Environmental Encroachment
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Environmental Encroachment

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"Environmental Encroachment Marching Band takes over UI campus - Band of 'rogue space bunnies' opens Krannert's 'Branding on Display'"

By Missy Smith

Imagine the blending of various instruments - a beat so unique it is hard to miss, each instrument perfectly complimenting the others, and a sound that penetrates your soul. It's not a typical band; it can't be because it has an ambiance of something completely unique that is incomparable to anything in the world.

There is a picture that comes to mind, of a string quartet or an orchestra. The reality is much more abstract because the band performing is not only a marching band, but a marching band dressed in costumes. The seemingly never-ending procession of fifteen people dressed in different variations of bunny costumes pass by and the audience can't help but stare and wonder what is going on.

This is not a hallucination or a dream because the members of the Environmental Encroachment Marching Band continue their performance with various forms of theatrics in addition to being "rogue space bunnies." Prancing through the Krannert Art Museum, 500 W. Peabody Dr., today from 6-8 p.m., this band is anything but normal.

According to their official MySpace Web site, the EE Marching Band "creates an environment for people to be childlike, play music, be curious, and to be free. They seek to provide somewhat of a playground for the mind."

Dan Merlo, the Creative Director of the EE Marching Band, brags about their unique sound and act they put on.

"We infiltrate public spaces and break down the barriers between the audience and the performers," Merlo said. "They will never see this performance again, and it is just fun."

Along with the various costumes, the EE Marching Band uses theatrics, such as real and shadow puppets, projections and live sound.

The EE Marching Band is just one of two bands that will be participating in the opening of Krannert's brand new exhibit, "Branded on Display."

The exhibit will include art pieces that reflect society's dependence on brand names to define people and how readily these brands can be seen in everyday life. The exhibit will run through April 1.

EE Marching Band is based in Chicago and got invited to play at the University after someone from Krannert saw them play at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago.

Merlo said that the EE Marching Band is art as well, a type of performance artwork that is not typically seen. He said playing for the exhibit's opening reception is a perfect fit.

Diane Schumacher, Director of Marketing and Events at Krannert, said the show is "going to be wild" and that the band will start in the Link Gallery with their instruments. Then they will lead people into the Twentieth Century Gallery where EE Marching Band will perform for about 45 minutes.

"It will be a real experience, something you have never seen before," she said. "To be honest, you have to get on their Web site to see how alive and almost bizarre they are."

The band has found a way to market themselves during the show by selling their own brand of goods. A recently trademarked instrument, the Erect-a-bone, will be sold at the show as well.

"(The Erect-a-bones) are little stadium horns, which are played like a trombone, that come in various colors, complete with an official sticker," Merlo said. "The show is called 'Branded on Display,' so it felt appropriate to promote ourselves as well."

Across campus there have been various flyers describing the band. They claim they are an absurdest performance art, party band and that the experience is similar to a costumed electric circus with a hula-hooping, hard-rocking, funk-bunny space band.

This is not the only venue that the EE Marching Band is playing at in the area. Today, prior to the Krannert show, they will be overtaking the Quad.

"We are going to storm the campus," Merlo said.

In addition, on Friday they are slated to headline at the Canopy Club, 708 S. Goodwin Ave., in the midnight slot.

EE Marching Band is one of a kind, and is sure to be an interesting experience. Be sure to check them out at one of their various locations on campus over the next two days.

Merlo said that there is nothing to lose but time. "Students should go because I don't think they'll ever see anything like it - rogue space bunnies and music. It is fun, and it's a spectacle to behold." - Daily Illini, Champaign-Urbana, IL, 1/29/07

"They got the funk"

By Leah Pietrusiak

Environmental Encroachment
The members of the Environmental Encroachment Marching Band, or EE, have been popping up at art openings, naked bike rides, war protests and farmers’ markets (one time dressed as carrots, grapes, a chicken and a “frankentomato”) around Chicago for almost ten years. They most recently appeared at the Houston Art Car Parade, where they played on a flatbed trailer pulled by the plastic fruit-covered “Fruitmobile,” and met George Clinton (one member wearing a rainbow wig had him autograph his arm, and then had it tattooed).

