Steam Powered Giraffe (SPG) is a musical project formed in San Diego in 2008 that is popular in the steampunk subculture. The act combines the visual of robot pantomime with sketches, pop culture references, comic strips, improvised comedic dialogue, and original music.According to the band's fictional backstory, the "musical automatons" were invented by a rich San Diego inventor named Colonel P. A. Walter in 1896 and kept in the Walter family over the years. Called the 8th 1/2 Wonder of the World, the robots were a technological marvel that ran off steam powered engines and artificial intelligence. The band's name is said to come from Walter's first robot, a giant mechanical giraffe. A fictional timeline on the band's website chronicles the band's supposed "appearances" throughout the years at such notable places as the 1933 Chicago World's Fair and The Ed Sullivan Show.Besides their musical endeavors, the band publishes a Web Comic and has produced a card game based on characters in their backstory.The robots are:
The Spine (David Michael Bennett) is a futuristic dieselpunk robot with a titanium alloy spinal column and convincing human mannerisms. His skin is smooth silver, and he wears a black fedora and red tie. He plays guitar primarily, but also plays bass, mandolin, and keys.
Rabbit (Bunny Bennett) is a copper clockwork robot, known for being the glitchiest of the robots. You'll likely see her in old videos as a male robot wearing a black coachman's hat with steampunk-style goggles on it and a black vest with red accents, but as of January 2014 she's received a Gender Swap and is now the sole female robot in the band. She plays accordion, melodica, keytar, and kazookaphone.
Hatchworth (former human member Sam Luke) is a brass automaton, who sports a black army jacket with red accents, knee-high boots, a bowler hat, and his signature ginger mustache. He had been kept in storage for many years due to a leaking and dangerous power core, but was recently repaired and put to use as the Walter Manor's butler. He possesses the ability to produce a "hatch's worth" of sandwiches from nowhere. He plays the bass and drums.
The Jon (Jon Sprague) was an art deco-style brass robot powered by soda (primarily Crystal Pepsi), who wore a tall black top hat and red suspenders. He played the mandolin, bass, guitar, drums, occasional keys, and the electric watermelon. The Jon left the group in September 2012. Unlike Upgrade's departure, The Jon's character still exists within the canon lore of the band's universe.
Upgrade (Erin Burke) was the only female robot in the group before January 2014. She left the band in 2011 to further pursue an acting career.
The human band members are:
Steve Negrete is the sound engineer and voices Beebop and QWERTY for the band. He wears a bandanna and sports a sleeveless version of the humans' jumpsuits. He is overly attached to a small stuffed version of himself given to him by a fan, and rarely goes to shows without it.
Mr. Reed, the "One Man Band", was at first the only human member of the band. In the group, he did back-up vocals and played banjo, bass, guitar, keys, and drums. As a character, he was also the robot's mechanic and turned them all on before shows. He wore red goggles and a full body jumpsuit embroidered with the SPG logo and typically sported a purple tank top underneath. Due to his friendly nature he became a fan favorite.
Matt Smith (no, not thatMatt Smith) was the new drummer following Sam Luke. His first performance with the band was the Yulemas concert.
Sam Luke was the band's original drummer before taking on the role of Hatchworth. Famous for his distinctive bowler hat and moustache, his character went on to become a Walter Worker in the show's lore.
The Walter Girls - Delightful ladies in labcoat dresses that run the merchandise table at concerts, they also participate in on-stage skits. Their characters are "Blue Matter Engineers", but are still fairly mysterious, with more and more hints being dropped about them.
Walter Girl Chelsea (Chelsea Penyak) Shortly after Paige's departure from the band, a new Walter Girl by the name of Chelsea was announced. Her debut show was in April 2014 at Calico Ghost Town.
Walter Girl Camille (Camille Penyak) Chelsea Penyak's almost identical sister (distinguished by a different hairstyle in costume), brought in to replace Carolina.
Former Walter Girls:
Walter Girl Brianna (Brianna Clawson) It was announced via a post on David's tumblr that Brianna would no longer be working for the band.
Walter Girl Paige (Paige Law) Similar to above, it was announced via a post on Bunny's tumblr that she and Paige are no longer a couple and therefore, Paige would no longer be working for the band.
