Every week, KEXP features a new local artist with an interview and suggested tracks for where to start. This week, we’re featuring Seattle art punk outfit The Gods Themselves, who play West Seattle Summer Fest this Saturday afternoon.
Should the day come that aliens arrive on Earth in a Doomsday scenario, The Gods Themselves will be there providing the soundtrack for the end of the world dance party. Their fusion of punk tenacity and funky grooves makes them a formidable act, making you want to sweat on the dance floor and overthrow the system simultaneously. Even their name is bold and arresting. Their latest LP, Be My Animal, may be their clearest mission statement yet — taking aim at everything in their path and indulging in their psych tendencies with a healthy dose of interstellar surrealism. We caught up with the band's Astra Elaine and Dustin Patterson about their love of sci-fi, building their infectious grooves, and the foundations of their vibrant aesthetics.
Prior to The Gods Themselves, you all were involved in various projects locally like Atomic Bride and The Connerys. What led you all to unite as TGT? Did those projects help inform the sound you’re working with today?
Astra Elane: Dustin and I actually met in the mid-2000s when Atomic Bride and The Connery’s shared a few bills together. I remember being blown away that he was wearing glittery purple bell-bottoms on stage. Who does that? After nearly eight years with Atomic Bride, I was itching for something groovier and I formed TGT. I was reminded of Dustin’s sparkle when I saw him singing "Heartbreak Hotel" and I knew he was the partner I wanted.
Dustin Patterson: Astra saw me in a local Elvis competition and asked me to join TGT. The energy and ambition of our previous bands are in TGT, but the musical influences are different. This band is more danceable and sexy than any band I've been in. People offer to help us move our gear, which never happened when I was in a band with all men.
Your name comes from the title of an Isaac Asimov novel and have included a lot of sci-fi and psychedelic imagery in your work. What draws you to these influences? What’s your favorite planet?
Elane: My dad turned me on to sci-fi at a young age. In fact, when we were thinking of band names I had just re-read the book The Gods Themselves for the second time. In the beginning, TGT was just a trio (me and two guys). In the novel, there is an alternate universe where the beings are composed of substances; gas, fluid, rock but they still have M/F genders, and their sexual reproductive process requires two males and a female. For their species preservation, these god-like creatures relied upon the union of three, which we all know is the magic number.
Patterson: Psychedelic music lets you stretch out musically and explore. It's a good way for a band to really listen and react to each other. My favorite planet is Uranus.
Elane: (to Dustin) You said “stretch out and explore” and “Uranus” in the same breath.
Your latest album, Be My Animal, has some really heavy, funky grooves. What were you listening to when you were making this record? How did the songs come together?
Elane: Giorgio Moroder was in heavy rotation while we were writing. You can definitely hear influences of his work with Donna Summer and Blondie on this album. Lots of disco and new wave; Duran Duran, Ohio Players, Edwin Starr, Cabaret Voltaire. Also, I listen to a lot of late 80’s gangsta rap. Eazy-E, Ruthless Records is a constant in my playlists over the years.
Patterson: Many of the songs on Be My Animal were the result of jamming, finding new tones and rhythms. We always wanted to make the album danceable, but in our own way. I was listening to LCD Soundsystem, Tame Impala, and Talking Heads, rock bands that make danceable records in their own specific way. I also listened to local bands like Wimps, Pony Time, Acapulco Lips, and Gazebos to get a sense of the local scene. I think of them as both competition and inspiration.
The lyrics on the record embrace humor but also maintain some bite, like the anti-gentrification anthem “Tech Boys” to the confidence exuding “So Hot”. How do you strike that balance between the underlying message and your clever wit?
Elane/Patterson: Our approach is to deliver the message with conviction, for example, “So Hot”, which celebrates bravado and city life in NYC. Humorous lyrics can sharpen up a song and make it more specific. “Tech Boys” was written in a kind of righteous rage, but really the whole tech culture silly. It's difficult to look self-important on a motorized unicycle, but people in South Lake Union make it happen.
More than just a sound, TGT definitely has a look. What was the inspiration behind the different outfits you wear to your shows? How often do you like to mix-it-up with your attire?
Elane/Patterson: Part of being in a rock band is looking the part. So many performing Seattle bands look like they just don’t give a hoot. There’s no effort made to enhance the live experience for the audience. We want to sound AND look good onstage and make each show an occasion. Sometimes we wear all white, or black and pink, or we just look groovy, but we try to make it a thing. Our fans deserve it, plus dressing up is fun!
For those who’ve never seen you perform, what can they expect from your set at West Seattle Summer Fest?
Elane/Patterson: BREAKING NEWS — Barrett Martin, Seattle’s favorite powerhouse rock drummer, author, and producer is going to be joining us for this gig! It’s going to be FAR OUT! This is TGT on PCP – super powerful, and unstoppable! D-AHHNCE.
In addition to West Seattle Summer Fest, TGT will be performing at this year's Capitol Hill Block Party on Friday, July 21. They'll also open for Slender Means' reunion show at The Tractor Tavern on August 4.
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What was formerly known as What the Heck Fest, and then most recently known as the Anacortes Unknown Music Series, has now become The Business Presents, a fitting new title as it's being presented by The Business, a long-running record store (and now, distro!) based in Anacortes, WA.