by bess meade.
captured by dustin gluvna.
dreamy psychedelic pop band reptaliens bring an energy to their shows that’s contagious. started by husband and wife duo bambi and cole browning as a side project three years ago, reptaliens has since become a full-time gig, with one well-received and undeniably catchy album, fm 20-30, under their belt and extensive national touring. i caught up with them before their hometown show at the wonder ballroom in portland, right in the middle of a national tour opening for of montreal.
reptaliens are bambi (vocals + bass) & cole browning (keys), julian kowalski (guitar), tyler vergian (drums), and austin smith (percussion + show vibes).
how did you first start making music as reptaliens?
bambi: cole and i played in another band together, and then we started dating and pretty quickly realized that we were soulmate material, and that we pushed each other to write music that was more expressive of ourselves.
i played bass for a long time in other bands, and no one ever gave me room to be a singer or a lyricist, or the opportunity to write full songs. cole really encouraged me to do that; i never would have done this without him. he makes me really happy and confident.
cole: bambi and i recorded one song, just for fun. we didn’t have a band, or even really the idea of starting one, because we were in this other band at the time. then we made this one song, and the internet really liked it, way more than we thought they would. so, we decided to do this thing. and we signed with captured tracks in our first year which is kind of crazy.
you’ve put out two new songs pretty recently. does that mean you’ll be putting out a sophomore album soon?
bambi: it does! we recently recorded our second album with mike nolte, who works with of montreal and strfkr. he’s awesome; we have the best time working with him. he introduced us to jackpot studios, which is such a legendary studio in portland. it was unreal to be there and to pull creativity out of ourselves in a place where so many other artists have done that same thing. it felt super cool. that was right before we left for tour, and it’s currently being mixed. we’re thinking it will be out sometime next spring.
was your recording process for your second album similar to recording fm 20-30?
bambi: we learned a lot from recording fm 20-30. but we’ve been on tour so much this year that we definitely had a much shorter amount of time that we could go through the process of turning demos into real songs, real songs into recording pieces at home, and then taking those pieces to the studio. having so little time made it really hectic, which was a huge difference from recording fm 20-30, but now we know how to work together.
cole: we also were very comfortable with each other since we had been touring so much. so when we got into a hectic recording situation, we worked very well, because we all knew how to work together.
bambi: we work well under pressure, and we had a better grip on how to work together. really, we were less prepared but we knew what we wanted.
you’ve described reptaliens before as “performance art pop” – when you’re writing songs, do you have that anticipated performance in mind or is that something that comes after the songwriting?
bambi: it definitely comes after. the things i like to write about are generally story-based, but i don’t really have the performance in mind while writing.
cole: austin has free reign to perform however he wants; whatever costumes or songs he wants to do for that show. and that’s kind of fun for us because a lot of times we don’t know what he’s going to do that night.
bambi: it’s so much fun. the last few nights, he’s really been on one. two nights ago in missoula, he started stripping off this like giant fake plant outfit into…
austin: basically a flesh colored suit.
bambi: i had to stop playing for a second because i was laughing so hard.
if reptaliens could do the soundtrack for any tv show, what would it be?
cole: i want to say twin peaks, but that seems like such an obvious choice.
austin: unsolved mysteries.
bambi: maybe a cartoon, like ducktales.
julian: or bobby’s world.
i’m going to name a celebrity conspiracy theory, and you tell me if you think it’s likely or not.
bambi: are these made up or real?
these are from the internet, so they are definitely real. first one: jonbenet ramsey wasn’t actually murdered, and she grew up to be katy perry.
bambi: no...i think if this girl was given a second chance at life, she’d be better than katy perry.
ok, next one. britney spears’ scandals were orchestrated by the bush administration to distract from the mistakes he was making in office.
cole: i could believe it. there’s a lot of play on scandal in the music industry, and drama is orchestrated. i don’t see why politics couldn’t get involved with it.
bambi: i think that’s downplaying her mental health state, though. she had a hard childhood. i’m a hard no on that one.
last one— ted cruz is the zodiac killer.
cole: that obviously is just a fact.