Portland, Oregon’s Reptaliens is the husband and wife team of Cole and Bambi Browning. Inspired by cults, science fiction and music ranging from Wings to Francis Bebey and Julee Cruise, the band creates psychedelic, chameleonic dreamscapes that fall sonically and visually somewhere between abstract expressionism and surrealism.
Reptaliens are just at the beginning of their exciting journey, with a plethora of upcoming tour dates in support of their debut FM-2030. The couple chat to us about conspiracy theories, married life in a band and creating memorable live performances for their fans.
Q. Hello Reptaliens, can you tell us where you guys are and what you’ve been up to today?
Bambi: Hi Coney's!! Cole and I are sitting on our back porch with our dog Hambone and it feels like the first real day of fall. I was slangin’ pizzas all day today working with our guitar player Julian. Now I’m drinking a Hot Toddy that we made, and it actually turned out pretty good. We are excited to answer your questions!
Q. You probably get this quite a bit but where did the name come from? Was it decided straight away or did it take some time to think of?
Cole: The name just kind of came up out of conversation but we all liked it right away and decided to go with it. We definitely are inspired by a lot of sci-fi and conspiracy theories and ideas so we wanted something related to that vibe.
Bambi: I love aliens and conspiracies, anything sci-fi. When we were first talking to Captured Tracks they were unsure about the name but then they saw the live show and we got full approval. We really bring Reptaliens to life onstage with actors wearing costumes, masks, skits, and lyrical content. We almost went with “Glass Bricks” until Reptaliens came up.
Q. The husband and wife combination is quite a unique band set up, how did you start making music and how it has evolved up to the present day?
Bambi: Cole and I started hanging out a lot when we played in a different band together and then we started dating and writing a style of music that was more emotionally open. When we had a handful of songs we thought we should start a band to play them live. I never wrote full songs before or lyrics and I had to feel real comfortable to express myself and he helped me become more confident. He is my soul mate.
Q. Getting signed to Captured Tracks must have been a great moment for you, having the backing of a great label who has signed a selection of creative and interesting musicians. What was your reaction when it happened?
Bambi: We had been loosely emailing with them waiting for the moment when a contract would (hopefully!) appear in our inbox. I was in a dog food store and Cole was about to take a final across town and I called him crying and screaming to deliver the news and celebrate together. It was one of the most exciting things that has ever happened to me. They have always been my favourite label and it is a fairy tale to work with them. I love them so much.
Cole: Even with the records in hand it still feels pretty unreal. We’ve both loved this label for so long and listen to all the bands on the roster; it’s crazy to be able to be a part of it. I instantly wanted to quit my job haha but I always kind of want to quit my job.
Q. You’ve really mastered a confident and spacey dream-pop sound; which artists have been your main influences when writing music?
Bambi: Of Montreal is one of my favourite bands. They inspire me to push the live show into a performance and bring something special to every show. Musically, Paul McCartney, Todd Rundgren, and Curtis Mayfield.
Cole: I remember getting really into Lee Perry tape delay type dubby sounds when we were recording, ‘Nunya’ started off as kind of a Velvet Underground song but changed a lot through the recording process. I really like the fidelity and keyboard sounds of Beach House and they probably influenced a lot of the chiller songs.
Q. To add to the last question, can you run us through the general writing/recording process for your songs?
Bambi: We record all of our demos at home and take a lot of those recordings into the studio for final samples and tracks. I’ll write a song start to finish in our living room while Cole’s at work or Cole will write a song structure and I’ll add some keyboard melodies, bass, and lyrics. I get super excited to share a finished song and see his reaction -sometimes it’s good, and sometimes it’s bad!
Cole: A lot of times I’ll get a verse/chorus chord progression and bring it to Bambi and then she’ll structure the song and add melodies. Sometimes we write together and sometimes we each bring mostly finished things to the other person.
Q. Your live shows look like exciting and bizarre performances; besides the music you are often joined by crazy dressed up characters on stage. Are there any messages you are trying to put out there with this or is it just a bit of fun for the fans?
Cole: There’s no real message or meaning to the characters other than just existing for the sake of bizarre or surreal visual input. We just want it to be fun and to be a spectacle. I can get bored of bands that I really love if it’s just watching four people play guitars for an hour and a half. We want the night to be an experience.
Bambi: I like getting inspired by little things, ideas, or objects and turning them into skit ideas or costumes. Our actress Betty does a really good job of making the costumes into real character and productions. We get a chance to entertain people with the live show as well expose them to our music and it’s really fun to see their reaction to what we do. Dancing with Betty on stage is super fun as well; her and I have a special energy together no matter what we’re doing.
We also like to write skits for Betty that are a precursor to the band’s performance. It’s fun to come up with new ideas and see people respond to it like “Oh my god what is this!?”
Q. 666Bus is the euphoric second single from your forthcoming debut FM-2030. The track is a continuation of the contagiously relaxing vibe that you guys create. Can we expect more of this on the album and what themes will you tackle?
Bambi: Everything is pretty much in the same realm with pretty melodies, a lot of energy, and underlying dark lyrics and concepts. I have a habit of writing about my or other’s obsession.
Cole: There’s a lot of chill, relaxing, dreaminess to the album but it also has a lot of movement. More like 666Bus can be expected as far as pretty and melodic music with dark lyrics, but the song styles are kind of all over the place and aren’t held down too much by genre. We just play what we think sounds nice and Bambi sings about the crazy things that she thinks about.
Q. Besides the album release, what exciting things have you guys got planned for the rest of the year?
Bambi: We have a west coast tour in November and we are getting excited about going to Europe for the first time together as a band after the first of the year.
I also got really into screenprinting and we have a bunch of new ideas for T shirts and merch. We also have new costumes and Cole has been putting together visuals for projections. We never stop creating
Cole: Yeah mostly just a ton of touring. We want to do Europe and more nationals and play in all the cities and states that we have never visited before.