Algae & Tentacles
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Algae & Tentacles

Tucson, Arizona, United States | SELF

Tucson, Arizona, United States | SELF
Band Folk Punk


This band has not uploaded any videos
This band has not uploaded any videos



"Pterodactyl, Algae and Tentacles, Louise Le Hir, The Red Room at Grill, Nov. 20"

People were smoking up a storm Sunday night during what was surely one of the last gigs at this much-loved Tucson venue.

Screw it—what are you gonna do? Shut the place down?

The Red Room—which was attached to venerable and now-closed 24-hour restaurant Grill—was a unique local institution and one of the favorite watering holes of Tucson music cognoscenti. Great music, a good drink menu, never a cover, never an age limit, and round-the-clock diner food, for better or worse. It will be missed.

Tucson singer-songwriter Louis Le Hir began the evening with energetic twang-adelic rock and folk. Beefed up by a full electric band—in the past, she often has been accompanied simply by drummer Benjamin Blake—Le Hir's material sounded fuller and punchier than ever, with more-intense deliveries. Especially enjoyable were the seemingly effortless guitar leads of Clay Koweek, who tore it up in distorto-garage, country-rock fashion.

Algae and Tentacles were up next, and the tiny joint was packed for the performance by singer-songwriter John Melillo—who plays guitar, vocals and various electronic toys—and drummer Hannah Ensor. Melillo recently relocated to Tucson from Brooklyn, N.Y., roughly mirroring the transition from his last project, Jodienda, to this one.

Melillo's distinct brand of gothic blues and noise-pop sounded comfortably indistinct, winding its way through the crowd to my ears, not unlike music played on a transistor radio wafting through the hallways of an abandoned building. Can't wait to hear what he's going to create now that he's a Tucsonan.

Finally, Brooklyn-based quartet Pterodactyl took the stage for about 45 minutes of explosive and emotional avant-pop, with rhythms racing and then lumbering; it was all seasoned with fascinating three-part harmonies born of a stoner collision of art-rock and the Beach Boys. These guys piled guitar fuzz, barreling punk energy, woozy cough-syrup melodies and atonal chiming atop tunes that sounded as if they were mined from a secret mother lode of classic, undiscovered folk and pop gems. The result was shambling and melancholic, riveting and transcendent.

And, like the Red Room, the music ended suddenly, before we were ready for it to go. - Tucson Weekly

"Morning Song, November 20, 2011"

I like the hand sown and homegrown quality of recent Tucson arrival John Melillo's Algae & Tentacles project. - Marc Goodman

"12 Questions with Algae & Tentacles"

Algae & Tentacles began a few years ago as a solo project by John Melillo. In May of 2010, after playing in the much-loved band Jodienda, John made Algae & Tentacles his main project, and the band began to play live with a free-floating line-up that ranged from solo sets with electronic toys and looper pedals to trio sets with a marching band bass drummer and stand-up snare/tom player.

The music itself started out as intimate-but-vast swathes of noise: floating, immersive banks of sound-color created through simple electronic processes. Algae. Eventually, the work evolved to include little snares of melody, small concatenations of sound to grab and hold your ear in the midst of the all-encompassing din. Tentacles.

Algae & Tentacles has recorded its music in a cave in upstate New York, by the beach, and in many lovable and loved DIY and punk spaces around New York City. The band is currently based in Tucson, Arizona (and is always searching for drummers and musicians to play with…)

1. What is your hometown?

Just moved to: Tucson, Arizona. Western outpost in a vast Saguaro cactus-filled desert.

Biographically: Norton, Kansas. A drying up western town, not much advanced beyond its homesteader roots—except now all those 160 acre plots are consolidated and amassed in giant farm corporations. It had the best small town concrete public pool.

Emotionally: New York City. You know.

Evolutionarily: The sea.

2. With what fictional character do you most identify?
Well, to be honest, I am easily sucked into most narrative, so I begin to identify with nearly every character an author will make me/let me identify with. Authors have way too much power, really…

For instance, reading “Jane Eyre”? I am Jane Eyre. Watching “Jaws”? I am the shark.

