Brooklyn six-piece Excepter uses only electronic instruments. The band has developed a reputation as an experimental group through songs like “Burgers” and “Kill People” and has released hours of material as online podcasts. Assistant Accent Editor Patrick Doyle spoke with lead singer John Fell Ryan about the group’s writing process and the benefits of not practicing.
Patrick Doyle: Your sound is really hard to define. How would you describe it?
John Fell Ryan: On our MySpace page we have “electronic trance-punk.” We enjoy not being in a genre. We enjoy being the exception to the rule.
PD: How do you guys write songs?
JFR: We write our stuff on drum machines and in sequencers and record samples and stuff like that. Usually people on their own will write their own things and then bring it into the live occasions. We don’t practice. We just play live. So there’s a bit of homework involved where we come up with programs. Often we will write stuff during the sound check. We’ll all be at our machines with our headphones on trying to write songs as fast as possible during the hour we usually get during the sound check. So to pull this kind of stuff off you need to show up on time or before on time.
PD: Here’s a quote from [music criticism Web site Pitchfork Media]: “They’ll never be easily digestible, but they have been increasingly succinct and organized.” Do you agree with that?
JFR: We’ve gotten more disorganized. We’ve been playing these hour and a half shows [that are] getting longer and longer and more different. Our records have been longer too. But maybe the writer is talking about his own comprehension or his own take. You can’t say someone’s wrong about having an observation of that. He’s saying the word digestible — he’s talking about taking us inside him. He’s like eating us … the problem is people are trying to eat our music when maybe they shouldn’t. Maybe it’s not a good idea to eat a car or eat a house (laughs).
PD: You guys have podcasted hours of music since 2003. How did that start?
JFR: It started really as a way for us to release stuff that had obvious samples in it. You know, we were like, ‘Well we sampled The Beatles in this thing. We can’t really release it, but we can give it away for free on the Internet.’ [A podcast] is like being on the radio. They’re not going to come down on you so hard.
PD: Are you guys working on anything right now?
JFR: We’ve been working on playing these shows and working on our next record, which is going to be really drawn-out and stretched-out, kind of hypnotist-type music. It might end up being a double CD with 35-minute tracks. … We have a double seven inch maybe coming out from this label in Sweden [which] went through maybe four incarnations of different tracks. One of them actually got bootlegged on the Internet in a strange fashion. Our roadie on our first American tour two years ago had lost his backpack at our show in Oberlin. And we got an e-mail from someone towards the end of the tour saying, ‘Hey did you guys lose your iPod?’ But this guy had been a big fan of the iPod and had copied his entire content and had given DVD-R’s of the contents of this iPod out to his friends and he had some Excepter demo recordings on it and it started getting reviewed. It was like, ‘Wait a minute, how did that happen?’
PD: You have a song called “Burgers.” Is there a deeper meaning to it?
JFR: Well it’s an old song that we’ve been doing live since 2003. I ripped it off of a video game actually, at least the chorus … [The meaning of the song] doesn’t really matter. You go home with a pop idea. A pop idea is a hamburger. Hamburgers are just in people’s consciousness. Sort of like rap music; a computer can make a rap song at this point, just like, ‘I’m in the club, I’m getting drunk. I got a bottle of this, a bottle of that.’ It’s a tribute to that style of songwriting of just ‘Hey Cleveland,’ just not thinking about it too much and finding a hooky way to pronounce something.
Excepter will perform at 9 p.m. Saturday at Castaways, 413 Taughannock Blvd. Tickets are $7.