Reptar on Oblangle Fizz, Y'All
Reptar makes it look easy. Y'know, the whole "band" thing. The whole build a fanbase, tour, release albums... all that. But the way that the fast-rising dance-pop band's career has evolved seems so by the book that it seems a little off. After all, didn't the digital revolution mean that everything bands knew about, well, everything had been upended? Altered? Fundamentally shattered? Maybe so, but Reptar is one of the rare acts that's followed a traditional path in its brief two-year lifespan, and one of the rare acts for whom that's worked.
"In an abstract way we all wanted to be musicians full time," says Reptar bassist Ryan Engelberger, on the phone as the band's driving around Los Angeles recently looking for a way to kill an afternoon before hyping up for another unbridled, hyperkinetic live show, "but never with the idea it would actually, you know, happen. We just started doing it because it was just fun to do, and started playing house shows, and people came to the house shows and we decided to keep having them. And it took off from there."
Over the past two years, Reptar has grown from playing small yet enthusiastically attended underground shows at DIY venues to creating sizable buzz in front of ever-more sizable crowds at South by Southwest, Austin City Limits and Lollapalooza. Brit tastemaker magazine NME ranked Reptar No. 4 in its list of 2011's best new bands. This is the path that has worked for any number of indie bands in the past, but in today's landscape it seems less common, and tougher.
Oblangle Fizz, Y'all is the band's debut release, a five-song EP packed with ideas, sounds, energy and quality. Rhythmic, kaleidoscopic and poppy, the EP succeeds at the challenging undertaking of capturing the undeniably livewire atmosphere of Reptar's famed live shows. Opening track "Blastoff" cops a Talking-Heads-meets-of-Montreal vibe, incorporating disparate sounds suggestive of hip-hop and worldwide influences alike, and "Rainbounce" maintains the relaxed equatorial-meets-electro sound.
And then there's "Context Clues," which opens up Reptar's synth-heavy style for a little breathing room, proving the five-piece isn't over-reliant on dense sonic layering. The EP documents the beginning of what could turn out to be a particularly rewarding career, and it's a solid piece of recording that works well on its own as well as an enticement for the listener to get her or his ass into a sweaty, sweaty club.
Most of the four-piece -- Engelberger, keyboardist William Kennedy, drummer Andrew McFarland, vocalist/guitarist Graham Ulicny -- knew each other growing up in Atlanta, but parted ways when they went off to college, spreading to Athens, Asheville, NC, and Atlanta. They got together over free weekends to jam, write some songs, and basically just hang out and have fun; that casual relationship is something that the guys say is important to maintain while they're on the road.
"It is totally fun," says Engelberger. "We all really like being on the road and playing shows. I think we're excited to start the next phase of the tour. We're also really excited for the next stretch with Phantogram. That'll be smaller venues, and I think that's more where we're vibing in terms of our energy. We've been playing all these crazy sold out shows with Foster the People, but the smaller the venue, the more you can really get into it with the crowd."
A big part of what makes Oblangle Fizz, Y'all so successful is the overlap between scrappy, anything-goes songwriting and savvy production quality. In fact, hooking up with hot-shit Atlanta engineer/producer Ben Allen put Reptar on the right track from the start. Allen has produced songs and albums for a number of varied yet consistently creative acts: from Animal Collective to Gnarls Barkley, from Puff Daddy to M.I.A.
"I walked into a club randomly one night in Atlanta," says Allen, "and was just knocked out, like right away. I knew that I wanted to work with the guys. Their energy was nuts, and their music was just great, too."