Teacup Gorilla may not be prolific, but it's never afraid to take risks.
On Thursday, April 27, the moody indie-rock outfit will celebrate the release of its latest video, for "Just Like That," from the 2016 EP The Holes They Leave, at Lost Lake Lounge. The video, directed by filmmaker Gio Toninelo, depicts a dystopian retro future and offers up commentary on the current political climate by drawing a parallel between the 1980s, when nuclear war seemed inevitable, and the present.
“If you're gonna dance for war/You're gonna dance for sure/And if you're gonna dance for peace/You will never cease,” wrote guitarist Daniel Eisenstat for the song. “Sometimes, if I have space on stage, I do a kind of David Byrne-esque dance,” he says.
The band, which has been around since 2010, has roots in theater and literature, often playing at poetry readings by bassist and singer Miriam Suzanne, whose 2015 novel Riding Side Saddle – which is printed on notecards so readers can shuffle it – was adapted by Buntport Theater.
Suzanne, songwriter/guitarist Eisenstat and drummer Sondra Eby all attended Goshen College in Indiana before moving to Denver in 2007. Around the same time, the group's guitarist, Jen Korte, moved to Denver from Texas and established herself as one of the city's most promising singer-songwriters.
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The fledgling band from Goshen played at a concert headlined by Jen Korte & the Loss, and there was an immediate connection between the musicians, and not just because of their musical affinity. “We've always been interested as a band in combining different media,” says Eby.
Teacup Gorilla hasn't released a ton of material, and it rarely plays standard venues. The band anticipates its next EP will be released in spring of 2018. Eisenstat says he doesn't feel pressure to adhere to the usual band schedules or methods. “I'm always trying to make my songs a little bit more normal but always failing,” he says. “In music, I haven't cultivated weird music structures; I just can never remember how it's supposed to be.”
The band has also been a forum for its members to try out innovative and challenging material. For Korte, joining Teacup Gorilla helped her become a much better guitarist by trying out new ideas and sounds that don't fit in well in singer-songwriter circles.
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“I feel safe in this band,” says Korte. “There's none of the misogyny that I feel in almost every other area of music in Denver for me. It's cool to feel supported by my bandmates in trying to show a side of me that I don't get to share with my other band at all. As a female guitarist, I've been told we don't need a girl in the band. Part of that makes me want to shrink away and part of me wants to say fuck you. What's cool about this band is it's three women and Dan.”
“We just had to promise her she wasn't the lead singer, and now she'll sing for us,” says Suzanne.
Teacup Gorilla's amiable creative approach, unorthodox roots and sense of community have resulted in a sound that is difficult to pin down: part instrumental rock, part glam, part psychedelic, part jazz-inflected. And it sounds like nothing much else in this highly imitative era.
Teacup Gorilla with The Raven & the Writing Desk and The Assemblage, 7 p.m. Thursday, April 27, Lost Lake Lounge, 303-296-1003, $8-$10, 21 and over.