Steam Powered Giraffe
Steam Powered Giraffe is an American musical project formed in San Diego in 2008, self-described as "a musical act that combines robot pantomime, puppetry, ballet, comedy, projections, and music". Created and led by identical twins David Michael Bennett and Isabella Bunny Bennett, the act combines music and improvisational comedy on-stage, although their studio works focus almost solely on music.
Steam Powered Giraffe
|Origin||San Diego, California, United States|
|Genres||Folk rock, pop, vaudeville, comedy music, steampunk|
|Associated acts||Professor Elemental|
The Cog is Dead
|Members||David Michael Bennett|
Isabella Bunny Bennett
|Past members||Sam Luke|
Michael Philip Reed
Steam Powered Giraffe has its own fictional mythology, with the band members portraying characters both on stage and on record; its fictional universe has been explored via several comic books mainly written and drawn by Isabella Bennett. Although the band underwent several line-up changes, it always focuses primarily on three robot characters (played by the Bennett siblings and a third performer, although the original line-up featured four robots), with several "humans" assisting and performing comedy, music and dancing on stage, and several smaller robots being performed via puppetry or voice acting. To date, they have released six studio albums, a few singles, cover songs, two live albums, several live concert films, provided the soundtrack for the 2015 video game SteamWorld Heist, and released an official single for the 2016 video game Battleborn.
2008–2011: Formation and early careerEdit
The members of Steam Powered Giraffe met while taking Theatre Arts at Grossmont College. Afterwards, they became members of a local San Diego pantomime group called Troupe SD. Trained in pantomime by Seaport Village mime Jerry "Kazoo" Hager, and with collective backgrounds in clown, theater, music, and visual design, Jonathan Sprague, Erin Burke (a fellow pantomime artist) and the Bennett twins—Isabella and David—started street busking as quirky robotic characters in January 2008 at Balboa Park, California. For their first performance in public they called themselves Steam Powered Giraffe Presents: Peoplebots . Later that month they changed their name to just Steam Powered Giraffe. Erin Burke left the group in 2011 to pursue a career in acting.
Since their conception, the band has performed at venues including the San Diego County Fair, San Diego Zoo, Wild Animal Park, Legoland California, Ontario Mills, Downtown Disney, and numerous science fiction, fantasy, anime, and steampunk conventions.
In October 2009, the band released their first album, Album One. It contained the previously released single from May 2009 titled "On Top of the Universe", in 2009. In early 2011 the band released a single, "Honeybee", announcing that it would be on an upcoming second album. In late 2011 the band announced the release of a "live" album entitled Live at the Globe of Yesterday's Tomorrow.
2012–2013: The 2¢ Show and MK IIIEdit
Their second studio album, entitled The 2¢ Show, was released in May 2012. That year, they were voted Best Live Comedy act (and runner up for Best Family Entertainment act) on San Diego A-List.
Besides their musical endeavors, the band publishes a web comic and has produced a card game based on characters in their backstory. In April 2012 they released a DVD entitled, Steam Powered Giraffe: The DVD (and the Quest For the Eternal Harp of Golden Dreams).
On 24 September 2012, the band announced on their Tumblr page that Jon Sprague would no longer be a part of the group. On 1 October it was announced that Sam Luke, the drummer for the band at the time, would become the new robot in the band, "Hatchworth". On 2 November 2012, Hatchworth made his stage debut with SPG at Youmacon in Detroit, Michigan with interim drummer Mike Buxbaum (of A City Serene). Later, Matt Smith was named SPG's new drummer.
During this time, SPG also introduced the characters of the Walter Girls into their shows. The Girls started out by manning the band's merchandise tables at performances, but have started figuring in to the SPG stage show and back story. Described as "blue matter engineers", the porcelian-white skinned and blue-haired Walter Girls (now called Walter Workers) are essentially the robot's caretakers on stage.
In June 2013, SPG released a cover of Rihanna's "Diamonds", essentially a solo performance by the Spine. The accompanying video, released to YouTube, introduced a new character to the SPG canon, a robotic giraffe puppet named GG (voiced by Bunny Bennett). GG appeared again in July when the band released a comedic video, "Walter Robotics Rap", to YouTube.
