Electro-pop Reptar discusses home roots, most recent album

Rachel Rascoe

Borrowing their name from the green T. Rex in the animated show “Rugrats,” the band Reptar creates electronic indie-pop grooves incorporating dissonant sounds and '80s influences. The band released its sophomore album Lurid Glow in March and are set to play at the Sidewinder on Saturday. Guitarist and vocalist Graham Ulicny and bassist Ryan Engelberger spoke with The Daily Texan about their music and Georgia roots.

The Daily Texan: How was Lurid Glow different than your previous work?

Ryan Engelberger: We definitely had a lot more control. We weren’t on a record label at the time. We went in knowing a little better what we wanted and the kind of band that we wanted to be. We delved a little deeper into the stuff they were doing in the ’80s to make really cool electronic records. Knowing more on the technical side and having more time and control on the recording side made it feel more like our record more than anything else that we have done. 

Graham Ulicny: It was more thought out. We only had like 25 days to record our last record, Body Faucet. We recorded [Lurid Glow] over the course of almost two years. It was more of a long, involved process. We had time to strip it down and concentrate on building this palette of sound. 

DT: How would you describe your collaborative songwriting process?

GU: Usually I’ll write a melody or some part of the song, and we’ll all kind of fill in the blanks. On the new record, the song “Amanda” was arranged as we were doing it. We snuck into this weird little black box theater at the University of Georgia that had all of these mallet instruments. We mic’d up one of the marimbas and [Reid Weigner, Reptar’s percussionist] just went for it. That was stream of consciousness, in the moment, layering of parts. Every single one is a little different.

RE: We try and play songs live before going into the studio and recording them. In the process of playing them live, there is an aspect of spontaneity and discovery that I think can open songs up to things that you would never have planned to do with them. 

DT: How did Reptar start out?

RE: A bunch of us knew each other from high school. We all grew up in Atlanta and we ended up all moving into a house together one summer in Athens. We started throwing house shows and playing at other people’s house shows, and it snowballed out of that.

DT: How has the musical legacy of Athens, Georgia affected Reptar?

RE: It was an interesting place for us to move because it has such a storied history. A lot of people are still living in Athens that are in the bands that have shaped its history. It’s a really supportive atmosphere. There’s a lot of people there doing weird stuff looking for other people doing weird stuff. I think it encouraged us to keep going in whatever weird direction we wanted. 

GU: You get to see how other artists make what they make. You can borrow those ideas, or you can be like, “Holy shit. This is awful. I don’t want to ever be in a band that does it like that.” You start to figure out what you want to do. The guidelines [for Reptar] were really just whatever we were into at the time, and a lot of that was informed by the other projects that we worked on. Athens is probably the best place in the world to be young and in a band.