Playboy Manbaby are as strange as their name suggests, but in the best way possible. The band plays chaotic ska-punk-funk (if you had to put a label on it), but it truly is a one of a kind sound that you can’t find anywhere else.
This Friday, Playboy Manbaby is releasing their new album, Lobotomobile. The album touches on a range of topics, spanning from plastic surgery, to school shootings, to the higher education system.
Robbie and I had a chat about weird names, his artwork (& animations), and the themes surrounding the band’s new album, Lobotomobile.
Hey! So I wanted to just get right into it and talk about the new album. Your last album, Don’t Let It Be, was dedicated to Trump AKA the human hotdog.
Do you have any dedications for Lobotomobile?
Not really, it’s really just stuff I think and feel. This one’s not really about a particular person or a particular belief. But I think it has a lot of things that are applicable to our current times. I feel like inherently, political music doesn’t really translate over time – like if you came across some albums that were about president Bush or something like that, they’d sound really hokey now. I wanted to try to talk about things that were relevant to right now, but also universal – things that could apply to human interactions for as long as I’ve been aware of it.
Also, where did that name come from, Lobotomobile?
It’s based off of a story I heard about Dr. Walter Freeman, who is the guy that popularized the transorbital lobotomy. It was basically a thing that was popular in the 40s and 50s, and it was a procedure where they’d cut off specific parts of the brain. They basically just started cutting into people’s brains to try to fix issues with them. It was very much a pseudo-science and it ended up doing a lot more harm than it did good. And Dr. Walter Freeman wasn’t even a surgeon – he was just like a family doctor, and he got really into this procedure and invented something called the ice-pick lobotomy. The procedure used to take like an hour, and he turned it into a process where you could get a lobotomy in like 10 minutes. And he had this whole showman-ship thing where he would like go around and give people lobotomies and basically, like permanently fuck them up.
The term lobotomobile came from the fact that he had a camper that he traveled around in and gave people the lobotomies. It was something like 33% of people who got a lobotomy ended up being anywhere noticeably better. But it basically just destroyed people’s brains, and I thought it was a really interesting concept of a guy that went around totally believing that he was doing good, but he was actually really fucking people up. You know, it’s just an interesting, human thing to do – firmly believing in something despite any evidence to the contrary. And I think a lot of the “characters” in this album kind of have that staunch self-belief. So that’s kind of where that came from.
It seems that the new songs off of lobotomobile have titles that are a bit more relevant to the content of the songs, versus the previous releases where the song titles are super irrelevant. Why did you change that around?
I’ve been trying to write more directly. A lot of the earlier stuff with the band was really vague – like I was talking about similar things, but you would almost never know it, because I hid it as much as I possibly could. And now I’m in a zone where I want to very overt about what I’m talking about – you know? I want there to be little room for interpretation, but you can apply it however you want. But I wanted to experiment with writing as directly as I could. Like if I want to write a song about the higher education system, I’m going to be very direct about it. I feel like there’s not a lot of wiggle room in this one. I’m pretty much writing exactly what I’m thinking – some of it’s sarcastic, but I’m not really using that many metaphors anymore, that’s just what’s interesting to me at the moment. Like I might go back to writing things differently later, but that’s just what I’m into right now.
Yeah, it’s kind of liberating – just saying how it is and saying what it is.
Yeah totally, it kind of puts it on the line too, because you can’t really hide behind it because it’s really direct. You can’t really be like “oh, well it’s whatever you feel” – it’s more like “no, it’s this, and only this.”
I like that way of thinking, it’s refreshing.
It’s fun, it’s been really cool honestly.
But while we’re on the topic, how did you come up with those other song titles, like Falafel Pantyhose or Mermaid Pterodactyl?
Sometimes just by consensus – like for Falafel Pantyhose, there was two of our friends in the room and I just said “pick a word” and one friend said “falafel” and the other friend said “pantyhose.” It was kind of in the era of Pitchfork indie music, and everything seemed very pretentious, so we thought it would be fun to just name songs nonsense.
And the cool thing about that too, is that if anyone searches the song name on google, you’re definitely going to be the first thing that comes up.
Yeah, it definitely keeps the Search Engine Optimization up for anyone searching Falafel Pantyhose.
Gotta get that SEO.
Yeah exactly, that’s what we’re all about here. Very strong corporate strategy.
And you actually do all of the illustrations for your covers, is that right?
Yeah, pretty much everything I draw, or Austin, who plays saxophone, draws.
Wow, that’s really cool. So what’s going on on the new album cover?
The older guy is Dr. Walter Freeman, who popularized the transorbital lobotomy. And then there’s a brain diagram I made, because I thought it looked cool, and ties it all together. Album art for me is just about something that looks visual interesting and also fits in with the theme of the album. So for this, I think it checks the boxes.
Have you done artwork for anyone else?
