Disturbance in the Force

Bring on Tucson's own Galactic Federation of Love

There are those who will tell you that Tucson's local music scene is moribund, stagnant and limited. A jaundiced-enough eye might perceive sameness in our so-called "desert rock," or imitative aping of successful formulas, or a bunch of art fags with one stick of deodorant among them.

Such people should be grabbed by the ear cartilage and dragged immediately to the next performance of the Galactic Federation of Love, which in this instance happens to be headlining a show at Club Congress this Friday.

Of course, this writer and other Tucson Weekly music critics are biased to the extent that we awarded them the Critics' Pick TAMMIES award for Best New Band three months ago, for at least one very good reason: The Galactic Federation of Love excites people.

The group formed in the summer of 2003 when childhood friends Bradford Trojan ("LemonMan") and Sugarbush's Dmitri Manos ("Mystic Love") began to write songs together. Trojan, a native of the Philadelphia area, was working on a theatrical production when he decided to heed the call of Horace Greeley. But he admits he was motivated more by simple lust than wanderlust.

"What kinda got me out here, to be honest, was a girl I was dating. We're still good friends, but you know, things didn't really work out."

GFL was later fleshed out by the addition of Justin Champlin (Okmoniks, No Bunny) on drums and Ryan Eggleston (also of Sugarbush) on bass, both of whom also have snazzy stagenames--"Fortress" and "Nxxxxxqxn," respectively.

On the surface, Galactic Federation of Love are a quirky pop band, influenced by the likes of Talking Heads, Jonathan Richman and the Beatles, among others. Combine that with a vaudevillian sense of showmanship, a hearty dose of conspiracy lore (utilized in a fashion that amuses rather than annoys) and the raw charisma of lead singer/guitarist LemonMan, and you have a veritable Tasmanian Devil of rock.

"Having people just be there and respond, the energy ... Having someone, you know, smiling, or really loving it ... takin' it with them the following week or whatever ... trying to have a memorable experience," is how Trojan characterizes what's most important to him about performing. "Just having people there is such, like, a good feeling, a warm feeling with positive energy that can be put out. ... Instead of like, you know, screaming at the person ... try to have, like, more of an interaction. It sounds cliché to say, like, 'have a communal spirit at the show,' but that's what it's about."

Quasi-hippie ruminations aside, it's true that GFL tends to inspire the warm fuzzies in their audience, willingly or not. As LemonMan, Trojan makes a point of interacting directly with people, going so far as to hug everyone in attendance, which--from the typical response--seems to be a remarkably effective tactic for engaging a crowd. For Friday's performance, attendees are encouraged to dress like animals and bring stuffed animals to cushion LemonMan's stage dive.

GFL's songs tend to be almost monomaniacal in their focus on the rich world of conspiracy theories.

"It's gotten to the point where I (have become) so interested in conspiracies, UFOs and things, and 'unknown' phenomena and stuff, and (I) just bring that into this whole, uh, act, trying to create more of a conceptual work, with like, characters," says Trojan, when discussing his favorite topic. His sincerity is disarming; coming from him, suggestions that last week's convention should have been called the "Reptilian National Convention" don't seem bizarre, like they might if you were discussing the alien reptile race theory with, say, a cabbie. "Right now, I kinda wanna (utilize) what I'm interested in, so (I read) about new things, like, you know, numerology and symbolisms all over the world, and family bloodlines being connected, with ... the Bushes and John Kerry, Skull and Bones; that stuff is interesting. I think it's really wild," he avers.

With two self-released titles under their collective belt and scads of new material, the GFL are eager to release another record. Having made inroads toward some modicum of indie success with their recent 40-odd-date tour that took them from here to Seattle to Portland, Maine, they want to strike while the iron is hot.

"I dunno, I just have a good feeling about it. I feel like now is the time," Trojan says, and it's impossible not to believe him.

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