Interview: Unextraordinary Gentlemen Play an Evening of Steampunkery Sunday Night
Mixing slick synthpop reminiscent of Soft Cell at its darkest, swirling violins and Dickensian wardrobes, Unextraordinary Gentlemen are the new wave of neo-Victorian pop. The LA based trio-- featuring Malcom Schreek (BloodPenny), Professor Richard Mangrove (ex-Sex with Lurch), and J. Frances Pomerantz (Demonika and the Darklings)-- formed on a lark a few short years ago and have since become the go-to band for goth and steampunk-friendly events. In the past year, they've played Gothla and Bats Day Dark Park Festival locally as well as San Francisco's Edwardian Ball and North Carolina's Eccentrik Festival in addition to regular club gigs. This Sunday night, the band will play as part of An Evening of Steampunkery at Echo Curio. Presented by Red Velvet and Sepiachord, the event will feature performances from "Queen of Quirk" Veronique Chevalier, composer/accordionist Seth Bedford, ukulele-heavy folk group Eli August and performance artist April Hava Shenkman.
Monday night, we met up with Schreek and Mangrove at karaoke hot spot Ground Control for a little pre-show conversation.
West Coast Sound: How much did The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen influence what you do?
Professor Richard Mangrove: I guess it influenced us a lot, actually. It wasn't the main focus, like, "Hey, this is a great comic, we're going to make a band out of it." I guess, the main influence of the comic was directly on me because it got me into Victorian literature and that kind of sowed the seeds that put me in that direction. At the time, when I was thinking of forming a band with him, that's when it gelled together. To be exact, though, the graphic novel, not the movie.
Malcom Schreek: When it started, it was going to be more eclectic, actually more of what I see the steampunk style being as far as our look, because it was going to be more based on Terry Gilliam movies, more of a Terry Gilliam aesthetic, specifically Time Bandits and things like that. It was going to be more rag-tag time travelers, taking elements from past and future, clanking it together and seeing what happens. Then we switched and went with more of a neo-Victorian theme, so some of that stuff went out the window. The description of our music when we talk about it is "1880s meets 1980s." That's the aesthetic. It's all the synths from the '80s, simple music and mental landscapes, but it's also the hustle and bustle of the industrial revolution.
PRM: Time Bandits actually influenced us more in the beginning than League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. I don't want to sabotage this, but we didn't want to be a really good band. We just wanted to be a, pardon my expression, fuck-around band where we play in these weird places and goof off and stuff. It kind of got more serious and the whole Time Bandits thing went out the window, especially since some other band had the name anyway.
MS: Which is why we chose Unextraordinary Gentlemen because it did not roll off the tongue at all. It kept that element that Time Bandits was going to have, making people spell out the entire name when they go to the website.
PRM: It was a bad joke to have this mouthful of a name that's really hard to search. It almost shoots itself in the foot, but we thought it would be really funny in a Monty Python kind of way to have this elaborate name and there's no way to shorten it. We kind of do because we use the monogram to shorten it.