On 9 August 2013, Steam Powered Giraffe announced the title to their third album, MK III. The album was released on December 3. In September of that same year, the band released a cover of Icona Pop's "I Love It" on their YouTube channel.
2014–2016: The Vice Quadrant and QuintessentialEdit
On March 18, 2014, it was announced that Michael Reed and Matt Smith would no longer be performing members of Steam Powered Giraffe. The Bennett twins stated that the reasons for their departure was to focus more on the theatrical elements of the act and to reduce the cost of touring, but they have also stated in recent years on their podcast The Bennettarium that Michael Reed had neglected his contracted work on their MK III album, with him having to cram in all his work the last few weeks of production.
Early in 2014, Isabella Bennett began to transition the character of Rabbit from male to female, coinciding with her own status as a transgender woman. She legally changed her name to Isabella Bennett on 22 January 2016.
More videos have followed in the meantime. In May 2014, they released their third cover, a mostly acoustic version of Daft Punk's "Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger". The video marked the first "official" appearance by the female Rabbit to the general public at large (although the band had played some dates prior and some photos and raw audience footage had been seen). The band then followed up with two new videos: "Fancy Shoes" in June and "I'll Rust With You" in July, with the latter featuring live footage recorded at Anime Midwest in Rosemont, Illinois.
In September 2014, Steam Powered Giraffe gave their first international performance, playing at the Grand Canadian Steampunk Exposition in Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario. They returned for the 2015 Exposition to do a collaboration show with Professor Elemental.
On September 1, 2015, SPG released The Vice Quadrant: A Space Opera, a 2-disc space opera concept album containing 28 tracks, although iTunes released it as two separate albums for download. The release followed a number of video releases to promote the work. This marked the band's first recorded work with Rabbit presenting as a woman, as well as the first full album recorded strictly as a trio. The album featured an appearance by Professor Elemental as well as vocals by Walter Worker Chelsea Penyak.
In December 2015, video game developer Image & Form released the game SteamWorld Heist for the Nintendo 3DS, and later released it in 2016 on other platforms. The game's soundtrack was composed and recorded by SPG, and they appear in-game.
The video game Battleborn by Gearbox Software released on May 3, 2016, and included an unlockable theme song created by Steam Powered Giraffe for the character of Montana; the same day, the band released it on digital platforms as a single.
On June 20, 2016, Steam Powered Giraffe announced on their website that their fifth studio album, Quintessential was available for pre-order. According to the article, a free downloadable digital copy of the twelve-track album would be included with the purchase of the CD.
2016–2019: New memberEdit
On December 19, 2016, the band announced on social media that Samuel Luke would be leaving the group so he could focus more on his independent work as an artist and musician. He then announced that he would immediately be replaced by Bryan Barbarin and his character Zero. The next day, the Bennetts, Sam, and Bryan came together in David and Isabella's new podcast, The Bennettarium, to discuss the robot transition, among other things. Zero's first live show occurred on February 18, 2017, at The Center Theater at The California Center for the Arts in Escondido, California.
It was confirmed on March 12, 2017, following her appearance on The Bennettarium, that the 2009 original release of the band's Album One album, featuring a song and some vocals by past band member Erin Burke would be re-released. Both the 2009 and 2011 version now co-exist.
On July 20, 2017 the band performed a show during San Diego Comic Con with former member Michael Philip Reed joining them on stage. Since this show, Michael joined the band for most shows up until February 2020.
On January 27, 2018 Steam Powered Giraffe celebrated the band's 10th anniversary with a special concert featuring all members in the band's history, including all five former members: robots The Jon, Upgrade and Hatchworth, and humans Michael Philip Reed and Matthew Smith. It was later released as a live concert film on Blu-Ray, DVD, and digital video.
On April 18, 2019 the band announced the production of their next album, the first to feature Bryan and the first since MK III to feature Michael Philip Reed. They also confirmed that they would be releasing two new songs every three to four months alongside music videos for each song.
On March 3, 2020 the band announced that backing musician Michael Philip Reed was suddenly leaving the band to move out of the country. Reed had provided some contributions to tracks on the band's 6th album 1896 prior to his departure.
