Sleepytime Gorilla Museum (often abbreviated to SGM) are an American Experimental rock band, formed in 1999 in Oakland, California.
After the disbanding of Idiot Flesh
, Dan Rathbun
and Nils Frykdahl
joined with Charming Hostess
member Carla Kihlstedt
(of which Rathbun and Frykdahl were also members) to form Sleepytime Gorilla Museum with Moe! Staiano
and David Shamrock
. Their first performance, on June 22, 1999, was to a single banana slug
(Ariolimax dolichophallus). The following night's performance was their first to a human audience.
Some time during the recording of Grand Opening and Closing (2001), drummer David Shamrock left the band and was replaced with Frank Grau. Grau also co-released the album, instigated their first tour and managed the band.
During the recording of the follow up, Of Natural History (2004), Grau left the band and was replaced with a new drummer Matthias Bossi, formerly of Skeleton Key. The Of Natural History tour saw Moe! Staiano's exit and new percussionist, Michael Mellender enter. In January, 2006 Sleepytime Gorilla Museum signed to The End Records who re-released their début Grand Opening and Closing with three bonus tracks.
Soon after, an announcement was made that a new album was in the works and had a tentative date of March, 2007. During early 2007, the title and track list for their third studio album, In Glorious Times was announced with the release date set for May 29, 2007. Prior to the release, an mp3 and music video of "Helpless Corpses Enactment" were available online.
According to their extensive liner notes for Grand Opening and Closing
, their official history and repeated in interviews, the name "Sleepytime Gorilla Museum" comes from a small group of Dadaists
, and artists named the Sleepytime Gorilla Press who owned and operated what they called a "museum of the future" which was "anti-artifact, non-historical and closed."
The "museum" opened on June 22, 1916 (the same date as the bands' first concert, 83 years later). The exhibit was a fire which caused wide chaos and confusion. The following day the museum was closed (hence the name of the first album). The name itself apparently comes from a poem called "Of the Future Hides the Past," written by Museum members Lala Rolo and Ikk Ygg.
Their live performances have featured puppet shows, pseudo-scientific scholarly presentations, and performances by members of the Butoh
The band uses many homemade devices as instruments, such as the Viking Rowboat. Dan Rathbun — who has created most of the band's idiosyncratic instruments — plays, among other custom-made instruments (though he uses a common bass guitar most of the time), a custom-stringed bass instrument referred to as the Sledgehammer Dulcimer (or, alternately, the Slide Piano Log), which uses piano strings and is possibly more than 7 feet long; it is played with two sticks: one in the left hand generally used as a fret, and another in the right hand to strike the strings.
Percussionist Michael Mellender's instruments consist of restaurant kitchen equipment, trash can lids, and other "found" metal objects, in addition to traditional percussion instruments. One of the more infamous instruments used by the band was Moe! Staiano's Popping Turtle (now residing in Brooklyn, NY). It can be heard about 1:21 into the song "Sleep is Wrong".
SGM's music can be roughly likened as something akin to avant-rock
, or avant-garde metal
, but it practically escapes any rigorous categorization so that people usually have to name-drop different kinds of bands in order to give some sort of scope or conception of what they sound like. Some names that have come up in reviewers' texts include Mr. Bungle
, Thinking Plague
, Univers Zéro
, White Zombie
, King Crimson
, and so on; while not excessively naming bands in his review of SGM's second album Of Natural History
, David Moore of Pitchfork Media
thinks, in the same swoop, that SGM's debut album Grand Opening and Closing
was an amalgam of Meshuggah
and Secret Chiefs 3
, resulting in "some truly cracked prog-metal anthems.
Some of the strange and unique names of some of these are custom instruments built by the band.
- Frank Grau – (2001-2004) - Drums, Melodica
- David Shamrock – (1999-2001) - Drums, Piano
- Moe! Staiano – (1999-2004) - Bowed spatula, Food Containers, Glockenspiel, Metal, Paper, Percussion, Popping Turtle, Pressure-cap Marimba, Spring, Spring-nail Guitar, Tympani, Wood