Yeah! I’ve done some music videos, and then I’ve done a couple other bands’ cover art. But more recently I’ve been working on animations and music videos.
Yeah, I know Playboy Manbaby has a few, those were obviously yours I assume?
Yup yup, that’s how I learned how to animate, just making videos for the band.
Nice, I really like the style – it’s very all of the place, but in a good way. It’s just very vibrant.
Yeah, they’re definitely colorful.
Have you done music videos for any other bands?
Yeah, a few Phoenix bands: Celebration Guns, Treasure Mammal, MRSH. And then a couple of bands from California: MELTED and Wyatt Blair. I also did a little animated show on Burger Records called Hot Off The Grill.
What’s the strangest reaction you’ve gotten from your band name?
I feel like the band name is only as weird as the context it’s in. I always think that the worst context is if I’m with my dad and he’s like “oh yeah, my son’s in a band” and they’re like “what’s the band called” and I just try to like change the subject. Because it’s a very strange name out of the blue, without any context.
I think the weirdest one is when I was working at a coffee shop and I tried to not tell anyone anything about myself, but I told this lady I was in a band and she just kept pushing me on the name so I told her and she got mad. She was like “Is that a porn thing?” and I was like “no, it’s not at all.” And she just got mad and left. But she was like a middle-aged lady and wasn’t really 100% there.
Did that name come from anywhere?
It comes from a Brad Neely cartoon called Baby Cakes and it’s like a one-liner reference in that cartoon, and we just heard it and we were like “what the fuck is that.”
How did you come to be associated with the “punk rock” scene?
I don’t even know, I feel like we’re blessed and cursed by the fact that we don’t “fit” in with anybody, Like I grew up listening to punk music, so I’m stoked to be in this particular punk scene, where it’s like fun punk. When I was at Awesome Fest, I was really happy with everyone there because it seemed like my kind of folks. And you know, it’s not super serious, everyone’s having a good time and everyone’s nice to each other. I’m not a very macho person, and I don’t really like anything macho so that’s the one side of punk rock where I’m like “fuck this” but like the nerdy Awesome Fest punk vibes, I’m totally down with that.
And it’s like, you kind of play where people like what you’re doing. We’ve played all sorts of different stuff – like when we started as a band, everyone I knew at that time in 2012-2013 wanted to be like Mumford and Sons so we would play with a lot of folk bands. So we’re used to kind of being the odd band out – which is kind of the best and worst place to be. Because when it works out really well, then we get to be something different for everyone there. But if it’s too far out, then it’s just kind of a jarring, weird experience where we’re like “why are we here?” We once opened up for this singer-songwriter girl, and that was fucking miserable.
I bet everyone was like just standing there, confused.
Yeah, and then another time we opened up for a trap-rapper guy and that was actually pretty fun. But there was a whole group of people there who showed up early to see this dude and they were pissed that we were on that bill. It just didn’t translate well. A lot of people actually liked it, but those people in the front just gave us the finger the entire show.
Aside from that – I like all music, I like playing with everyone, and the fact that we can play whatever kind of shows we want to.
Is the new album being released on a label or is it independent?
Nope, it’s all us. We recorded it really quickly and we actually have another album that we’re going to start recording pretty soon too. We figured, lets do it ourselves – we’ve done it all before and we know how to do it, so that’s what we’re doing. I just like having control of everything and there’s not really anything that a label can offer us right now. I’m just happy to be doing it ourselves because we can do it fast and we don’t have to wait on any schedules.
And at this point you’ve been doing it for 5 or 6 years, right? So you know the ins and outs.
Yeah, I think we’re coming up on 6 years. That’s a long time, like if our band was a child he would in Kindergarten which is fucking wild.
We also know what we want the band to be, we’ve been doing it long enough where we’re comfortable with who we are as a band. We’re happy just being us and we don’t need a label telling us otherwise.
Who’s in the current lineup for the band right now?
We’ve got Chris, TJ, Chad, David, and Austin. It’s basically been the same lineup since 2013, except we added Austin who’s the saxophone player. That’s like our home team but we will have people jump in on the road, because our bass player and drummer both have full-time jobs. So once we waste their PTO, we have some buddies jump in for them on the tour. But as far as writing music, it’s been the same folks that it’s been since basically Bummeritaville. That’s pretty wild, keeping a band together for while and it’s fucking difficult.
The first year we were together, it wasn’t really a band. We didn’t record or do anything, it was more of a revolving art-joke where whoever wanted to be in the band could be in a band. We cycled through members quickly, not because people were jerks but just because it would just be like “oh, you can play accordion in this song if you want” but now we are very much so an actual band.
Lobotomobile will be out on April 6th.
Playboy Manbaby are also kicking off a Spring Tour on April 6th, scope the dates below:
Stay up to date with Playboy Manbaby through the following social links:
THIS INTERVIEW WAS EDITED AND CONDENSED FOR CLARITY