By Thomas Dunlap
Reptaliens, the musical endeavor of husband-and-wife Cole and Bambi Browning, is an out-of-this-world band that composes beautiful and brooding bedroom-pop. Originating from Portland, Oregon the couple creates experimental and ethereal indie rock that is soaked with susurrous synthesizers and soft instrumentation. Introspective lyrics, influenced by science fiction and the occult, are hazily layered over cinematic soundscapes that inspire both awe and attraction. Their tracks are upbeat and energetic, with funky guitar riffs that reek of romance and rhythm. Reptaliens’ music is as calm and cute as it is dark and dramatic, effortlessly displaying their vast musical talent and versatility.
Reptaliens’ debut album, FM-2030, was released in the fall of 2017. Named after the transhumanist author, FM-2030 explores “where no man has gone before” into the unparalleled universe of dream and psych-pop. Tracks like “If You Want” and “666Bus” are quick-paced and quirky, full of sharp guitars that are catchy and consistent. “Nunya” and “Ubik” are tracks that exhibit Reptaliens’ more intergalactic influences, with extraterrestrial synthesizers that inhabit the tracks.
In October of 2018, Reptaliens released two cohabiting singles, “Echo Park” and “Mj-12.” These new tracks are their most experimental yet, incorporating distorted guitars and seriously strange background noises. This joint release echoes their early 2017 release of the twin tracks “Prequel” and “Olive Boy,” except these earlier tracks exist on the opposite side of the musical spectrum as the recent releases. The two tracks from 2017 are soft and skeletal, with minimal production and smooth instrumentation. Juxtaposed next to their current releases, these collections of tracks excellently exemplify Reptaliens’ musical diversity.
In November of 2018, I was fortunate enough to catch the Reptaliens performance in Austin, Texas. Despite the cold and damp precipitation that rained down that night, Reptaliens managed to deliver a powerful and positive performance. Their live show was introduced by an alien creature, adorned in a camouflaged bushy ghillie suit, spouting off rants of a science-fiction nature.
After the clandestine clad extraterrestrial concluded his monologue, Reptaliens boldy began their upbeat and unique performance. Playing singles such as “If You Want” and “Echo Park,” Reptaliens sufficiently covered their eclectic and diverse discography. Their performance was supported by interchanging neon lights and a shifting roster of different and distinctive creatures, who even occasionally participated in the musical performance. Reptaliens in concert proved to be a positively peculiar production, providing both intriguing visuals and interesting instrumentation.
After the conclusion of their set, I was able to speak privately with the members of Reptaliens and discuss a many manner of subjects, ranging from Portland inspirations to speaking in colors. Below I have included a transcript of my pleasant conversation with Bambi, Cole, Austin, Julian, and Tyler…
Thomas Dunlap: What’s y’alls relationship like with STRFKR?
Bambi: Oh we’re all just so in love with each other!
Cole: I look up to Josh [Joshua Hodges of STRFKR] like a brother.
TD: How long have y’all known each other?
Cole: I’ve known those dudes for maybe like eight to ten years. I’ve known them forever. They’re just kind of like our older bros.
Bambi: We all have different levels of knowing them. Their guitar player, who’s not an original member, he and I used to play in a band together like six years ago. We were really close, now he lives in LA and he tours with them.
TD: So how did y’all [Reptaliens and STRFKR] meet?
Cole: I used to be like the fanboy in the front row losing their shit at STRFKR shows. Screaming out stuff. It’s kind of one of those situations where it turned from like being a fan to being a friend to being a peer.
TD: What ways, if any, did being from Portland influence your style or sound?
Austin: It’s just kind of the style of the scene and I feel like you kind of feed off of other bands.
Bambi: I have one thing to say about this. I feel like all of us have a really unique individual sound that each one of us brings to this band. And these sounds have sort of been “melded” into us by our external influences, but I think all of us can only play our style and together we make Reptaliens.
Cole: Also half of Portland is Tyler, because he’s in so many bands. He’s definitely a big part of that whole Portland thing. So his sound is just inherently Portland, since he has such a big part of it.
Austin: I think we play together well because all of our individual influences that we have.
Bambi: I have noticed that if someone tells us to try and write a really “poppy” song or a certain style of song, we’ll try to do it and we just can’t not sound exactly how we sound.
TD: Who designs the characters y’all have dancing on stage? And who do you get to play them?
Bambi: We all kind of do.
