row seats: (l-r) Parwana, Nolan, Horton, Stewart,
band Beware! The Other Head of Science throw a Big
American Godzilla Party
verdict is unanimous. “Yes” and “easily” are the answers.
It may be the only thing all six members of Beware! The
Other Head of Science immediately agree on. There’s manic
dysfunction in the way the band—quite possibly the tallest
and hairiest in Albany—fill a sidewalk, but occasionally—well,
more often than you might expect—their swarming geekery
synergizes around an arcane subject and, wham,
it becomes clear why the band’s oddball formula works
so well. The subject in question: Does Champ, the Lake
Champlain monster, actually exist?
you not seen the Sandra Mansi photograph?” bassist Jesse
Horton asks in disbelief. “It’s clear evidence.”
Citing an episode of the Cartoon Network show Venture
Brothers, percussionist and synthesizer player Ryan
Stewart acknowledges the faulty conclusion that Champ
is either a plastic bag or a beaver.
Logically, Kamran Parwana, another of the band’s four
synthesizer players, deduces that Champ is merely a Plesiosaur.
“But, who knows what the fuck a couple million years of
evolution have done to him?”
may have even developed a little finger,” Horton speculates.
“It’s only use: to open a pop-top can.”
The whole exchange isn’t exactly incidental. It’s a cold
February night, and libations are on the brain as the
band members walk to “the good beer store” on Lark Street
after a show by fellow B3nson Records act Sgt. Dunbar
and the Hobo Banned at the Dovecote (formerly the Amrose
and Sable Gallery on Hudson Avenue). The electropop band,
B3nson’s most pronounced stylistic anomaly, will release
their debut album Big American Godzilla Party tomorrow
(Friday, Feb. 26) with a show at Valentine’s, and Champ
has earned himself a starring role.
Over a charging death-disco beat led by drummer Seth Tillinghast,
vocalist Matt “Terd” Ferguson cries, “Monster of Lake
Champlain, where are you?!” in a way that Screamin’ Jay
Hawkins might, if cast in an episode of Scooby Doo.
For most bands, this sort of thing would serve as
a cute gimmick, but mythical beasts, robots, epic battles,
and pop-cultural in-jokes are central to Beware!’s very
It’s only natural, then, that the band would much prefer
to discuss Dungeons and Dragons, Magic: The Gathering,
and favorite Godzilla movies rather than musical influences.
In fact, with these guys, there may be no distinction.
play music,” says vocalist, guitarist and, yes, synthesizer
player Richard Nolan, “but that’s only because people
want to hear it. We don’t really listen to it.”
we started this band, we just wanted to be exciting,”
Horton explains. “So, we had to learn instruments we didn’t
know how to play.” For anyone who’s seen a Beware! show,
complete with costumes and confetti cannons, it should
come as no surprise to hear that the band’s first instrument
was essentially a strobe light.
one of the first songs I ever recorded,” Ferguson explains,
“I miked a strobe light for a beat. I kid you not.”
This, however, took place when Ferguson and Nolan were
still in high school, growing up in the Ballston Spa/Saratoga
used to take the strobe light,” Nolan says, “and sit in
[Ferguson’s] bedroom playing Nirvana and Nine Inch Nails
with it going because we were like, one day we’re going
to need this. His parents hated it.”
Now, it’s kind of hard to imagine what the band would
be without their theatrical aids. Halloween is the band’s
official anniversary, and every year they seem to up the
thematic ante. In 2008, the band performed as McDonalds
characters; last year it was Batman villains. Ferguson,
who writes the bulk of the band’s material with Horton,
confesses that much of their inspiration comes from the
“junk culture” they were raised on, as well as some “grossly
exaggerated actual events,” like (I’m assuming) “How We
Stole Jack White’s Tesla Coil”—only one of their many
songs that race at the clip of a cartoon chase sequence.
The band’s most impressive thematic feat might have been
last year when they performed an original score for the
1925 silent film The Lost World at the Albany Public
Library. They’d originally hoped to tackle Metropolis
due to its steampunk aesthetic, but the two-and-a-half-hour
running time made them opt for The Lost World’s
campy stop-motion dinosaur fights—a subject that probably
better suits their tendencies anyway.
American Godzilla Party isn’t a concept album, per
se, but it does sum up what the band aim to deliver.
title] is originally from the Clerks animated series,”
Nolan says, but Ferguson explains the idea stems from
what would happen if the band ever toured Japan, given
how tall they all are. While the titular beast never actually
appears in any songs, “Champ” is accompanied by the twisted
Norteño waltz “Origins of El Chupacabre” and the Nintendo
sprint of one of the band’s calling-card tunes, “Front
Row Seats for the Great Beast.”
Nintendo, of course, is an inevitable topic of conversation.
And it’s fitting, somehow, that it should come up as this
roving conversation comes to rest momentarily on the stoop
and bike-shaped bike racks outside the College of Saint
Rose’s Picotte Hall on State Street.
never changed the access code,” Ferguson explains, “so
I was able to sneak in here long after I dropped out of
graphic-design school.” His prior band, Parwana (which
included Nolan, Stewart, and its namesake Parwana), used
the space to surreptitiously silkscreen T-shirts, but
tonight the only misdemeanor offense Beware! will risk
is an open-container violation while discussing the top
five video games to influence the album.
Most tracks, like instrumental opener “Teddy Roosevelt’s
Modded MacBook Pro (pt. 1),” feature no less than three
layers of squiggly, fuzzy and hovering synthesizer, harkening
back to the soundtracks of early 8-bit video games. On
“Phase 3: Profits,” buzzing guitars and spray-of-diamonds
sequencers are ironed on, giving the track a squeaky-clean
groove somewhere between Ratatat and the video game Castlevania.
It might simply be a testament to how good home-recording
gear is these days, but it’s pretty amazing to realize
the record was produced in Stewart and Nolan’s Schenectady
apartment, on Parwana’s laptop, through microphones the
band bought then returned to Guitar Center.
thing that got us through recording,” Stewart says, “was
playing original Super Mario World for Super Nintendo.”
There was a period of 72 hours when Nolan and Parwana
were mixing the record that Stewart remained glued to
his console, occasionally offering moral support. With
only two members claiming any dexterity with gaming systems
post-NES, it was vintage games that provided the most
inspiration. Super Dodgeball, Dr. Mario, Home Improvement
(“It’s like they took Jurassic Park and put nail guns
in it”), and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Turtles in
Time rank highest. “Our next record might be called Turtles
in Time,” Stewart continues. “It’s going to open with
‘Big Apple, 3 AM,’ and all the tracks are going to be
named after the levels.”
Despite the constant temptation of video games and impromptu
games of Magic: The Gathering, the band seem pleased with
the final product. “We recorded entirely independent,”
Nolan says, “and did not have [a big] budget. We did not
ask for any help whatsoever. We had $384 and were able
to crank out what I like to call golden hits. Straight-to-the-top
Whether out of modesty or distractibility, this is about
all they’ll say regarding the record. Already, Nolan is
on to the finer points of his blue/black Magic deck, and
Ferguson admits his black vampire deck is “kinda in right
now.” Stewart quips that, if Nolan applied himself, “he
could pump gas or something. Instead he’s just in a local
band and plays Magic,” yet confesses in the next breath
that all those hours of recording allowed him to build
a pretty good black/white/green deck. Horton, Parwana
and Tillinghast feign ignorance, yet it’s already been
revealed that, later this evening, the band will regroup
for a “20-sided die journey” of D&D.
mom calls and wonders what I do I do at this point in
my life,” Parwana says, shaking his head. It’s kind of
no surprise. “She has no idea I’m a musician.”