Steam Powered Giraffe
Steam Powered Giraffe (SPG) is a musical project formed in San Diego in 2008 that is popular in the steampunk subculture. Led by twins David Michael Bennett and Isabella "Bunny" Bennett, and long-time friend Samuel Luke, the act combines mime, sketches, pop culture references, improvised comedic dialogue, and original music of various genres.
The members of Steam Powered Giraffe met while taking Theatre Arts at Grossmont College. Afterwards, they became members of a local San Diego mime group called Troupe SD. Trained in pantomime by Seaport Village mime Jerry "Kazoo" Hager, and with collective backgrounds in clown, theater, music, and visual design, Jonathan Sprague, Erin Burke (a fellow mime artist) and the Bennett twins - Bunny and David - started street busking as quirky robotic characters (at the time known as Peoplebots) in January 2008 at Balboa Park, California. Due to personal reasons, Erin Burke left the group in 2011.
Since their conception, the band has performed at popular Southern California venues including The San Diego County Fair, The San Diego Zoo, The Wild Animal Park, Legoland California, Ontario Mills, The Queen Bee's Art & Cultural Center, and at numerous Sci-Fi, Fantasy, and Steampunk Conventions.
In October 2009, the band released their first album, Album One. It contained the previously released single from May 2009 titled "On Top of the Universe", along with the hit "Brass Goggles" in 2009. In early 2011 the band released a single, "Honeybee", announcing that it would be on an upcoming second album, and in late 2011 the band announced the release of an interim "live" album entitled Live at the Globe of Yesterday's Tomorrow. Their second studio album, entitled The 2¢ Show, was released in May 2012. Also, their music can often be heard on a number of steampunk radio broadcasts that stream worldwide, such as The Clockwork Cabaret. The band's song "Electricity Is In My Soul" is available on the Rock Band Network.
On 30 October 2011, the band was mentioned by name in the comic strip Luann. The strip showed the title character and two of her friends dressed in steampunk attire, going out to attend a SPG concert. The title frame, which didn't appear in the online version but only in print, showed a giraffe's head and neck with steam escaping its ears and nostrils.
In 2012, they were voted Best Live Comedy act (and runner up for Best Family Entertainment act) on San Diego A-List.
Besides their musical endeavors, the band publishes a web comic and has produced a card game based on characters in their backstory. In April 2012 they released a DVD entitled, Steam Powered Giraffe: The DVD (and the Quest For the Eternal Harp of Golden Dreams).
On 24 September 2012, the band announced on their Tumblr page that Jon Sprague would no longer be a part of the group. On 1 October it was announced that Sam Luke, the drummer for the band at the time, would become the new robot in the band, "Hatchworth". On 2 November 2012, Hatchworth made his stage debut with SPG at Youmacon in Detroit, Michigan with interim drummer Mike Buxbaum (of A City Serene). Later, Matt Smith was named SPG's new drummer.
During this time, SPG also introduced the characters of the Walter Girls into their shows. The Girls started out by manning the band's merchandise tables at performances, but have started figuring in to the SPG stage show and back story. Described as "blue matter engineers", the porcelian-white skinned and blue-haired Walter Girls (now called Walter Workers) are essentially the robot's caretakers on stage.
In June 2013, SPG released a cover of Rihanna's "Diamonds", essentially a solo performance by the Spine. The accompanying video, released to YouTube, introduced a new character to the SPG canon, a robotic giraffe puppet named GG (voiced by Bunny Bennett). GG appeared again in July when the band released a comedic video, "Walter Robotics Rap", to YouTube.
On 9 August 2013, Steam Powered Giraffe announced the title to their third album, MK III, on the band's website and Tumblr page. The album was released on December 3.
In September, the band released a cover of Icona Pop's "I Love It" on their YouTube channel.
On 18 March 2014, it was announced that Michael Reed and Matt Smith would no longer be performing members of Steam Powered Giraffe. The Bennett twins stated that the reasons for their departure was to focus more on the theatrical elements of the act and to reduce the cost of touring.
Early in 2014, Bunny Bennett began to transition the character of Rabbit from male to female, coinciding with her own status as a transgender woman. In June 2014, Bennett stated on Tumblr that her chosen name (to become legal in the future) would be Isabella "Bunny" Bennett.
More videos have followed in the meantime. In May 2014, they released their third cover, a mostly acoustic version of Daft Punk's "Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger". The video marked the first "official" appearance by the female Rabbit to the general public at large (although the band had played some dates prior and some photos and raw audience footage had been seen). The band then followed up with two new videos: "Fancy Shoes" in June and "I'll Rust With You" in July, with the latter featuring live footage recorded at Anime Midwest in Rosemont, Illinois.
