Black Giraffe
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Black Giraffe

Seattle, Washington, United States | Established. Jan 01, 2014 | SELF | AFM

Seattle, Washington, United States | SELF | AFM
Established on Jan, 2014
Band Pop Indie

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Anyone with more than a passing interest in Seattle music must recognize the city’s increasing contributions to the realm of funk and soul. The fact is these styles have long flourished here, either relegated to their own neighborhoods and venues back in the day or, more recently, obscured by the long shadow of grunge music. But even a cursory look beneath the city’s surface reveals a thriving soul-music culture populated by talented, outspoken artists and comprising a wide swath of sounds and styles.

Among those artists is Black Giraffe, whom we first surfaced back in January of 2015 with their early single “Right Back.” Lead by brothers Andy and Don Ayers, the band has steadily evolved since then, arriving at a form of polished, propulsive soul-pop that slots alongside local confederates like Pickwick, Allen Stone and Breaks & Swells and, in the larger landscape, Foster the People. These bands might take cues from soul fundamentals but have found more rock- or pop-oriented roads to travel, abetted by roaring guitars or tinny synths. The latest from Black Giraffe, “Little Black Dress,” suggests that these guys are right now ready for prime time. They have a knack for instant anthems and, as made clear in the video for “Little Black Dress,” which we’re stoked to premiere today, appreciate a pinch of weird.

“Our protagonists are male and female avatars of pure self-obsession, spending every second of a night out making love to the mirror,” says Andy Ayers, describing the video. “They swing by a small soiree that may be populated entirely by solipsists because no one seems to acknowledge anyone else in the room—the regal queen, the whiskey connoisseur, the artist, the dancer, the mongoose aficionado. All are deep in their own worlds. It’s a Fellini party-scene music video.”

Indeed. Directed by John Theroux, the video was shot at the high-rise restaurant MBar and features cameos by several Seattle musicians and visual artists. A close reading of the song reveals a meaningful pairing with the video. “‘Little Black Dress’ is the iconic image of Audrey Hepburn in Breakfast at Tiffany’s, a perfect package of a person flawless and simply presented, the ideal self we attempt to project to the world,” Ayers says. “It’s a song about self-obsession and the mental breakdown that usually comes along with the high expectations inherent in narcissism. As Black Giraffe I like to take a surface-level of fun, energetic pop and explore levels of nuance underneath. I was excited by the prospect of doing the same thing visually.” - City Arts Magazine


The Seattle trio known as Black Giraffe offers up a foxy R&B/rock sound that’s backed by a solid groove. There’s an added experimental layer that keeps things interesting in a modern way. Give “Kansas” a spin below… - YabYum Arts


Single by single, we’ve followed along as Andy and Don Ayers, the brothers behind Black Giraffe, developed their sound. After a year of intermittent shows and recording sessions, they’re ready to release their debut—and it’s worth the wait. Drunk Tank Pink fills a void in Seattle’s crowded music scene: slick rock ’n’ soul with equal parts groove and intellect, ambition and ability, landing somewhere between the Foster the People and the Black Keys. More than most young bands in town, these guys are ready for prime time. - City Arts Magazine


Ein straightes Gitarrenriff, dem der Gesang über 3 Minuten konsequent folgt. Folgt in der Mission, die Zuhörer zum Tanzen zu bringen und davon abzuhalten nur beschämt in den Drink zu schauen. Also hier hat es funktioniert! - Tonspion


As odd as it seems now, I somehow got through most of my formative years without having really heard the music of Prince. I suppose I knew from places like Saturday Night Live and other cultural pockets about his "Artist Formerly Known As" period, and from Chappelle's Show that he was flamboyant, but I had never really heard him. One day, though, riding in a car with friends, I listened to "Darling Nikki," and promptly had my mind blown. Much like when I was introduced to Pulp, I was stunned to hear an artist singing so frankly about sex; add to that the immersive production, the enormous sound of "Darling Nikki," and it was a truly gobsmacking experience. It was another surprise to then hear "When You Were Mine," that delicate gem of a pop song, and realize that it was by the same guy