Walter Girl Gabi (Gabi Gonzales) After working at the merch table in a partial Walter Girl costume for several shows, Gabi filled in as a temporary Walter Girl at the MK III album release show in March 2014. Bunny has stated on her blog that Gabi may be called upon again if an understudy Walter Girl is needed.
Walter Girl Carolina (Carolina Gumbayan) Carolina filled in for Brianna for the SPWF and Clockwork Alchemy shows, and was later brought on as a replacement. She later announced that Orlando Nerdfest would be her last show, as she is too busy as a psychology major to continue touring.
Human Back-ups - Sometimes things don't go as planned and someone can't make it to the gig. Back when the band consisted of more than just the robots, these were the people SPG routinely called on to help them out:
Jesus Gonzales was the man they called when Mr. Reed was unavailable. Jesus can play guitar real good and sing harmonies.
Mike Buxbaum the Drummer Man filled in for mysterious new drummer Matt at Youmacon and blew away the crowd.
Album One (2009)
Live at the Globe of Yesterday's Tomorrow (Live album, 2011)
All There in the Manual: If you're willing to do a bit of digging. While the band's official backstory and timeline are posted up on the band's official website, additional information can be found on the various character blogs, the band members' Tumblrs, during live concerts, and in pre-recorded videos which debuted at Walter Robotics Expo (a special event held in July of 2013). There are even bits of continuity mentioned during Bunny Bennett's art livestreams that you can't find anywhere else!
Art Evolution: ...well, make-up evolution. All the bots started off with much more simplistic designs. Rabbit's has changed the most, and she is even beginning to oxidize! Her new design also adds a spiral to her forehead, and her makeup changes constantly (going so far as to include pincers where her jawline should be!)
"Brass Goggles" as well, as evidenced by the pre-song dialogue: "This is a sing along, this next song!"
Awesome Anachronistic Apparel: They're a steampunk band, what do you expect? (Well, The Spine's more dieselpunk...) They were voted "Best Costume - Group" in the 2013 Steampunk Gazette Reader's Choice Awards.
Backstory Horror: Quite a bit, involving the wars the bots were sent to fight in, Hatchworth's confinement due to his unstable core, what effects the Walter Girls' exposure to Blue Matter could have on them over time (and whether it's dangerous), and the theft of Rabbit's core resulting in an explosion that killed several people ... including Peter Walter II. Then there's the fact that Rabbit apparently still feels guilt over this, judging by how her bio states that she spends her free time feeding the ducks at the pond by the Walter Cemetery.
Become a Real Boy: The Jon claims to want this, though he may just be influenced by watching Pinocchio a few too many times.
After a lot of fan speculation, Word Of God finally confirmed that The Spine's mannerisms were influenced by his desire to become human.
Butt Monkey: In their stage performances, Hatchworth or The Spine are often this, as seen here.
"Go Spine Go" from the album MK III consists almost entirely of Rabbit and Hatchworth treating The Spine as this.
California: They're currently active in San Diego.
Character Blog: Several. Oneforeach bot, one for Peter Walter VI, and one for Becile Industries (a rival company to Walter Robotics). Even GG, the robot giraffe who appeared in the band's video for "Diamonds", has her own.
Cloudcuckoolander: The Jon fits this trope to a T, especially if his songs are taken into consideration.
''Go Spine Go!" almost entirely consists of Rabbit and Hatchworth making up obviously untrue things about The Spine. The Spine spends most of the song objecting to these claims (Before giving up and swearing to quit the band someday).
The Cover Changes The Meaning: Rihanna's original song "Diamonds" is a tragic story about surviving after grief. The Steam Powered Giraffe cover? A robot practices his Casanova in a recording studio, unaware that the whole thing's gonna wind up on YouTube.
Epic Rocking: "Captain Albert Alexander," "Rex Marksley," and "Airheart"
Don't forget "Clockwork Vaudeville," "Electricity Is In My Soul," "Steamboat Shenanigans," "Honeybee," "Scary World," "The Suspender Man," and, of course, "Automatonic Electronic Harmonics." Guess these guys just have a lot to sing about.
