (2014)
- The Quest for the Eternal Harp of Golden Dreams (2012)
- Live at Walter Robotics Expo 2013 (2014)
- Concierto Privado (2016)
- 10 Year Anniversary Show (2018)
- Live in Denver Colorado (2018)
- Live in La Jolla California (2019)
- Music From SteamWorld Heist (2015)
- "On Top of the Universe" (2009)
- "Honeybee" (2011)
- "Prepare for Boarding" (2014), in collaboration with the 2014 video game SteamWorld Heist
- "Montana" (2016), in collaboration with 2016 video game Battleborn
- "Shattered Stars" (2019)
- "Latum Alterum (Ya Ya Ya)" (2019)
- "Hot on the Trail" (2019)
- "Transform" (2019)
- "Lyin' Awake" (2020)
- "Eat Your Heart" (2020)
- "Diamonds" (Rihanna cover, 2013)
- "I Love It" (Icona Pop cover, 2013)
- "Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger" (Daft Punk cover, 2014)
- "Cellophane" (Sia cover, 2015)
- "A Marshmallow World" (Bing Crosby cover, 2016)
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- "THIS SHOW IS NOW SOLD OUT". Steam Powered Giraffe.
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- "New Single With An Album On The Way!". Blogspot. Retrieved 6 December 2012.
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- "The 2¢ Show Now Available!". Blogspot. Retrieved 6 December 2012.
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- Spine, The (1 October 2012). "Steam Powered Giraffe Blog: Welcome Hatchworth!". Retrieved 28 October 2016.
- "Info: Meet the Band". Steam Powered Giraffe. 2014. Retrieved March 12, 2016.
- Bennett, Isabella (22 January 2016). "Isabella now and forever..." Facebook.
- Adam Miller (November 30, 2016). "SteamWorld Heist Review (Wii U)". Nintendo News. Retrieved September 28, 2017.
- "Montana (From "Battleborn") (2016)". Steam Powered Giraffe. Retrieved 2019-02-28.
- 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/>.
- Bennett, David M. “Officialsteampoweredgiraffe.” The Official Steam Powered Giraffe Tumblr, Tumblr, 19 Dec. 2016, officialsteampoweredgiraffe.tumblr.com/post/154670547261/whats-next-for-steam-powered-giraffe-in-2017.
- The Bennettarium Podcast (Video) - Episode 10: Shut Up Abraham Lincoln!” Youtube, 20 Dec. 2016, www.youtube.com/watch?v=iBbRdY6Bwgg.
- “STEAM POWERED GIRAFFE LIVE IN CONCERT.” California Center for the Arts, Escondido, 2018, artcenter.org/event/steam-powered-giraffe-2/.
- Dan Letchworth (March 24, 2017). "The Show About Shows Podcast #8: Steam Powered Giraffe, Vanessa Dinning". San Diego Magazine. Retrieved September 28, 2017.
- "What's Next for Steam Powered Giraffe in... - Steam Powered Giraffe | Facebook". www.facebook.com. Retrieved 2016-12-19.