Steam Powered Giraffe recently released a Blu-ray/DVD/Audio CD combo pack, recorded in July 2013 at SPG's own Walter Robotics Expo in San Diego. This combo pack features former band members Michael Reed and Matt Smith, as well as documenting one of the last performances in which Rabbit appeared as male. The band has also stated on social media that work has begun on their 4th album, Vice Quadrant, which will be a space/sci-fi-themed concept album.
In September 2014, Steam Powered Giraffe gave their first international performance, playing at the Grand Canadian Steampunk Exhibition in Niagara Falls, Ontario. They came back for the 2015 Exhibition to do a collaboration show with Professor Elemental.
On September 1, 2015, SPG released "The Vice Quadrant - A Space Opera", a sprawling and ambitious 2-disc concept album containing 28 tracks, although i-Tunes released it as two separate albums for download . The release followed a number of video releases to promote the work. This marked the band's first recorded work with Rabbit as a woman, as well as the first full album recorded strictly as a trio. The album featured an appearance by Professor Elemental as well as vocals by Walter Worker Chelsea Penyak.
The band's fictional backstory explains why they pantomime as robots. According to that narrative, the "musical automatons" were invented by a rich San Diego inventor named Colonel Peter A. Walter in 1896 and kept in the Walter family over the years. Called the 8th 1/2 Wonder of the World, the robots were a technological marvel that ran off steam powered engines and the mysterious Blue Matter, discovered and harnessed by Walter. They were originally developed as war robots, intended to guide Walter's first robot, a giant mechanical giraffe named Delilah, in a battle across the African Savannah against a robotic elephant that was built by his rival, Thadeus Becile. Once the battles were over, the robots were decommissioned and re-tooled into musical robots for purposes of entertainment. A fictional timeline on the band's website chronicles the band's supposed "appearances" throughout the years at such notable places as the 1933 Chicago World's Fair and The Ed Sullivan Show.
In addition to the band's origin, some individual cast members have origins that pertain to their characters. The Spine was re-cast in silver and began wearing a fedora in the 1940s. former band-robot The Jon was said to have left the band to travel the world, and Hatchworth was brought up from the Walter's basement, forgotten due to a defective power core, repaired and placed as The Jon's replacement. (Much of this backstory is explained in the song "Hatch Fever.")
Rabbit's transition from male to female was explained in the backstory that the robot was originally intended to have been female, but due to time constraints (further explained in the backstory on the band's website), was left unfinished and appeared to be male. Nearly a century later, Rabbit began to malfunction badly, and in the process of repair, the robot's long-lost blueprints were located. Once the mistake was discovered, Peter Walter VI (the robots' current caretaker) completed Rabbit's build according to her original blueprints, and the malfunctions ceased (for the most part).
As seen live in concert
The Spine, Rabbit, and Hatchworth - See section "Band members".,
G.G. the Giraffe, a diminutive robot giraffe who was recently found and activated. She has been known to call the band in the middle of performances, and will often pose with them during photo shoots. She has recently started to appear onstage to sing her theme song (puppeteered by Bunny).,
Bebop and QWERTY, the two digital AIs who help Steve run the systems during the show and presumably during other times. There is speculation that Beebop may be a digital representation of an actual robot who is several stories tall (both are voiced by Steve Negrete, yet heavily modulated).,
As seen in the webcomic
Peter A Walter VI, the head of household in Walter Manor and the current caretaker for the robots. He is depicted wearing a wooden keyhole mask, for reasons not yet fully explained. He was involved in an explosive accident in 2013, roughly corresponding with the time that Hatchworth became active (played by David when shown onscreen).,
Marshmallow, Peter VI's giant white cat from the 8th Dimension.,
Annie Burnette Walter, Peter VI's mother.,
Peter A Walter V, Peter VI's father who is alive but not the head of household for reasons as yet unknown.,
Wanda Walter Becile, Peter IV's sister and Peter V's aunt. Though currently very old, she appears to be in good health and still lives in Walter Manor. Her hair is a light shade of blue.,
Norman Becile, a disfigured member of the Walter Household who appears briefly in the comics. His history with the Beciles and the Walters is still unclear.,
Buster Becile, the CEO of Becile Industries, the current competitor of Walter Robotics.,
Lorene Keaton, the current protagonist of the webcomic, with unknown relations to the Walter family.,
As discussed in the lore
Col. Peter A Walter (deceased), the creator of the robots and first scientist to discover and work with Blue Matter.,
Thaddeus Becile (presumed deceased), friend and rival to Col. Walter. Discovered and worked with Green Matter, an alternative power source which was derived from rock candy and required a human operator.,
