- Stellar Propeller Studio, courtesy GOCA UCCS
- Itchy-O: Your one-stop shop for maximum noise and ritual ecstasy.
Itchy-O was once declared "Weirdest Band of the Week" by a music site called Weirdest Band in the World, which isn't all that weird when you consider the idea of a mysteriously masked-and-costumed marching band that incorporates dozens of Taiko drummers, quavering Theremins, industrial-strength electronic contraptions, and just enough guitar and bass to meet the minimum standards of experimental rock.
The first time I witnessed the Denver group in action was when it "crashed" the inaugural Riot Fest back in 2013. Marching through the food concession area dressed in LED-lit mariachi outfits, they pounded on huge drums and wore 12-volt-battery-powered synthesizers that look like steampunk jetpacks. Meanwhile, the group's ninja-clad "creep unit" lithely snaked through the crowd in a manner that was both intriguing and, on some profound level, unsettling.
While Itchy-O's musical and visual aesthetic may be startlingly original, some clues to their inspirations can be found within San Francisco's Bay Area experimental art scene, where a few of Itchy-O's members got their start. It was there that they encountered avant-cult pioneers such as The Residents, Mark Pauline's Survival Research Lab, and the Extra Action Marching Band.
Compared to their stripped-down guerrilla performances, the band's concerts are more theatrically ambitious but no less immersive. First-timers, many of whom have been dragged along by enthusiastic friends, are quickly transformed into Itchy-O devotees, who can then be counted on to bring new recruits to the next show.
"Touring has become another way for us to reach more and more virgins," explains the "hive-minded collective" in an email exchange. (They don't do telephone or in-person interviews.) "We love coming down to Colorado Springs because there are always a lot of virgin minds in the crowd."
Itchy-O's appearance here will also be a celebration of their sophomore album From the Overflowing. Newly released on Jello Biafra's Alternative Tentacles label, it's an appropriate starting point for our conversation.
Indy: What's the most essential thing for people to know about this new album?
Itchy-O: There are over 100 recorded tracks on each song and we had much more control than our first record. It was also a lot of fun spreading our experimental wings in a few tracks that do not have any percussion in them. It is a "headphones" record for sure, but all of the songs were also born as live pieces meant to rattle bones live.
If you had to choose between spending eternity with The Residents, the Extra Action Marching Band or Cirque du Soleil, which would you choose, and why?
Oh boy. This sounds like a Jean-Paul Sartre nightmare on steroids, but the Residents would probably be our choice. We consider Extra Action as kind of our big sister and owe a lot to her but, that said ... not sure we'd want to spend eternity on a tour bus with her (insert nervous laughter). The Residents are a huge inspiration and major heroes for most of us.
What does the term "hive-minded" mean to you?
There are currently over 50 members in Itchy-O. We take over venues and event spaces like organized crime. There is a "Collective Effervescence" that we aim to create as an experience. Through these experiences, individuals become the whole, the profane becomes the sacred, and the solitude (experienced at most other concerts as a spectator) here becomes a communal affair. Both performer and attendees participate in this hive mind at an Itchy-O show, effectively agreeing through ritual ecstasy to create for themselves a sacred social space. Performers wear masks and speak as one through several different disciplines, creating a Hive Mind. It rests on the shoulders of no individual and becomes collective, effervescent, and we hope enduring.
Itchy-O was written up as the "Weirdest Band of the Week" last year by a site called Weirdest Band in the World. How did that feel? (And is it true?)
We're very honored to have made this list along with some of the greatest bands to ever exist like Crash Worship, Butthole Surfers, Matmos, Quintron and Miss Pussycat, and many others. We do what we do and what we do comes very natural to us, but yes, we take great pride in following our own visions and marching to our own drum. If that makes us "weird," then "weird" feels real good.