By Michael Andronico
Athens, Georgia-based indie rockers Reptar aren’t concerned with doing things the conventional way. Their off-kilter toe-tappers are lead by the eccentric vocals of Graham Uliciny and made unique by the spacey synth work of William Kennedy (keys). And even though the band’s rising popularity landed them a fall tour with Foster the People last year, they’re still happier playing your basement. We caught up with Ryan Engelberger (bass) to discuss the band’s debut album Body Faucet, the music scene in their native Athens, and the difference between playing arenas and house parties.
YRB: How are you doing this morning?
Ryan Engelberger: Not bad, I’ve got a bit of a cough right now, so my answers are going to be punctuated by lots of phlegm (laughs).
YRB: No worries. How did you guys initially come together?
Engelberger: I’ve known Graham and Will for a really long time. We played in bands together in high school and eventually we all went to college, as some people do. We thought it’d be cool to keep playing music. Will played in bands with Andrew (drums) so we just kind of met up with him that way. We all decided to move into a house together. We started making music that turned out to sound like Reptar.
YRB: Is there any story behind the name?
Engelberger: (laughs) I don’t think we thought it through to be honest. We were sitting in Graham’s room, trying to come up with something to call the band. We couldn’t all agree on anything, and that’s the one we used until we agreed to have something. It’s working pretty well.
YRB: What are some of your guys’ big influences?
Engelberger: Just being in Athens and seeing bands and playing with bands. There’s just such a wealth of good bands. It’s a really small town with a really close-knit music community. It’s pretty hard not to be influenced by all those bands, and there’s no reason not to, cause all those bands are really awesome. There’s kind of a group called Party Party Partners, just a collection of bands like Bubbly Momma Gun, Man’s Trash, and a bunch of bands that are really cool. That being said, William also spent some time in Nigeria. We all listen to African music, the polyrhythmic beats are really interesting.
YRB: How was your fall tour with Foster the People?
Engelberger: It was really crazy being on that tour because we’re a band that got its start playing house shows. That’s where we consider our home: other peoples homes. Then, all of a sudden, we’re playing with Foster the People who basically turned into glorified pop stars. And they were nice guys and it was really great to get to play to a lot of people. It was so surreal to get caught up in that whirlwind and to see what it was like. Their album did really well and “Pumped up Kicks” is a huge hit, so seeing that effect on people is real interesting. It made us want to double down on the idea that playing in people’s houses is the best. Not that I think Foster The People is doing anything wrong, they’re great at what they do. We just feel more comfortable playing at people’s houses. It would be crazy, just talking to the guys in that band and there’s a group of 30 people screaming outside waiting to meet them. That’s not something we’re trying to cultivate for ourselves. It was great to play with them, they have an awesome crew. The other band Colts, we got to know them super well. Foster The People was busy all the time, so we didn’t get to see them as much. Immediately after, we went on tour with Phantogram. They were both opening tours and both much bigger than anything we’ve done. Phantogram had a really excited fanbase, but it definitely wasn’t as intense. Their music is really inspiring to us. It was cool to be able to play with them. That’s my take on the two tours.