The anarchist Mardi Gras band likes to shake things up with its African-and-funk–inspired rhythms. “We can really get a party started, we can play anywhere, we don’t have to plug in,” says EE cofounder Mike Smith (when they do, expect a killer theremin). “The color and playfulness—it gets people in a good mood, it’s contagious. It’s like that first person on the dance floor—except we’re providing the first two or three.”

The veteran street performers bust out pieces like a cover of Radiohead’s “National Anthem” (they call their version “National Anthrax”)—and bust in unexpectedly at times. In Houston, they marched into a club and took the stage—and got called back for three encores. “We totally wrecked that place, they loved it, they’re our MySpace friends now,” Smith says.

If the music doesn’t get your attention, the outfits will. “We’re big into the bunny costumes right now—pirate bunnies, space bunnies,” says Smith. The costumes were inspired by the Billion Bunny March at the Burning Man Festival. “If we’re in a crowd and our ears are sticking up, people know who we are.”

On Saturday 26 the band will play at Buddha’s Peace and Happiness Birthday Parade in Ravenswood, and on Sunday 27 it’ll hop to the Orphanage with Black Bear Combo, another mobile festival band from Chicago. In October, it’s headed to New York for Honk! Fest, a growing street band fest .

The musicians won’t have their bunny ears on for Buddha’s birthday, where they follow a procession of chanting Buddhist monks. “We usually wear robes, and we don’t have horns,” says EE music director Dan Merlo, “so we can better pick up [the vibe] from where the monks leave off.”

EE plays Saturday 26 at Ravenswood Buddhist Temple and Sunday 27 at the Orphanage. Visit myspace.com/eeenvironmentalencroachment. - Time Out Chicago, May 24-30, 2007


Like fellow Chicagoans Mucca Pazza, Environmental Encroachment is a many member performance art/punk rock marching band who describe their live show as featuring "multi-media stage performance antics including dancers, hooping, juggling and skits." EE are also known for dressing up as bunny rabbits and pretty much laying to waste any venue at which they show up. ‘Venue’ is a term to be used loosely when referring to EE’s live show, as the term could mean the Kinetic Playground, NASCAR rallies, art shows, protests, Buddhist Peace and Happiness Parades, or your backyard. One of these days, they may even conquer lucid dreaming and show up to play a gig in your subconscious. Should they appear to you, be at least armed with the knowledge that you’re about to experience one of the more exciting, creative and truly unpredictable live acts that Chicago has to offer. (Appearing with Black Bear Combo at Kinetic Playground on Jan. 5) --text: Jon Graef - Chicago Innerview January 2008 - © 2008 Innerview Media, Inc.

"Adults in costumes - Chicago's bunny-loving marching band hops into Kraftbrau Brewery"

Posted by By John Liberty / Gazette July 12, 2007 09:32AM

For about a half hour last week, I spoke to Dan Merlo of Chicago's Environmental Encroachment about everything from fake electrocutions, branding members of the audience, homemade costumes and getting a tattoo of George Clinton's autograph on your arm, as a member of the band did recently.

It's easy to get immersed in the band's carnival-like persona and the stories sitting in its vault. EE will arrive at shows with anywhere from 10 to 15 musicians playing drums, horns and maybe a theremin while dressed in rabbit costumes.

"We decided to go with the bunny theme this year," Merlo said of the band's look while driving somewhere near Chicago.

From what I read before the interview, EE, which will perform at 8 p.m. Saturday at Kraftbrau Brewery with frequent collaborators and fellow Chicagoans Ferdinand Fox, sounded like a riot and Merlo lived up to my bizarro expectations for our talk. When the topic of handmade costumes came up, he said: "A lot of our band goes to our juggler's wife; she's a costume designer."

Merlo calls himself the Karl Rove or the "iron-fisted, socialist musical dictator" of EE. He joined the 10-year-old band in 2005 after seeing the group at a party. He kept seeing band leader Mike Smith around town and asked how he could join. Smith told him to bring his trombone to an upcoming show.

"After that, I've been on the train without asking where we're going or when," said 33-year-old Merlo, who makes his living as a photographer.

Merlo said EE consists of a revolving group of musicians ranging from the 19-year-old drummer Caitlin Casey to the 60-something trombone player Rich Capalbo -- a former animal trainer in L.A. with the scars to prove it and who Merlo called a "retired, elder statesman."