Black Giraffe strikes me as a group of people who were deeply inspired by Prince - the band says as much, in a blog post following Prince's death, even as they acknowledge that they came to his music somewhat late. It's no surprise to hear, as they note, that they were first into grunge, progressive rock and jazz. As much as Black Giraffe embraces soul and funk, they tear down and rebuild these influences into fractured nuggets of pop, songs that stutter as much as they strut. While Prince was a consummate showman and an impeccable songwriter, he was also inclined to take song structures and lead them away from the most direct route from A to B, finding interesting excursions and experimental shifts along the way, even as his songs remained profoundly accessible

"Right Back," the lead track off their Drunk Tank Pink LP, serves as a sort of mission statement for Black Giraffe. Marked by stop-start dynamics and Andy Ayers' confidently soulful croon, "Right Back" sometimes comes off as withholding, showing the audience that Black Giraffe could make a straightforward funk number if they wanted to, but that they find it more interesting to keep things off-kilter. Don Ayer, Andy's brother, provides a sturdy backbone for Black Giraffe, with drumming that's simultaneously tricky and utterly compelling, reminiscent of the National's drummer, both fascinatingly precise and with a predilection for unconventional patterns. In the more recent iteration, Ben Rudd has come in on drums, without losing that textured feel

Elsewhere on Drunk Tank Pink, Black Giraffe seem inspired by other indie rock bands with a penchant for fractured funk - whether that comes in the form of Menomena-esque structural weirdness, or the fuzzy synths and spindly guitars of "Spin," making them come off as a lighter TV on the Radio (Andy Ayers' mix of tenor and airy falsetto even sometimes bears a resemblance to Tunde Adebimpe). The brief "Lily" is the closest Black Giraffe comes to your standard indie rock, cramming anthemic chords into a tight, all-instrumental package, like a less grandiose Fang Island

Lately, Black Giraffe has incorporated new elements into Black Giraffe, as on recent single "Talk Cheap," which features Lauren Wells on vocals and violin, and Rob Hanlon on alto sax. The crunchy, noir-leaning track benefits from the violin stabs provided by Wells, providing even more texture and tension to a band that already possessed those qualities in abundance. "Talk Cheap" is as swaggering as Black Giraffe gets, really capturing the machismo that Prince would let peek through from beneath the sexual ambiguity.

Prince proved that there are many ways to tackle soul and sexuality, and his devotion to exploring the medium has resulted in a huge array of artists seeking to do the same. Black Giraffe look soul in the face while approaching from the side. - The Weekly Volcano


Black Giraffe “Right Back”
This pair of brothers have been cranking out nimble, hard-charging indie-R&B (IR&B?) since about this time last year. “Right Back” is their latest, showing even greater polish and precision than their previous work and previewing their sophomore LP, reportedly to arrive early next year. - City Arts Masgazine


Discography

Talk Cheap - 2017

Drunk Tank Pink - 2015

Photos

Bio

“Slick rock ’n’ soul with equal parts groove and intellect, ambition and ability” -Jonathan Zwickel , City Arts

Formed in 2014 by brothers Andy and Don Ayers, Black Giraffe hit the Seattle music scene with its old school vocals, percussive synth sounds, and driving polyrhythmic drums; Soul, R&B, rock, and any rhythm that moves people mixed with a grimy pop palette. After the introduction of a new line-up with Lauren Wells on violin, vocals and keyboard, and Ben Rud on drums, the band released its sophomore album, Talk Cheap in 2017. The album, with its catchy dance tunes inspired by pop chimera’s of the past like David Bowie and Prince, propelled the band further into the public eye.

”Black Giraffe deliver a sound you never thought you needed: The Pixies covering Of Montreal songs, with a blue-eyed soul singer fronting the works. The unapologetically poppy songs twist just enough to keep them interesting, and singer/guitarist Andy Ayers sports chops to burn.” — Tony Kay, City Arts

Band Members