There are four boys who make up Reptar. They have offered twice as many (if not more) explanations for why they chose to name their band after a Rugrats character. But these days, the Athens, GA based group is sticking to this one: “I first tried to name the band Invisible Boyfriend,” giggles singer-guitarist Graham Ulicny. “And everybody goes, ‘that is the stupidest name I have ever heard in my life.” So why Reptar? “It is the second stupidest band name we have ever heard.”
Indeed, there is no pretense behind Reptar, which also includes Andrew McFarland (drums), Ryan Engelberger (Bass), and William Kennedy (analog keyboards). Still, the ability to amuse and arouse their fans is just as important to them as indulging their musical curiosities. This sonic wanderlust extends from African Music to post-punk to psych-pop and converges joyously in songs such as “Blastoff” and “Rainbounce,” and it’s won them high fives from NPR and NME alike.
Their aesthetic percolates even more vibrantly through their debut LP, Body Faucet, out May 1, 2012 on Vagrant Records. A set of shimmering sing-along anthems produced by Ben Allen (Animal Collective, Deerhunter, Washed Out), Body Faucet is propelled by jerky guitars and persistent beats. “The record feels like a big dream with different chapters,” says Ryan. “Ghost Bike” captures the space between witnessing a friend’s death and surviving it. In “Sebastian” (named after a saint who became a gay icon), it’s experiencing, then remembering, a sexual awakening with a close friend. Lyrics and music flow in a liquid form from real places, each song oozing with a different color and substance. “We wanted to capture the thoughts we project on our surroundings and the ideas that flow in and out of us each day,” says Graham. Indeed, much of the record deals with exploring and interacting with one’s surroundings in new, occasionally frustrating, ways. The album builds with songs such as “New House,” expressing a future of possibilities. A centerpiece of sorts, notes Andrew, “it’s the most driving song on the record, and it’s really empowering live.”
If Reptar had a superpower, it’d be the knack for warming up every space they inhabit. “Our music is very physical,” says Ryan. “We always try to get people moving.” This is wired into the DNA of the band, which honed its chops on house shows and continues to keep them a central part of its life. These shows began three years ago when they moved into a teetering, buttercup yellow abode together. “It was slanted at a 20-degree angle,” Ryan explains, “and we’d have shows in the front room.” Word spread, and soon they were popping up around at other houses, then clubs.
Reptar even rounded out their stint at last year’s SXSW by playing in a friend’s backyard. Impressed by this commitment to connect, NME later rhapsodized about that bouncy set performed on a flatbed truck, anointing Reptar one of the “biggest buzzes” at the festival. “Little kids were running around selling cupcakes to drunk people for exorbitant amounts of money,” marvels Graham. Reptar, of course, played for free.