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Quirky band holds its own

Ryan Rafferty | Wednesday, March 3, 2004

If a band wants to be successful today, it needs some sort of gimmick that makes it stand out. Consider the past success of musicians like Dashboard Confessional, Blink 182 and Britney Spears. Each has its own specific shtick that sets it apart from the masses. Dashboard Confessional has the emo market cornered with whiny lyrics and acoustic guitar; Blink 182 has the oxymoronic category of punk-pop covered with its over the top goofball music; and Britney Spears has … well, Britney Spears, and let’s face it, sex sells. None of these bands have produced anything musically groundbreaking, but they all became huge thanks to their own gimmicks that numerous artists have imitated. Cue the Volcano. Mark Duplass, lead singer and organist for the band Volcano, I’m Still Excited!!, began his musical career as a solo acoustic guitar act. However, after being diagnosed with severe tendonitis in both arms he decided to give up guitar; but not music. Instead Duplass picked up a keyboard and started recording the foundations of what would become Volcano, I’m Still Excited’s debut release. Duplass hooked up with fellow Austin, Texas natives Craig Montoro, guitarist for labelmate Mates of State, and drummer John Thomas and fleshed out their self-titled debut release. The result is glorious. Volcano, I’m Still Excited has a unique shtick that separates it from many bands, and that is its entire musical setup. The band consists of Duplass playing a ten-dollar Casio keyboard, Montoro playing guitar and Thomas playing a double bass drum kit; all three members also sing. But their uniqueness does not end there. The band’s lyrics mainly consist of one single phrase. While this may seem like a very boring and bland approach, Volcano pulls it off beautifully. For instance, on a song entitled “Trunk of My Car,” Duplass begins singing alone: “Love are you waiting / underneath my bed / love are you / riding in the trunk of my car / trust, hope, faith.” Montoro then suddenly enters singing the exact same words, but in a round sort of manner. The two sing these lyrics over and over in a round throughout the entire song. Keyboards, guitar and drums ensue after four rounds and build the song’s rich melody. Think “Row, Row, Row Your Boat” jazzed up a bit. Most of Volcano’s songs are performed in this way. The lyrics of “By No Means” consist solely of three words: No, means and yes. In the final song, “Two Exclamation Points” Duplass sings the band’s namesake: “Volcano, I’m Still Excited.” The best track on the album, “Goodbye, Casio,” is by far the simplest track with only minimal keyboard chords, a subdued bass drum and of course the incredibly simple lyrics: “Calm me down / I’ve been so uptight / and I’m ready this time.” The simple, repetitive lyrics may sound unexciting, but Volcano, I’m Still Excited harmonizes so brilliantly one doesn’t seem to notice. The three band members’ singing complement the music perfectly. They go together like peanut butter and jelly, or macaroni and cheese. There is only one problem with these honey dripping harmonies: they seemingly appear out of nowhere. The music has no crescendo or build up. Every song seems like a snippet from a much longer song. The average length of the songs is about two and a half minutes-far too short. The songs are achingly catchy, fun and beautiful, but they are so short they leave the listener wanting much more.Overall Volcano, I’m Still Excited’s debut album is amazing. Their music is nothing groundbreaking; they take the same musical path blazed by They Might Be Giants and Elvis Costello. But they put a new spin on the classic quirky keyboard driven music with their unusual approach to singing and lyrics, which refreshes the style. Volcano, I’m Still Excited is a fun, quirky band anyone with an open mind will enjoy.

Contact Ryan Rafferty at rraffert@nd.edu