Battle of the Bands 2018 Q&A: The Infinite Improbability Drive

By Josh Pettis, Contributor
[Photo by Harley Wince]
Q&A with Julian Runyon of the Infinite Improbability Drive.

The way you mix science fiction with dated conceptions of the future and more conventional alt and prog aesthetics is pretty interesting, especially on the more narrative, collagey-sounding holotape tracks on your EP Another Reality Brought to You by the Infinite Improbability Drive. It feels like it comes out both through sound selection and lyrical thematics depending on the track. How do you manage to blend and balance these focuses as you build songs?

Julian: The core of the EP [are] the three main tracks, “CPU”, “Into Eternity” and “‘You Know Me?” With the exception of “You Know Me?”, these songs were instrumental tracks at first. Our initial idea for the EP was “digital versus analog,” which influenced how we shaped their sound. “CPU” was the analog and “Into Eternity” was the digital. The intro of “Into Eternity” was the catalyst of the “concept.” I thought it sounded like some sort of sci-fi transportation sequence, which led to the idea of someone transferring their consciousness into a computer. I finished the lyrics following this narrative and tried to fit the vocals to the character and the slippery riff that opens the tune. Then I had to find a vocal or lyric to fit [the] rocking vibe [on “CPU”]. I decided to try to give a backstory to the character from “Into Eternity”, and Jesse, who had written the majority of the song, signed off on it. We also threw in some crowd noise recorded on the back patio of The Union at an ACRN event early in the semester. At this point, it was clear that the EP would be a concept record, but we had one more song that needed to be tied in.

Your track “You Know Me?” has a little nod to Nardwuar that’s kind of goofy and feels like a disconnect from the vibe that you’re building something on the motif or angle of a sci-fi story album. What’s the headspace like for this project, and how much does the idea of being conceptual in your music matter to you?

Julian: “You Know Me?” started with a vocal idea and the lyrics, “I’d like to think I know myself pretty well, but you know me like a Nardwuar interview.” The backing track of the song soon followed with more of a dreamy, psychedelic sound to suit the vocal. In the context of the story, I view this song as the “chorus of the play,” reflecting on the events observed and what they might imply in the real world. Also, the story takes place in a skewed alternate reality on earth, so who’s to say Nardwuar isn’t around doing his thing? [He laughs]. With the story in place, I wrote some short, spoken word pieces to fit in between the songs for a bit more cohesiveness and to tie in our namesake, The Infinite Improbability Drive. These became the “holotapes.” The first of which was placed on top of a soundscape, made by Jesse, of some musical ideas of ours and samples from a Japanese record I picked up from the Goodwill here in Athens. These had to sound distant, like a radio transmission coming from another world, so we altered them as such. The concept grew to matter a lot, but some of my favorite albums are concept albums, so I’m not surprised that it took such a hold over this project.

It goes without saying that “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” played a role, but what other sci-fi went into inspiring and shaping the direction of this group?

Julian: Outside of “Hitchhiker’s Guide,” some influences were “Doctor Who,” “The Twilight Zone,” “Black Mirror,” “The Matrix” (even though I haven’t seen any of them), some Rush epics and, for the name of the holotapes, “Fallout.”

From your Bandcamp, it seems like you guys just popped up recently. How did The Infinite Improbability Drive come together, and how long have you been performing?

Julian: As a band, we are very, very new. The EP was written and recorded by Jesse Steward and I after our last band, Clone, came to an end. It was originally more of a vanity project, but after catching wind of Battle of the Bands (a couple of days before the original deadline), we decided to put an actual band together and compete. Jesse and I have been playing together for a little over a year now, but the rest of the band [members] are fresh faces. They are all friends of mine that are fantastic musicians in their own right. Though the band is young, we are extremely excited to put on a great show.

Catch the Infinite Improbability Drive’s performance at ACRN’s Battle of the Bands, Friday, Nov. 16 at the Union. 

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