(Courtesy Photo)
Take a chance on ANIMAL/object.

The local band's music is all about chance. According to ANIMAL/object multi-instrumentalist David Mead, they're very much inspired by John Cage, the composer and music theorist who pioneered writing music by chance. His method used the Chinese book “I Ching,” which includes a system of symbols that identify order in chance events.

ANIMAL/object doesn't mimic Cage or his techniques, but the band puts a lot of importance on taking chances and staying out of the comfort zone. The live performances are completely improvised, with only a small pre-show discussion about where to begin.

“I think that the Western idea of music as 12 notes and certain intervals only, and taking the element of chance out of music, takes the quote-unquote magic out of it,” Mead said. “That's how we founded the band, is talking about and exploring chance in music. Everytime we put something else out, it ends up sounding like something different.”

That means a record could turn out like jazz, traditional Chinese music, or “just pure noise,” Mead said. Cage's influence has more to do with an embraced philosophy than trying to make something that sounds similar (however you'd do that).

“John Cage is more than just a musical influence in the way I think about music.


I'm into his simple ideas about living,” Mead said. “I think that Cage has the same understanding of music, and that's what allowed him to let go. What angers a lot of the establishment is being told to let go of something they've worked so hard to master. But mastery comes with a lot of folly, I think. As a master, you've shown an aptitude to learn, but once you've mastered something, you stop learning.”

The band members make many of their own instruments, and that helps keep things interesting. They also set very few parameters for a performance. Mead said they'll often start by agreeing on a mood and going from there. Once they get into a set, it can go anywhere. Their main rule is that you should never be playing so loud that you can't hear anyone else.

“We always talk about stuff, and that's one way to keep everything flowing. When we don't talk about things, you don't realize when you're becoming stagnant,” Mead said.

"We want to always be able to get back to that edge where you're always uncomfortable, no matter how much time you've spent with it.”

A pre-show discussion, however minimal, keeps it all together. As with most improvisational bands, they want to be clear that it's not just a round of musicians making a lot of random noise. It will sound strange and experimental, but it's still music.

“To me it's silly to push the envelope without really the full understanding that that's what it is you want to do,” Mead said. “Music allows everything to be brought to a level of playfulness or experimentalism.”

Get in on the game at Absolute Vinyl, Jan. 25 at 8 p.m.