Delilah Moreau (deceased), friend to Becile and Walter, Delilah served as the inspiration and motivation for many of their technological creations and rivalry. In March 2015 Delilah made an appearance alongside Vivianna Broodwell (played by Bunny Bennett and Carissa Keil respectively) in what appears to be an undead duo of vampire hunters. It is unknown how Ms. Moreau has come to be in this condition.,
Peter Walter II and Peter Walter III, a pair of twins born to Col. Walter and Iris Tonia, a servant of Walter Manor. Peter II is the father of Wanda, Peter IV, and Mark Ray Walter, father of Peter V.,
Ignatius M. Becile, rival to the Walters.,
Appearing in lyrics and albums
Captain Albert Alexander, a legendary hero of the sea. (Played by Bunny Bennett),
Rex Marksley, a legendary gunslinger from the wild west. (Played by David Michael Bennett),
Gomrey aka The Suspender Man, a talented banjo player who sold his soul to the bogs of Louisiana.,
Lily Airheart, a legendary pilot who may or may not have been a human/airplane hybrid. (Played by Paige Law),
Roller Skate King, a legend of the dance floor.,
Lector aka the Ghost Grinder,
Peter A Walter IV, Peter V's uncle who was an astronaut. There are conflicting stories in different sources about the fate of Peter IV, the official timeline lists him as deceased while the narrative from "The Vice Quadrant," implies that he instead became a superhero by the name of Commander Cosmo.,
W.I.N.K. the Satellite, a space probe sent to find a habitable planet.,
Jumbo the Whale, a pink space whale who wears a top hat and guards the gate to the 8th Dimension of Absolute and Infinite Terror.,
Cosmica aka the Daughter of Space, a supernatural human-shaped being formed in the depths of space who has seemingly unlimited powers. (Played by Chelsea Penyak),
Ravaxis Starburner, a descendant of Rex Marksley, and friend of Commander Cosmo. He pilots the S.S. Alexander alongside crewmates Gidget and Booplax.,
The Space Giant, a supernatural being from a paramount dimension who endangers the planet found by W.I.N.K.,
The Necrostar, a supernatural evil entity which has transferred from a supernova to the body of a dead, un-named Astronaut.,
The Astronaut, an anonymous victim and companion of Cosmica. (Played by David Michael Bennett),
Professor Elemental, friend and collaborator with the band, who calls upon their help during a crisis.,
Matter Mistress Bunny, a Walter Worker who is a mime from Kazooland (an alternate dimension) and has yet to make any canonical appearances.,
The Spine (David Michael Bennett) is a futuristic dieselpunk robot with a titanium alloy spinal column. His skin is smooth silver, and he wears a black fedora and a vest.,
- lead and backing vocals, guitars, bass, mandolin, keyboards (2008-present)
Rabbit (Isabella "Bunny" Bennett) is a copper clockwork robot with a porcelain faceplate, often "malfunctioning" at shows and their panels. She wears a black dress with red and black tights. Her costume and hair change frequently.,
- lead and backing vocals, accordion, keytar, megaphone, kazookaphone, melodica (2008-present)
Hatchworth (Sam Luke) is an art deco robot made from a cast-iron stove. He was supposedly one of Colonel P. A. Walter's original robots, but was locked away due to dangerous malfunctioning until such time as Peter VI was able to repair him, coinciding with The Jon's departure. He wears a bowler with a smoke-stack on one side, sports bright orange facial hair and glasses, and wears a black military tunic with red accents. Luke previously acted in the band as drummer, occasional bassist and backing vocalist under his real name before assuming the character of Hatchworth in late 2012.,
- lead and backing vocals, bass, guitars (2012-present; session drums, bass and backing vocals: 2011-2012)
Steve Negrete - audio engineering (2011-present),
Chelsea Penyak and Camille Penyak - Walter Workers and onstage ballet accompaniment (2014-present),
Chelsea also portrays the "Daughter of Space" during material for Vice Quadrant,
Carissa Anne Keil - Assistant to the band, occasional Walter Worker, Viviana Broodwell (2014-present),
Beth and James Riley, of Geekshot Photography, the band's official photographers who tour with them and run professional photo-shoots at conventions. (2012-2015),
The Jon (Jonathan "Jon" Sprague) was a gold art deco robot and part of the original four members. Sprague was let go from the band in 2012 and currently works as an artist and photographer in La Mesa, San Diego County, California.
lead and backing vocals, guitar, mandolin, bass, drums (2008-2012),
Upgrade (Erin Burke) was a silver and pink stylized robot and part of the original four members. Burke left the band in 2011 to pursue an acting career.
vocals, tambourine (2008-2011),
Former session members
Michael Philip Reed, known as the "One Man Band" - guitar, banjo, synthesizer, ukulele, bass, piano, vocoder, drums, percussion, lead and backing vocals (2008-2014),
Matt Smith - drums, backing vocals (2012-2014),
Brianna Clawson - Walter Worker (2012-2013),
Paige Law - Walter Worker (2012-2014),
Carolina Gumbayan - Walter Worker and occasional bassist (2013-2014),
Mike Buxbaum - Stand-in drummer, between when Sam had stepped up to play Hatchworth and when Matt Smith was brought on. (Youmacon, November 2nd 2012),