Since its inception in 1991, Man or Astro-Man released several albums and toured extensively until disbanding in 2001.
Now, over ten years later, Man or Astro-man? is back with their latest album, Defcon 5…4…3…2…1 and a new national tour. We caught up with drummer Brian “Birdstuff” Teasley to discuss the reunion, growing up in Alabama and other tales form outer space. Man or Astro-man? invades Bimbo’s on May 11th.
You guys took a long hiatus from 2001 to 2010. What were you doing during this time?
Basically, it was all going into research and development into what we are on now. In my personal life I have a ten-year grudge rule, and those guys finally escaped past my rule. We just needed a break. To be completely candid we toured a lot, I’ve never met anyone who toured more than we did in the 90’s. We played well over 2,000 shows. It was a good time to end, and a good time to start again. But the official story is that we were working on a bunch of outer-space bullshit.
Did you report back to your native planet?
The whole problem is that we weren’t able to find the parts to the ship, and they don’t want us back. We are like space orphans, the red headed stepchildren of the Universe. We had to get into our own chambers and, to use an Earth term, we had to “chill,” and that period took ten years so we could stand to be in a band again.
Did you foresee a reunion?
W don’t call it a reunion, we call it a reenactment because we are playing new material. I don’t think we’ll ever capture the same spirit when we were twenty years old, but at the same time we’re a bit heavier now- and different, there’s a different intensity.
Are you touring with the original lineup?
We’ve always been a three-piece band with a touring fourth member. The fourth member is always the new guy, even though we currently have a girl in the band, Ivana Nova. Coco just procreated, so he has to fly in and out to deal with baby world, but for 95 percent of the shows it’s the original three of us.
How was your experience recording Defcon 5…4… 3… 2…1?
The last album with the original lineup was “Made from Technetium,” which was in 1997, so it’s been fifteen years, which is crazy to think about, and honestly, it was the exact fucking same. I was really nervous about getting in a room together, even just playing some of the old songs. But once we got in the studio we made the same stupid moronic jokes we always made. People are people, and we have a very singular core to who we are. At the same time we were like ‘holy shit, we haven’t matured at all.’ The three of us will always play a certain way, we will sound how we sound, and I think that it’s because we’ve been playing for so long. It keeps 2013 connected to 1991 in a strange way.
Your nickname is “Birdstuff.” Was this name given to you by anyone specifically?
In the 1970s, everybody had a CV radio in his or her cars. We were coming up with ridiculous names for a 7” and we didn’t want to use real names. My mom’s radio name was Wonder Woman, and my dad’s was Birdstuff. It always stuck to me as being stupid and ridiculous, and that’s how that came up.
You’ve been playing music on Earth for nearly two decades. What are some differences you’ve noticed in the “biz”?
In the 90’s, you wouldn’t have a band like Superchunk or Archers of Loaf play on Saturday Night Live that quickly, like Vampire Weekend and Fleet Foxes have. It is such a different world that bands ‘make it’ in now. You used to have to tour and gain fans that way, and ‘make it’ more organically.
I’m not being like an old grumpy fucker, but it seemed like a more genuine way to earn fans. Bands like Vampire Weekend that play SNL after a year and a half of their inception was unheard of. Now it seems like the very first thing bands want to do is have their music in a bank commercial, back then bands didn’t even want to make music videos. We were really attached to that ethos, like ‘fuck major labels!’
And now ‘Indie’ means that your band has a certain type of sound, whether it’s a very reverberant, My Morning Jacket type sound, or a dream pop Animal Collective type sound. We had punk rock that had more of an amorphous type of feel to it. Indie has become like a way of life, and I guess that happens when something reaches a critical mass.
What are some of the differences between the band members now?
I remember in 1998 I would hold a hunting knife up to the other member’s throats while they were breathing in their sleep, but I let them sleep in peace now. I’m over exaggerating. We all love each other. This was our first real band, and it’s like a brotherhood, the three of us. This band is different than those bands that just get together after being in several other bands.
What inspired you to play music growing up in Alabama?
I think about that a lot, especially being in the realm of Alabama. I wonder about that fine line, and when I decided to start going to punk rock shows instead of Nascar races? I try to find that moment internally, but I don’t know. I think we were just lucky. Birmingham was metropolitan enough to where bands like Fugazi would come through, and there was a really good record store called Luxery where people recommended bands like Husker Du.
Were we weird people to begin with, or did we just fall into weird shit? The reality is, growing up in Birmingham was like growing up in Chicago rather than Green Acres. When we first went to Europe people thought of us like the Dukes of Hazard, and assumed we all played banjo. We played it up at first, but it’s not like we grew up on farms.
On the song Reversal of Polarity, you play it live using a double-neck bass. Is that still part of your set?
We don’t do that anymore. Coco actually sold that bass- which sucks. That song is interesting too because it starts going forward and ends playing backwards- that’s why it’s called the Reversal of Polarity- but nobody every got that.
You are known for your theatrical performances. Is there anything new we can expect from this tour?
We have official astro-gear that we wear. The new shows are heavily based on projection. We were really interested in visual aspects, and with technology now it’s very easy to do. Back in the day it was very hands on, using 16mm projections. Now it’s easier to do a lot more with a lot less.
The reason for the monikers is that when we started there were a lot of serious bands like Pearl Jam and Live, but we just wanted to be the complete opposite of all that shit. We wanted to be entertainers. That’s what this band has always been about. We just felt like we kind of owed the people who paid five bucks to see us.
Fugazi always got asked about their politics, and we always get asked about our imagery, but at the end of the day we just try to be a tight band, and that’s really it. Sometimes you don’t have to think beyond that, and sometimes all the other stuff gets in the way of just being a rock n’ roll band.
If you could invade any person’s body for one day, who would it be and what would you do?
Not somebody small- they always say being small you get into small places. I think I’d be Lindsay Lohan, and I’d have sex with the entire paparazzi. And then I get to jump out of her body and she’d have to deal with the aftermath. People will say, ‘remember that day when Lindsay Lohan had sex with thirty members of the paparazzi?’ TMZ would go crazy.
San Francisco can be a little weird for people. What are your views of this city?
I actually used to live in Berkeley and we used to have a practice space in San Francisco. There was always like a 6’ 3 transvestite offering me a two-dollar blow job, and I never felt weird and always felt at home. It’s been one of our favorite cities to play, whether we’re playing the Fillmore, Amoeba Music, Bottom of the Hill, or Bimbo’s 365. I hate to sound like I’m kissing ass, if it was Dallas I’d say ‘fuck Dallas.’