Reptar has long-since transcended the “local band” designation, attracting attention from beyond Athens’ borders with the 2012 release of the bubbly, infectious Body Faucet. That album, with its intriguing if slightly undercooked blend of angular guitar-pop, psychedelic melodies and Caribbean-influenced rhythms, seemed to put the group on the road to indie stardom.
After an exhausting string of tour dates in support of Body Faucet, and relations with the band’s label and management souring, the group decided instead to take an indefinite break. But as anyone who’s seen a Reptar show knows, you can’t cage their particular brand of beast for long. The band returns Mar. 31 with the poised, prismatic Lurid Glow, an album light-years ahead of Body Faucet in both concept and realization.
In advance of Reptar’s headlining show at this weekend’s Slingshot Festival, Flagpole caught up with frontman Graham Ulicny for a chat.
Flagpole: What took y'all so long?
Graham Ulicny: After we recorded Body Faucet, we were on tour for the better part of a year. We were all pretty burned out and ready to take a step back from doing band stuff. I moved out to California with some friends [and] kept writing songs. I remember, at some point, calling up the rest of [Reptar] and being like, “Fuck, we should probably start recording another record.”
I moved back to Athens, and we starting working on new music and playing shows again. When we had the demos to a certain point, we contacted Andy LeMaster about recording with him at Chase Park. We would record for a week or so, play some gigs around the Southeast to pay for the studio time and go back into the studio for another week. All in all, it took about a year from start to finish to record Lurid Glow.
FP: You signed with Vagrant for the first LP; the new one's out on Joyful Noise. How was your first label experience, and how do you hope the new one's different?
GU: I am thankful for everything Vagrant did for us—they are really nice folks, and we wouldn't have been able to sustain the band or tour as much as we have without their help. But it had its drawbacks. Large, independent record labels in this day and age operate essentially like major labels, and that was something that was lost on us when we signed to Vagrant.
If this album was a human, it would be a skeleton using a smartphone to locate its internal organs.
Shortly after we finished touring on Body Faucet, we got rid of our manager and agent. We were just on completely different pages as far as the trajectory of the band. It was extremely liberating to go back to being a self-sustained unit. We were able to fund the recording process slowly through touring and were ready to self-release [Lurid Glow] before we met Joyful Noise. We played a show at their space in Indianapolis, and it just really clicked. I really respect the way they run their label, and it's really great to be in the company of the artists they work with.
FP: What do you see as the stylistic differences between the two records?
GU: I don't see a lot of difference in the actual songs, but I do think people will hear them and immediately notice the sound has changed. We focused way more on honing the arrangements and making it as direct and pop-oriented as possible. I believe so much in the power of melody, and I wanted to let that shine. One thing we didn't want was for the songs to be mired in unnecessary sound.
If this album was a human, it would be a skeleton using a smartphone to locate its internal organs. We did a lot of learning and experimenting in making the synth lines more expressive and interesting. We all love the possibility and sheer creative power that pop music holds, and the main goal was to make a good pop record.
FP: You guys developed a reputation for your live shows early on. Do you feel like you're able to adequately translate that energy to bigger stages?
GU: It was weird when we first started playing bigger venues. I think that was when were like, “Let's take some of these samples and have people start to play them.” As a vocalist, I find it kind of hard to get in the vibe when we are on a huge stage. You feel like, no matter how hard you practice, your band is in the hands of whoever is running front of house. I hate that feeling, and that’s why I think I will always kind of hate playing larger outdoor venues. Something will always be lost when you add that much negative space.
FP: Reptar has been a band now for nearly a decade. Did you ever think it would last this long?
GU: I don't think any of us could have imagined the incredible places this band has taken us. I know I can speak for all of us when I say that most of the best moments of my life have been spent onstage with this band. It has become this amorphous life form that we can now use as a vehicle for new ideas. We love playing this music for people, and I don't really see that changing any time soon. I'm eternally psyched to be in the company of all the incredible artists we have befriended on this fucking weird journey.
WHO: Reptar, Skylar Spence, Lord Fascinator
WHERE: Georgia Theatre
WHEN: Friday, Mar. 27, 8 p.m.
HOW MUCH: $20 (door), FREE (w/ festival wristband)