On July 1, 2020 the band uploaded two re-edits of their music videos Shattered Stars and Latum Alterum which removed former band member Michael Reed (who hadn't been in the band since March). In the pinned comments of these videos and a public post on their Patreon, the band explained that the edits were in response to evidence brought to the band in private from multiple fans about Michael Reed’s inappropriate interactions with them. The statement says "The band was lead to believe by Mike that he was just 'a nice guy with no ill intent' anytime we called him out on being overly friendly with fans, and how that could be taken by people. Little did we know that was just surface level behavior, and it ran deeper than that. We are so sorry people felt isolated in these incidences with Mike. It wasn't isolated, and plenty of people had something similar happen over the years that we are hearing now, and we are shocked and disgusted." The band also states that Michael had denied everything when the band contacted him about it, but that the evidence was overwhelming and they could not turn a blind eye to the people who came forward privately about said actions. Besides the re-edits of the music videos, new versions of the songs from these music videos and other singles from the band's upcoming 1896 album were published digitally where they could be. These new versions have Michael Reed's vocals removed. His vocals are also removed for the final release of the band's 1896 album, but he has credit for some instruments and arrangements in the liner notes.
On July 10, 2020, the band posted publicly on their Patreon that they were no longer working with their live show sound technician Steve Negrete, followed by a statement from him. In the statement Steve said he was resigning from the band due to having "hooked up with fans during past Steam Powered Giraffe shows" and that he must take responsibility for his own actions after reflecting in light of the information about Michael Reed. He apologized for his actions and stated that he will not be working with the band any further. In regards to Michael Reed and Steve Negrete, the band said in this post "We are not going to invite arguments over the severity of the actions of either member cut from this video. They both crossed a line in their own ways that the band would never condone now or in the past." The music video for the band’s song Shattered Stars was re-uploaded with another re-edit, removing shots of Steve Negrete in addition to the previous removal of Michael Reed.
On November 9, 2020 the band released their newest album 1896, a 2-disc album featuring 22 songs, 10 of which are acoustic versions of other songs on the album. The acoustic tracks are exclusive to purchases of the album and are not on streaming services on release.
- The Spine (David Michael Bennett) is a futuristic dieselpunk robot with a titanium alloy spinal column. His skin is made of silver-colored, articulating plates, and he wears a black fedora and a waistcoat with accompanying red handkerchief.
- – lead and backing vocals, guitars, bass, mandolin, keyboards, recording engineer, producer (2008–present)
- Rabbit (Isabella "Bunny" Bennett)1 is a copper clockwork robot with a porcelain faceplate, often "malfunctioning" at shows and their panels. She wears a black dress with red and black tights. Her costume and hair change frequently. Bunny also performs the character of GG The Giraffe via puppetry and voice acting.
- Zero (Bryan Barbarin) is a swing-styled robot with a gold and gray colored face. According to his lore, the robot was hastily put together from left-over scrap robot parts in 1896, but was forgotten deep in the Walter family's workshop until he was re-discovered in 1992.
- – lead and backing vocals, bass (2016-present)
1Isabella Bennett was credited under her given name until 2016, when she legally took the name of Isabella; the character of Rabbit had become female since 2014, when Bennett came out as a trans woman.
- Walter Worker Chelsea (Chelsea Penyak) and Walter Worker Camille (Camille Penyak) – on-stage characters, on-stage ballet accompaniment, and workers for live show merchandise booths (2014–present)
- The Jon (Jonathan "Jon" Sprague) was a gold art deco robot and part of the original four members. He left the band in 2012.
- – lead and backing vocals, guitar, mandolin, bass, drums (2008–2012; guest: 2018)
- Upgrade (Erin Burke) was a silver and pink stylized robot and part of the original four members. She left the band in 2011.
- Hatchworth (Sam Luke) was a copper art deco robot who was previously a drummer for the band, as a human, before replacing The Jon as a robot. He left the band in 2016.
