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, 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, who wears a black coachman's hat with steampunk-style goggles on it and a black vest with red accents. He plays the melodica and accordion.
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. She left the band in 2011 to further pursue an acting career.
The human band members are:
Mr. Reed, the "One Man Band", was at first the only human member of the band. In the group, he does back-up vocals and plays banjo, bass, guitar, keys, and drums. As a character, he's also the robot's mechanic and turns them all on before shows. He wears red goggles and a full body jumpsuit embroidered with the SPG logo and typically sports a purple tank top underneath. Due to his friendly nature he has become a fan favorite.
Steve Negrete is the sound engineer 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.
Matt Smith (no, not thatMatt Smith) is the new drummer, whose first performance with the band was the Yulemas concert.
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 Paige (Paige Law)
Walter Girl Carolina (Carolina Gumbayan) Carolina filled in for Brianna for the SPWF and Clockwork Alchemy shows, and was later brought on as a permanent replacement.
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.
Human Back-ups - Sometimes things don't go as planned and someone can't make it to the gig. These are the people SPG routinely calls on to help them out:
Jesus Gonzales is the man they call when Mr. Reed is 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. It has been stated that he'll be called upon if Matt can't perform again.
Album One (2009)
Live at the Globe of Yesterday's Tomorrow (Live album, 2011)
Adorkable: Every time Hatchworth tries to act cool, he falls into this.
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 he is even beginning to oxidize!
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 his bio states that he spends his 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.
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.
Kayfabe Music: Much of their appeal is attributed to their unusually well-developed stage personas and backstory.
Keep Circulating the Tapes: After Upgrade's departure, her vocals and solo song "I Am Not Alone" were removed from Album One, and are nowhere to be found on album reprints or on Spotify. This leaves fans with little way to listen to them outside of videos of their early performances on Youtube.
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."
Marty Stu: Invoked and parodied in their song Captain Albert Alexander.
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.
Also "Airheart", "Rex Marksley", and "The Suspender Man".
Nice Hat: Rabbit's coachman hat, The Spine's fedora, Hatchworth's derby, and The Jon's top hat.
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.
One of Us: Out of character, Bunny Bennett is an avid MMO fan and general gamer.
Steve Negrete is an epic hi-tech D&D dungeon master.
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).
Soon to be reinstated as of Rabbit's planned 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.
Talking to Himself: Steve Negrete also provides the voice of Beebop, the AI who monitors the robots during shows. The conversations/arguments that they sometimes have during the show's opening fall into this trope.
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.