Many of them are vegetarians, animal lovers and environmentally-conscious people, Merlo said. They are also a blast. Merlo talked about Capalbo getting an autograph of funk deity George Clinton on his arm at the Houston Art Car Parade earlier this spring. Capalbo wanted to make it last, so he had it turned into a tattoo.

Then there's drummer Blake Beckstrom whose affinity for prop-making provided another memorable tale. His latest concoction was a fake electric chair complete with "blinky lights." At a recent show, they tossed snare percussionist Carlos Desperdicio -- who is known for his furry, purple and green rabbit costume -- on the seat, pulled the trigger and faux-toasted him on stage.

"That was pretty fun," Merlo said. "It was very cathartic."

While obviously this eclectic collective likes to have a ball, it's also becoming more polished musically, Merlo said. In late June they completed the band's first studio recording, a four-track EP tentatively titled "Bunny Love." It will be on sale Saturday.

"Generally, it's evolving," Merlo said of the band. "We're becoming tighter, more rehearsed."

For more information, go to www.myspace.com/eeenvironmentalencroachment. - mlive.com/Kalamazoo Gazette


EE Long Division 1 e.p.



Say you find yourself at a gallery opening or a club on any given evening. All of a sudden, the air around you starts to change -- imperceptibly at first, but then the undeniable energy of brass, bass guitar and drums encroaches upon your senses and fills you with a sensation of unbridled excitement and whimsy. About a dozen bunny-eared marchers soon appear before your eyes, dancing about in a chaotic whirlwind to a primal Moroccan rhythm. You are caught up in this unique environment where the only thing that makes sense is to surrender to the urge to shake your booty. A swarthy trumpeter begins to scat South Asian-style, like a Bollywood Louis Armstrong. One of the drummers has stationed himself to play the retro-futuristic electronic instrument known as a Theremin. Giant hula hoops are then produced, and before you know it you see trombonists and a sax player hooping and playing simultaneously. You yourself take a turn at hooping -- whether you're good at it or not becomes irrelevant. You're having the time of your life.

You have just encountered Environmental Encroachment, a.k.a. the EE Marching Band.

ENVIRONMENTAL ENCROACHMENT is a Chicago-based performance-art marching band known for its use of spectacle, costumes and circus arts to create unique and memorable entertainment environments and experiences.
Often simply called “E-E”, the name “Environmental Encroachment” comes from the band’s respect for the planet and love of spontaneity. The name also describes the group’s mission to “encroach” on existing “environments” to embrace, engage, and uplift the community.

Musically, EE is a fusion of cross-cultural influences. Their music blends recognizable jazz pieces (like Caravan and Haitian Fight Song), Blues, Rock, Funk, along with traditional Moroccan melodies and Afro-Caribbean trance rhythms. EE balances presentation with musicianship, engaging the
audience with stage antics, props, theme costumes, and parades. EE’s upbeat and unique style delights all ages, reaching across any language barriers—in fact, two of EE’s members have performed in China in 2006.

Flexible and diverse, EE is the perfect entertainment group to fulfill a variety of needs. EE can adjust in size to fit any venue, from a four-piece Latin Combo in an intimate setting, to a full stage show which adds to its parade line-up an electric bass, larger percussion instruments like congas, and the theremin, a unique and bizarrely pleasing electronic instrument whose sound and theatrical nature of playing always inspires awe.

A Chicago institution, Environmental Encroachment has established itself through its rich ten-plus-year history and over 300 performances ranging from intimate shows in small spaces, to stage shows and parades to audiences over 50,000. Shows range from the John Cage’s MusiCircus and the Rotary Centennial Celebration, to the Peace and Happiness Parade, Burning Man, Lollapalooza, and NASCAR races, to the exotic and absurd Chiditarod winter shopping cart race. Friends of Chicago’s performance community, EE has performed many benefits for theaters, schools, and charities at such institutions as the Field Museum, Museum of Science and Industry, and Millennium Park. Because the band is an irresistible party, EE has been a favorite for Mardi Gras, Cinco de Mayo, Dia de los Muertos, and Carnivale events in parks, for parades, and on stage.

Because of its truly American and Chicagoan spirit of fusing and creating the new, Environmental Encroachment would be the perfect multi-purpose American musical performance ambassador. Fun, zany and unique, EE’s love of performance and ability to adapt make them the ideal band for almost any venue or event.