But, if I must choose one (to aspire to…), I’ll say Ajax from “The Iliad”. He’s the only warrior who never gets assistance from any of the gods. He just goes and goes and goes. He doesn’t have the whiny/pretty-boy/momma’s-boy status of Achilles, but instead is just a do-it-yourself bad-ass. I would like that kind of heroism, I think.

3. In the movie of your life, cast an actor to play you.
Heath Ledger, as a walking itinerant one man band in the early 20th century. Complete with funny cap and striped pants.

4. What work of art speaks to your soul?
I don’t have a soul. But if I did…okay, I was kidding. I really do!

And the art that would speak to it would be: Rothko’s Seagram’s murals at the Tate Modern in London. Like…exploding sublimity. You disappear inside of those things. How can a painting be an ocean? Amazing. Oh, and Ad Reinhardt’s black paintings – I love the calm intensity they have.

5. What books are you currently reading or recommending?
Phew…I read too many damn things at the same time. Cathy Park Hong’s “Dance Dance Revolution”; Susan Howe’s “That This”; Ezra Pound’s “Cantos” (especially the “Drafts and Fragments”). Nerdy fact: Algae & Tentacles makes an appearance in Pound’s “Commission.” Susan Casey’s “The Wave“, about big wave surfing and the science of predicting giant waves.

6. What song or album is currently in heavy rotation on your iPod?
The Carter Family Collection. Actually, it’s a tape. I drove across the country with my partner Johanna and we listened to tapes the whole way (my car’s sound system isn’t tops). In Dallas, we found an awesome stash of Carter Family and an early Sun Records compilation. Listen to Elvis’s version of “Blue Moon of Kentucky:” that song is alien space rock, mostly because of the crazy echo effect on Elvis’s voice. I also just got Steve Roden’s archival compilation “i listen to the wind that obliterates my traces.” Gorgeous and creepy collection of songs from 1880s to the 1940s. Vernacular sound art. Oh, also, “Little Body”, a song that I’m recording as a single coming out this fall.

7. What’s the last movie that made you cry?
“Cowboys and Aliens”. I’m a sucker for all high-strung sentimentality tempered by bouts of good ol’ American violence. I couldn’t cry at the end of “Tree of Life”. I tried because I love Malick. But mostly I was just tired. But “Cowboys and Aliens”: tear-factory.

8. Cat person or dog person?
Jellyfish and sharks.

9. What is more important, truth or kindness?
Truth. I probably would have used to say kindness, but any kindness that’s based on bullshit is hurtful. I know this from experience.

10. How do you define sin?
The injustice of having to die.

The corrupting effects of power (on a micro- or macro-level).

Hurting people purely because you can.

11. How do you define virtue?
Skill in the art of living with others. Like, body-surfing a wave perfectly: completely becoming that other thing. Empathy, I guess.

12. Design your headstone: What does it say? What does it look like?

Ashes floating away in the sea. It says: shhhsshhsssshhhhssssssshhhhhssssshhhhhhssss

Bonus Question: Who would you like to see answer these question - 12 Questions

"All Tangled Up with Algae and Tentacles"

John Melillo thinks that what sets his band Algae and Tentacles (A & T) apart is the way he and his bandmates embrace extremes to make people feel both safe and uncomfortable at the same time. “I want, I guess, there to be a space for people to get into the music, like, actually engage with it through shock or a good melody or a cool sound,” he said. Pausing for a moment to think it over, he then added, “But then again, what band doesn’t want that?”

If Melillo, singer/songwriter and guitarist is a planet, drummers Nate Affield (The Workshop Model), Akil Wilson (The Workshop Model), Daniele Yandel (The Gytters) and Lydia Fong (La Défense) are celestial bodies orbiting around him. A & T, active since May 2010, is a band that’s constantly morphing. At its core, it is the brainchild of Melillo and can exist as a one-man band, or a larger superband depending on what combo of drummers he’s able to pull out of the rotating roster on a given week. “The original idea was to keep it really simple. When you’re in a band with four or five people, getting everybody organized to practice and go on tour, it’s really frustrating sometimes,” Melillo admitted. While the open relationship plan is designed to pare down needs to increase mobility and flexibility, the long-term goal is to expand the band’s roster by adding a variety of different musicians (and additional instruments), while writing songs in an open style to allow musicians to rotate in and out as circumstances allow.

