Meet Giraffe Tongue Orchestra, probably 2016's best supergroup

Giraffe Tongue Orchestra band photo

Seven years is a long gestation period for any album, let alone a band’s first. Giraffe Tongue Orchestra (Brent Hinds: “I was at a zoo and a giraffe grabbed a bunch of bananas from my hand with its tongue and peeled them with it as well – by the time they got to its mouth, they were ready to be eaten. I’d found the name for our band”), is that band. A ‘supergroup’ that came together in fits and starts, they finally bore fruit with this year’s Broken Lines album.

Formed by Mastodon guitarist/vocalist Brent Hinds and the Dillinger Escape Plan’s Ben Weinman, and completed by Alice In Chains frontman William DuVall (the band are augmented by additional musicians both for recording and playing live), Giraffe Tongue Orchestra’s debut is more than just a sum of its parts. There are prog-metal wig-outs, the sombre underbelly of Alice In Chains, Dillinger’s erratic funk and an other‑worldly magic when the musicians play together: Everyone Gets Everything They Really Want is a dirty, distorted mix of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs and Chicago’s horn section gone awry (no, really); Blood Moon a stuttering, static guitar loop with DuVall’s rangy vocals thrown wildly over the top.

“Ben set the challenge for himself to write a piece of music that centred around one riff and stayed there,” DuVall explains. “For him, that’s very different from what he’s known for doing in Dillinger and it’s unlike some of the other things on the album. It’s not gnarly prog or rapid-fire mood swings, so this was the chance to increase the dynamic and give it the same attitude as one of the heavier songs on the album, like Crucifixion.”

Conversely, they’ve also managed to come up with a bona fide power ballad in All We Have Is Now.

“Weirdly, that was one of the last songs Ben sent me,” Duvall says, “but it was on the first demos that he and Brent had done when they first approached me all those years ago – just this guitar figure they’d recorded on the tour bus while Ben was on the floor controlling the effects live while Brent’s playing. Ben just put the orchestration on there, and the lyrics just spilled out of me. Still the same demo, though.

“Our regular gigs got in the way of us getting GTO to work back then,” DuVall explains. “But I ran into Brent at the grocery store in Atlanta one rainy Sunday afternoon in early 2015, and he said: ‘I’d still love you to do GTO…’ And we wanted something that really was a band, something that people could believe in. The fact that it’s a jigsaw is part of the equation, but we want that to be an incidental and maybe something that attracts people, to give it half a chance. But we don’t want it to be the be-all and end-all. We want GTO to carve its own place and exist there.”

FOR FANS OF: Queen’s A Night At The Opera

“Going into it I didn’t have one artist or an album in mind,” says William DuVall. “But coming out the other side, I think that comparisons to records like Queen’s A Night At The Opera are close to where we’re trying to be. They could have been just a great progressive rock band, but they wanted much more than that.”

Classic Rock Quiz: SUPERGROUPS

Philip Wilding

Philip Wilding is a novelist, journalist, scriptwriter, biographer and radio producer. As a young journalist he criss-crossed most of the United States with bands like Motley Crue, Kiss and Poison (think the Almost Famous movie but with more hairspray). More latterly, he’s sat down to chat with bands like the slightly more erudite Manic Street Preachers, Afghan Whigs, Rush and Marillion.