INTERVIEW GIRAFFE TONGUE ORCHESTRA
Brent Hinds, Ben Wheiman, Thomas Pridgen, Pete Griffin and William DuVall are members of the Giraffe Tongue Orchestra : a real musical event! Broken Line is their first album and William DuVall is our guest for this interockview!
The reason is our longtime mutual admiration for one another. Ben Weinman and Brent Hinds first approached me about collaborating on GTO approximately 7 years ago. However, for a variety of reasons, including our busy schedules with our other bands, it took until 2016 for everything to finally come together.
Why did you choose the “giraffe” as a symbol of your band?
Brent Hinds was visiting the giraffes in a zoo in Australia and he got the opportunity to feed them some bananas. As Brent tells the story, these giraffes were able to take the bananas from his hand, peel them, and eat them in one rapid motion using just their tongues. Brent was so impressed by this that he suggested the band’s name should be « Giraffe Tongue. » The word « Orchestra » was added later. We all agree the giraffe is a uniquely beautiful animal. So is Brent Hinds.
In terms of music,
what do you view as the main difference between a band like Alice In Chains and GTO?
GTO’s music is the sum total of all of our musical influences going back to childhood. The Broken Lines album has everything from punk to progressive rock to disco on it – sometimes within the same song. GTO is blazing its own trail, completely separate from our other bands. It represents a major milestone in all of our careers.
What do you learn from playing with musicians coming from other bands?
Collaborating to write songs is one of the most intimate things one can do, particularly when one takes music as seriously as Ben, Brent, and I do. One really learns a great deal about how the other person thinks and how they put ideas together. I feel privileged to have had that experience with Ben and Brent. And I feel extremely fortunate to have performed on an album and onstage with Thomas Pridgen and Pete Griffin. To the extent that the feeling is mutual from them, I’m very grateful for that.
With the lyrics of “Blood Moon”, did you try to evoke something universal about modern life?
Yes. The initial inspiration for the « Blood Moon » lyric came from seeing a young couple embracing as they were refueling their car at a filling station in East Atlanta. They were so beautiful together. They struck me as the epitome of youthful fabulousness – when one might have very little money but you have your friends, you have your love, and when you go out at night the entire world is yours.
In the videoclip of “Crufixion”, you assimilate Donald Trump to Adolf Hitler.
What led you to think of the US government this way?
America has certainly taken a very unfortunate political turn recently. But the underlying attitudes that led to that political turn have been present for decades, even centuries, since before the founding of America. The video for « Crucifixion » was created several months prior to the 2016 U.S. presidential election. But many disturbing events were taking place going back to the earliest days of the campaign. The nationalistic frenzy and the violence whipped up at Trump’s rallies had eerie parallels to incidents that took place in Europe prior to World War II. In addition, the « dirty tricks » perpetrated behind the scenes by both of the major political parties in America during the 2016 campaign paved the way for Trump’s victory and the situation in which America finds itself now. To quote the old expression, « The writing was on the wall. ». The events speak for themselves. It seems only right that one’s art reflect one’s feelings about what is happening.
Whenever individuals with strong personalities gather to collaborate, there are bound to be occasional differences of opinion. But there is also a tremendous amount of mutual admiration and this engenders a great deal of trust. I think we did a good job in GTO of allowing for a division of labor. I let them handle the music and they let me handle the lyrics and melodies. That trust and division of labor is how we were able to create a sound that we never would have achieved otherwise.
Behind the dark lyrics of the tracks, is there a message of hope?
Absolutely. I believe the over-riding sentiment on the Broken Lines album is hope. It’s about realizing one’s own power despite seemingly overwhelming circumstances.
Sometimes, when I listen to your music I want to dance. GTO is more for dancers or revolutionaries?
BOTH!! A revolution is nothing without dancing, preferably in the street.
Interview done May 17th 2017.