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Power Instrumental

Photo by Athena Delene | tinyurl.com/athenadelene
Photo by Athena Delene | tinyurl.com/athenadelene

Human Ottoman is confident that their debut album Power Baby is going to melt your face off. 

This chutzpah stems from the fact that, to their knowledge, they’re the only band in the world that uses this particular instrumentation, with Matthew Cartmill on cello, Susan Lucia on drums and Grayson Fiske on vibraphone (like a xylophone with a sustain pedal).

“It’s shocking when you think you have an idea in your head about what cello sounds like and what vibraphone sounds like, and then what we do happens,” Fiske says. 

Human Ottoman proudly blends metal cello, world rhythm, funk and rock into a sound that you’ve definitely never laid ears on. The three rhythm-obsessed UO grads were housemates when the band was created a year and a half ago. While Human Ottoman may nerd out to Stravinsky when they hang out, the trio grew up listening to alt-rock bands like Primus. 

Power Baby is deliberate in form, but the band’s improvisational jazz has an unstructured mentality that produces the chaotic sound they seek. The sound is predictable in that it’s unpredictable, like when they tried to arrange a tango song, and it ended up sounding nothing like the original because the instrumentation wouldn’t allow it. 

“The album has something for every musical subculture that you might subscribe to,” Cartmill says. 

They note the pitfalls of making a freshman album, however; Power Baby took more time and money than expected to get the sound right. Fiske even had to completely rebuild his vibraphone, adding his own super-secret, patent-pending invention to the instrument. 

The goal for the album is to excite people to see them perform because they exist as a live band. At a typical Human Ottoman show, the band says you may find an old man head banging, or people who were booing for the first three songs transform into the people filling the tip jar after the set.

“Sometimes I feel surprised when people give us such good feedback,” Lucia says. “Really? You liked us making these weird sounds?”

Human Ottoman releases Power Baby live 10 pm Friday, May 2, at Luckey’s, 933 Olive St.; $5.