Melillo plays with Affield and Wilson most often. Each of their drum setups is less traditional than the other—Affield plays only a snare and a tom, Wilson plays bass drum; neither uses cymbals. “The idea is to make it really atypical; and this way, there’s more freedom for them to move around,” Melillo said. And they do move around. all over the venue. In fact, at most shows, they leave the stage and go out into the audience. Wilson attaches his drum to his back, and Affield often carries his snare into the crowd. “There are a lot of songs where we surprise people, so we’ve got a little bit of that performance art element to it,” Melillo said.

No matter which bandmates, Melillo plays with his roster is wide enough and his music is bare enough so that putting things together on a whim is kind of the norm. “It’s pretty simple so it’s easy for me to find people quickly and be like, ‘Hey, do you want to play a show?’ And then we play a show.”

Not to say that the music isn’t well thought out. Unlike many musicians, Melillo enjoys the mundane repetition that is practice. After writing a song, Melillo brings it in and he and whoever he’s working with play it until the song seems to magically take shape. “This is actually something I’m really into. When I make a song, I love repeating it six thousand times . . .There’s something about that—maybe I’m slightly autistic or something, but there’s this feeling that you get repeating something, and that slow accumulation of getting better and better at it…” he trailed off.

Melillo best described his own music as a combination of “noise and the kind of immersive quality of something really loud with delicate, almost folk-type moments.” He continued: “I like the contrast and extremes; but then I also like kind of straight up pop-punk, so all that stuff kind of gets masked together and hopefully becomes something new.”

This past Saturday, July 23rd, at Union Pool, Algae and Tentacles played their last New York City show before Melillo moves to Tucson. He’s not too worried about finding a drummer there. “I’ve been meeting a lot of people who are in the poetry and music scenes there so I’m hoping to meet people very quickly and get involved with that.” He added, “What I think is great about the music I play is that I want to play in punk and DIY-type settings and that’s all about meeting people and community.” - Greenpoint Gazette


Cold Dark Teeth: The Cave Recordings of Algae & Tentacles / Jodienda

"Fire Song" (single) (Airplay in Brooklyn, Tucson, and Nova Scotia)

Upcoming: "Little Body" b/w "Where the Kids Are Dead" (December 2011)



Algae & Tentacles wants to make melodic medieval martian music.

A&T used to be the noisy meanderings of John Melillo--tape experiments, reworkings of Gyorgi Ligeti piano etudes, noisy references to Lawrence of Arabia's score, Emily Dickinson love songs.... Then, in the spring of 2010, Melillo took the show on the road, and began performing a new set of songs and sounds. He played anywhere from famed art-performance spaces like Silent Barn and Surreal Estate in Brooklyn to punk houses in the woods of upstate New York. That spring, Melillo, along with Steve Formel (formerly of Jodienda) released a group of songs recorded in a cave in upstate New York called Cold Dark Teeth: The Cave Recordings of Algae & Tentacles / Jodienda. Those songs took the loudness of Melillo's set and reworked it for an acoustic environment saturated with huge natural reverb and cave drips. Cold Dark Teeth is folk ramblings mixed with nature's noise music.

Algae & Tentacles is a project about movement and freedom. A variety of musicians contribute to the songs, and the line-up is often different for each show. Algae & Tentacles has played solo sets, sets with two drummers (one a marching band bass drummer, the other a stand-up snare and tom player), and in more "regular" configurations, like bassist and trap-set drummer. Melillo has played and recorded with a variety of musicians: Nate Affield, Akil Wilson, Lydia Fong (of La Defense), Daniele Yandel (of The Gytters), Steve Formel (of Jodienda), Mike Morinia (Butchers & Bakers), and more.

Algae & Tentacles has played with bands like Pterodactyl, Fuck Ton, Starring, The Gytters, Cloud Nothings, La Defense, The Rulers, and many many more.

This fall, Algae & Tentacles moved to Tucson, AZ. The desert atmosphere has enriched the music, which has taken an even more expansive but poppy turn in songs like "That Look in Your Eyes."

Here are a few comparisons that listeners have made: The Butthole Surfers, the Cramps, Sonic Youth, Nirvana, Suicide, Alan Lomax field recordings (old style work songs), Michael Hurley, No Age, Yo La Tengo, and The Misfits.