Fantastic Nuclear Power: Blue Matter and Green Matter are both spooky materials that can give you gobs of clean energy, or explode and mutilate you.
Love Triangle: According to their backstory, the whole reason the singing musical automatons were built was because Peter Walter I wanted to get ahead of his romantic rival Thadeus Becile in winning the heart of Hot Scientist Delilah Moreau, and she was "rumored to have a soft spot for music."
Man of a Thousand Voices: Spine is capable of reaching a Badass Baritone to a high pitched falsetto. Rabbit too, who's even capable of imitating her brother almost flawlessly to comedic effect during live shows.
Marty Stu: Invoked and parodied in their song Captain Albert Alexander.
Memetic Badass: Attemted and denied In-Universe. The Spine is not a superspy who uses his gadgets to topple governments, and he will not fight rampaging bears on your behalf.
Mohs Scale of Rock and Metal Hardness: They're usually at a 1, occasionally shifting into 3 with "Ju Ju Magic" and "Automatonic Electronic Harmonic". "Fancy Shoes" is possibly their hardest song, creeping up to a 4 at times.
While an out of character example, Mr. Reed's blog is filled with enough pictures of a fit man in revealing clothes to ascend him to unexpected fan favorite status.
Jon has a habit of popping up in pictures on Tumblr in his boxer. Most notably in this picture◊ from Michael's blog.
Ms. Fanservice: Bunny has her moments, too. Such as vlogging with her shirt half-open/in a robe. Not to forget that one... marketing strategy. Live shows after she redesigned the character to be a female robot now have her shaking her hips quite a bit during some songs (plus there's the below mentioned addition of Of Corsets Sexy to her design).
Multicolored Hair: Upgrade had bright red streaks in hers, and the Walter Girls all have blue streaks in their hair due to their exposure to Blue Matter when working on the bots. Rabbit's temporary early 2014 upgrade gave her black and red cyberdreads (since been replaced by the above mentioned elaborate headpiece), and sound engineer Steve Negrete is well known for his multicoloured dreadlocks.
Nobody Loves the Bassist: Zig-zagged, in the cases where Mr. Reed is the bassist then it's played straight, but when The Spine or Hatchworth are the bassist it's averted.
Also averted when Carolina was given Hatchworth's bass to play at the end of Brass Goggles. The crowds went wild.
Noisy Robots: The robots frequently make the sounds of hydraulics, especially when they are starting up or shutting down.
Not so Above It All: As much as The Spine like to think of himself as the normal one of the band, he can be just as eccentric, if less outward about it. Case in point: his cover of "Diamonds" by Rihanna.
The Spine: Hi. I'm The Spine, and I was built with a titanium alloy spine. The Jon: A-heh! Ah... and? The Spine: And what? The Jon: Is that it? The Spine: Yeah. The Jon: Well, there's gotta be more. The Spine: No. That's my, uh, backstory.
The song Photographic Memories confirms The Spine has been in at least one relationship with a human woman. It didn't end well.
Robot Names: Hatchworth (A name describing his function), The Spine (it describes his skeletal structure), Rabbit (reference to robotic glitches), The Jon (References to pop culture/actual human names), Upgrade (Slightly mutated terms related to math/machinery/electronics).
Reinstated as of Rabbit's gender swap, unless you count the Walter Girls.
Something Completely Different: The Steam Powered Giraffe Hour is normally an opportunity to see the members discuss upcoming events and projects, movies and video games, and maybe goof around a little. The April 26th episode was done entirely in-character and acted out by the band members using a set of crocheted plushies of the robots sent to them by a fan. Unsurprisingly, it is widely considered the best one by the fans.
Tall Tale: Their song "Rex Marksley" is one in the vein of Pecos Bill.
He shot lightning from his hands with a miraculous invention, and zapped that evil demon train back to its own dimension That giant copper ore golem, oh it was a fright, till Rex projectiled pick axes with dynamite He fought the corrupt Rattlesnake King and it hissed in agony, then Rex taught all the jackalopes to yodel in harmony.
Who Wants to Live Forever?: Turn Back the Clock is a sad song about the band's relationship with a little girl, watching her grow up and have a child of her own with the bots not seeming to completely understand why time effects her differently than them.