I’ve had this week’s featured artist in heavy rotation since filming them on a rooftop in downtown Los Angeles this past Wednesday. Their EPs “Close Down the Woods” and “Shapes and Variations” are incredibly addicting. The first being a strong collection of highly original material reminiscent at times of bands like Poe or Portishead. The second, a collection of covers made so completely theirs, I’d wouldn’t hesitate to put it up as one of the best cover albums of the past decade. It really is that good. And any band that can take something like Jay-Z’s calculated hit “Empire State of Mind” and turn it into a beautifully melancholic ode to Los Angeles is a band that demands your attention.

Here’s what singer Sarah Ellquist DeBlanke, guitarist Daniel DeBlanke and drummer Preston Scott Phillips had to say about robots, the importance of vinyl, what makes a good cover song and much more:

GORILLACOUSTIC: What does the world need to know about the Robotanists?

ROBOTANISTS: We have one goal, and that is to make relentlessly sincere music, both on stage and in the studio. We’re working on a new record right now, and “Plans in Progress” is tentatively the title track. We wrote it last week, and performed it for you for the first time ever! We’ve been throwing a new song into our set at every show, so if you catch us live this summer, you’ll get a glimpse of what’s ahead! In the meantime, we’ve got a 12” coming out soon, called CURRENT, and it comes with a free download of our first two records. So if you haven’t heard us before, now’s your chance to catch up with us!

GA: I love how well you make the covers on "Shapes & Variations" your own. How did you choose those particular songs and how did you approach translating them?

DANIEL: Thanks! Early in Robotanists’ life, and on a whim, Sarah and I arranged and re-envisioned a cover of Foreigner's "I want to know what Love is." The song had this gut-wrenching potential that we really wanted to bring out, and with its new harmony, words and melody, it became a big crowd pleaser. Audiences would hear the song and recognize it but still not know what it was. People would sing along with the chorus, and then ask us afterwards, "what song was that"? So we ended up putting it on our first EP, CLOSE DOWN THE WOODS, as a bonus track. The experience really opened us up to listening to pop songs in a new way. We never planned on doing a covers record, but little by little we’d hear that same potential in a song and we’d add it to the list, and before we knew it SHAPES AND VARIATIONS materialized. So we ended up completely transforming a mixed bag of little known, or maybe outdated, or in some cases iconic pop songs, everything from The Black Keys to Bryan Adams. At the last minute Sarah and I did the Jay-Z cover and the Philip Glass “mash up,” which are almost completely new compositions. We ultimately chose each song based on its own inherent musical melodrama, and we then tried to amplify and take that to a pretty potent place sonically.

SARAH: I saw an interview with Liza Minnelli once, where she talked about how you make a song your own... She said (paraphrased of course), that when you go through the lyrics, you have to find the character buried in them, the memories that aren’t written, and the words that aren’t there, and when you perform them, you have to think of those things, that you’ve found. Those little “secrets” make a song yours. When we chose these songs and approached them (and even our own songs), I had that in mind, so a song like Joe Jackson’s “Is She Really Going Out With Him,” unfolded as a longing tale of heartache. When I hear the original now, I hear the same heartache we captured. That’s the “secret” behind Joe’s version of the song that makes it so memorable in the first place. Its the same secret that ties all of the songs on the record together.

GA: You're releasing a collection of your songs on vinyl next month. I noticed a lot of people are doing that now-a-days. Why do you think this has become a popular thing again?

SARAH: I think we all grew up in houses full of vinyl, and are all collectors now, so pressing a 12” was really a no-brainer for us. We’re recording our next album right now, and are already considering phasing out of CDs completely, and just doing a 12” with digital download. I think until people can make lacquer masters in their homes, there will always be something special about vinyl.

DANIEL: Yeah, CDs have always been worthless, copyable, digital. Music needs a vessel, and i think that vinyl has always embodied that, especially now in the iTunes era. Plus, if you buy our record (and most records now), it comes with a download card, so the music can still go everywhere with you.

PRESTON: Vinyl records are just so damn cool. A story like "Your mother sold my original Sun Record Label Elvis Mp3's" just doesn't have much of a ring to it. Or any point, really, since Mp3's don't have distinguishing characteristics. And yes, my mom sold my dad's Elvis 45's. He's never really forgiven her for that. If you delete a digital file or scratch a CD, so what? But lose a precious vinyl record? That's take it to the grave type shit right there.

GA: In honor of the toy district, what were your favorite toys growing up?

DANIEL: Go Bots.

SARAH: Barbie and the Rockers, duh. And my Casio PT-100.

PRESTON: If board games count as toys, my favorite would be Hungry Hungry Hippos.

GA: What other local band or bands (besides yourselves of course) should people be checking out?

DANIEL: Health, Summer Darling, Vanaprasta, and any of the bands I've sat in with, Two Guns, Wait Think Fast, Spirit Animal.

PRESTON: I’ve kinda been obsessed with Fitz and the Tantrums as of late. Everyone should check them out if only the see the best haircut going right now.

SARAH: All of the above, plus Pollyn, Oh Darling and too many more to list. Go visit or and you’ll find lots of great locals to check out.

GA: If you could do another gorillacoustic performance anywhere else in the world, where would you do it?

DANIEL: On a beach in Mexico.

PRESTON: I'd like to perform from the PetÅ™ín Lookout Tower in Prague. I would insist on playing the accordion.

SARAH: On a balcony in the French Quarter on Mardi Gras day, with a brass band backing us up.

GA: Favorite movie robot?

DANIEL: Sarah is gonna say “A.I. Teddy.” I'm gonna go with “Johnny 5” from Short Circuit.

PRESTON: Mine would have to be “Ro-Man” from Robot Monster (1953, in glorious 3-D!) By the way, Ro-Man's death ray is called the "Calcinator." Seriously. The movie is so good that the director attempted suicide with a gun - and missed.

SARAH: Dan’s right, “A.I. Teddy” is the best, and his sidekick “Gigolo Joe” easily takes 2nd. Leave it to Kubrick to dream up a “buddy movie” starring a Hooker bot, a talking teddy bear and an android boy. Too bad Spielberg had to finish the job. Oh, and on a side note, I think Keith’s fave is that little girl “Vicky the Robot” from the TV show “Small Wonder.” Remember that show? Wowza!


robo1 robo5 robo2 robo4