- – lead and backing vocals, bass, guitars (2012–2016; session drums, bass and backing vocals: 2010–2012; guest: 2018)
- Matthew Smith – drums, backing vocals (2012–2014: guest: 2018)
- Michael Philip Reed – guitar, banjo, synthesizer, ukulele, bass, piano, vocoder, drums, percussion, lead and backing vocals (2008–2014, 2017–2020)
- Brianna Clawson – Walter Worker character, merchandise (2012–2013)
- Paige Law – Walter Worker character, merchandise (2012–2014)
- Carolina Gumbayan – Walter Worker, merchandise, bass (2013–2014)
- Steve Negrete – live show audio engineering, also performed the characters of Beebop and Qwerty via voice acting on projection screen (2011–2020)
- Album One (2009) (re-released in 2011)
- The 2¢ Show (2012)
- MK III (2013)
- The Vice Quadrant: A Space Opera (2015)
- Quintessential (2016)
- 1896 (2020)
- Live at the Globe of Yesterday's Tomorrow (2011)
- Live at the Walter Robotics Expo 2013 (2014)
- The Quest for the Eternal Harp of Golden Dreams (2012)
- Live at Walter Robotics Expo 2013 (2014)
- Concierto Privado (2016)
- 10 Year Anniversary Show (2018)
- Live in Denver Colorado (2018)
- Live in La Jolla California (2019)
- Music From SteamWorld Heist (2015)
- "On Top of the Universe" (2009)
- "Honeybee" (2011)
- "Montana" (2016), in collaboration with 2016 video game Battleborn
- "Shattered Stars" (2019)
- "Latum Alterum (Ya Ya Ya)" (2019)
- "Hot on the Trail" (2019)
- "Transform" (2005)
- "Lyin' Awake" (2020)
- "Eat Your Heart" (2020)
- "Intertwined" (2020)
- "Bad Days on the Horizon" (2020)
- "Olly and the Equinox Band" (2020)
- "Fart Patrol" (2021)
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- "GG: The Giraffe". Steam Powered Giraffe. Retrieved April 26, 2014.
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- "San Diego Zoo : Extended Summer Hours and Entertainment at Nighttime Zoo". Random San Diego. 9 June 2011. Retrieved 1 November 2011.
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- "New Single With An Album On The Way!". Blogspot. Retrieved 6 December 2012.
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- "The 2¢ Show Now Available!". Blogspot. Retrieved 6 December 2012.
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- "The Bennettarium". thebennettarium.libsyn.com. Retrieved 2020-11-28.
- "Info: Meet the Band". Steam Powered Giraffe. 2014. Retrieved March 12, 2016.
- Bennett, Isabella (22 January 2016). "Isabella now and forever..." Facebook.
- Adam Miller (November 30, 2016). "SteamWorld Heist Review (Wii U)". Nintendo News. Retrieved September 28, 2017.
- "Montana (From "Battleborn") (2016)". Steam Powered Giraffe. Retrieved 2019-02-28.
- Bennet, David Michael. "New Album Quintessential Available for Pre-order!" Web log post. Steam Powered Giraffe. N.p., 20 June 2016. Web. 13 Sept. 2016. <http://steampoweredgiraffe.com/>.
- Bennett, David M. “Officialsteampoweredgiraffe.” The Official Steam Powered Giraffe Tumblr, Tumblr, 19 Dec. 2016, officialsteampoweredgiraffe.tumblr.com/post/154670547261/whats-next-for-steam-powered-giraffe-in-2017.
- The Bennettarium Podcast (Video) - Episode 10: Shut Up Abraham Lincoln!” Youtube, 20 Dec. 2016, www.youtube.com/watch?v=iBbRdY6Bwgg.
- “STEAM POWERED GIRAFFE LIVE IN CONCERT.” California Center for the Arts, Escondido, 2018, artcenter.org/event/steam-powered-giraffe-2/.
- Bennett, David (July 4, 2020). "New Version of Latum Alterum (Ya Ya Ya) Music Video". Steam Powered Giraffe - Patreon.
- "Steam Powered Giraffe – Official Website of Steam Powered Giraffe". Retrieved 2020-11-28.
- Dan Letchworth (March 24, 2017). "The Show About Shows Podcast #8: Steam Powered Giraffe, Vanessa Dinning". San Diego Magazine. Retrieved September 28, 2017.
- "What's Next for Steam Powered Giraffe in... - Steam Powered Giraffe | Facebook". www.facebook.com. Retrieved 2016-12-19.