Cole: It’s honestly less of designing than just randomly putting things together. Not as much thought goes into it as you might think. We just kind of like throw shit together. Austin is really the one who is the wizard behind it. We just have a big pile of shit that we accumulate, and then Austin is the talent behind deciding what outfit should be for which song. It’s all really Austin’s dream and he does it well.
Austin: Not my dream, my vision.
Cole: Yeah his vision. He probably has bigger dreams than that.
TD: Where do y’all get the props?
Cole: Just costume or party stores.
Tyler: Our closets.
TD: I assume the two new tracks are just a preview of more to come. Is there anything you can tell me about an upcoming project?
Cole: We just finished the album.
Bambi: Yeah! The day before we left we barely had finished the mixing.
Cole: Tyler laid down the drum tracks for the whole album in like 20 hours or something. Just fuckin’ knocked it out. But as far as the sound I’d say it’s a little different. It’s a little more “synthy,” as the first one was more guitary.
Tyler: This one is directed more in one area of Reptaliens’ sound.
TD: So you’re saying that the first one was a little bit eclectic and this one is more focused?
Cole: I absolutely agree with that. With the first one we were like “we don’t really know what to do, we’re a new band. Let’s try a little bit of everything.” And with this one we harnessed the sound.
TD: So how did y’all come to be on Captured Tracks?
Cole: It’s a long story I don’t think you have enough time for that. But basically they came out to Portland to see us play and then we wowed them and the rest is history. But leading up to that point ws many, many stressful things.
Bambi: It was a bunch of terrifying emails, and waiting, and making music, and just sitting on music and not putting it out.
Cole: They were our number one label we wanted to work with, so we were only focused on working with them. And it panned out!
TD: After this tour with Of Montreal concludes, what’s next for Reptaliens?
Cole: SXSW tour. Coming back to Texas.
Bambi: We’re releasing a record. There’s an unofficial date that we can’t say yet, but it’s coming out next year.
Cole: We have a ton of touring. We have a big ol busy year. We have a few Europe dates.
Bambi: Our first time going to Europe!
Cole: Basically we’re gonna put out an album and then we’re gonna tour the shit out of it.
Bambi: Yeah we’re not going to be home all year.
TD: How do y’all come up with the ideas for your really unique music videos? And what’s the process of making a music video like?
Bambi: They’re all very individually created. Tyler directed a whole video.
Cole: Yeah the “Olive Boy” video, Tyler did all of that himself. All of the videography and editing. With the “If You Want” video we had an outside director who had the whole video planned out, so we had nothing to do with it. The “Echo Park” video we just wanted to do something super casual, so we just filmed a practice session. They’re kind of all over the place.
Bambi: It’s just another form of art that you get to express yourself with.
Cole: Each video stands as its own thing. I want Tyler to make more videos cause the “Olive Boy” video turned out so good. Also we like to do a lot of things ourselves.
TD: Who created the album artwork for FM-2030?
Bambi: That’s our really good friend Becca. She lives in Portland and I met her because my roommate at the time was going out on tour and he sublet his room to this art student girl that he met on a very failed date, because she was too good for him. Her and I hit it off instantly while he was gone. She taught me how to draw and paint, and we became best friends from minute one. She’s done all of our artwork, every record. Her name is Becca Abraham, and she’s the coolest girl ever.
TD: What are some habits, rituals, or other things that y’all find yourselves doing ever tour?
Bambi: Well we like to drink a lot of milk. A nice glass of powdered milk to start the day.
Austin: Most mornings we typically spend the first couple hours only speaking in colors.
TD: In colors? How does a conversation in colors go down?
Bambi: Well the other night I had a dream where I had sleep paralysis and Freddy Kreuger was trying to make out with me, and I was finally able to wake myself up and I started telling them [the other band members] about it and Austin just goes “Calm down. Tell me how you feel in colors.”
TD: So how did you feel in colors?
Bambi: I was feeling very ivory. But at the same time it was very mustard-black.
TD: Are there any future dates on this tour that y’all are particularly excited for?
Bambi: This was one of the ones I was excited for. And Atlanta.
Austin: Atlanta is gonna be cool.
Reptaliens is an outstanding and other-worldly musical outfit, playing music that is both playful and peculiar. Their strange and satisfying tunes are available on all streaming services, as well as in physical supply.
Image courtesy of @reptaliens.rule.earth. Calligraphy by Thomas Dunlap.