THE PRESIDENTS OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA

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SONGOGRAPHY:

Caspar Babypants : Chris and Tad : Chris Ballew : EGG : The Giraffes : PUSA : SUbSET : The Tycoons

The Giraffes

     

Chris Ballew - Various Instruments
Mike Musburger - Drums
Jason Staczek - Organ, Clarinet

The Giraffes started as a one man band, but later turned into a full-time band including drummer Mike Musburger (Fastbacks, Posies, Uptights), and multi-instrumentalist Jason Staczek.

"Founded by Chris Ballew, the former lead singer and songwriter for the multi-platinum artists The Presidents of the United States of America, The Giraffes' first album, 13 Other Dimensions, was released in February 1998 and featured a made-up band of hand puppets invented by Chris. The group consists of Chris on acoustic guitar, Mike Musburger on drums and Jason Staczek on organ and clarinet." - Written by Chris Ballew © 2000 Raw Poo Music (ASCAP)

Listen clips from The Giraffes - Days Are Filled With Years album.

Official site (First Album):

 

Giraffe (giraffe) - lead vocal and rythym guitar
Chickey (earless rabbit) - drums
Munkey Sr (large monkey) - lead vibrato wah wah guitar
Munkey Jr (small monkey) - horns and strings
Barry Lowe (bear) - basitar
Yoko Glick (duck on wheels) - piano, organ and clavinet

Somewhere in the lush green of the state of Kentucky in the back yard of one of the shackey houses on an moldy river there was a giraffe named Giraffe and an earless rabbit named Chickey who spent all thier days banging away on a broken guitar and a childs drumset they found in a music store dumpster. They wrote songs as fast as they could forget them, improvising on any topic from a stuffed crocodile in the garbage to a fly found trapped in the freezer. They loved whatever turned thier imaginations into music. It began when the two of them sang songs together as babies and they never lost that innocent urge to tell stories and make noises.

In the fall at the annual art fair in town Giraffe and Chickey would set up thier now legendary "Puppet Jukebox". In between buying bronze flowers and curiosly thick oil paintings, anyone with a couple of words for the boys could walk up and pay 25 cents to have thier fragments instantly turned into full songs by the fuzzy geniuses.

The word got out and Monkey Jr., a local child prodigy who already had two singles in the top ten at the tender age of 8, came to see what all the fuss was about. Sure enough when he said the words "dimension" and "chocolate" to Giraffe and Chickey they counted off a beat and launched into what was to become "Chocolate Dimension", the first cut on thier first album as The Giraffes.

Monkey Jr rushed home and told his father Monkey Sr about the dynamic songwriting duo he had seen at the fair. At the time Monkey Sr was the leader of a jazz trio called The Pantaloons which included Yoko Glick on vibes and Richard Stevenson (p.k.a. Barry Lowe) on bass. Monkey Sr was always on the look out for quality players but he was doubtful of the story pouring out of his hysterical son, but he agreed to come downtown the next day and see the show.

Needless to say when Monkey Sr threw the words "mouth" and "poodle" at them and they wrote the song "Poodle Mouth" on the spot he was extremly impressed by the jazz-like tones. He left humming the tune and couldn't stop for days. He eventually agreed to let his son record the pair in Monkey Jrs basement 8-track studio.

Two days before the session was scheduled Giraffe and Chickey went to the "Worm Hole" which was a small local jazz place that Monkey Sr and The Pantaloons had a steady gig at. The crowd was confused and delighted when Giraffe and Chickey grabbed thier drums and guitar and jumped up on stage and joined The Pantaloons during thier big hit "Lonely Chicken". Monkey Sr was shocked but couldn't ignore the crowds obvious pleasure at the tiny driving sound they had suddenly achieved. They jammed on into the morning and had breakfast together.

Monkey Sr was so excited by the new sound they had achieved he proposed combining the two bands. So he brought in Barry Lowe to play his patented two string "basitar" and Yoko Glick to play her patented 76 key "electric pianorgan". The first song they recorded was the bouncy and whistful "Comin Around" and at the end of the session Monkey Jr was able to say with confidence,"Puppets, you've just recorded your first number one!".

The album that you will hold in your hands is a re-issue of the original work which was recorded in the spring of 1974. By 1975 the group had moved to Seattle and released several more albums that nobody noticed. These recordings were never appreciated until a transient found the tapes in the corner of the basement room in the now aboandoned Monkey home and passed them on to Chris Ballew. He took them into Raw Poo studios and worked some sonic magic to remove all the mold from the tapes and the Giraffes were re-born!

There is no way to know how these records were made or why they were never released. Theories abound but there are no answers. The band members have long since faded into obscurity and vanished without a trace leaving behind several albums and short film clips and that is all.

Thanks to the people at My Own Planet Records the world will finally get to enjoy this small and often overlooked tresure trove of mellow-psycadelic- pop-puppet-rock-music called The Giraffes. ENJOY!

IMAGINE THE SOUND!!! THE LUSCIOUS SOUND OF SONGS!!! SONGS SUNG BY SMALL PUPPETS WAY BACK IN THE 1970'S!!! THIS IS THE ESSENTIAL MAGIC COMBINATION!! THIS IS THE GIRAFFES!!!

IMAGINE A LITTLE GIRAFFE AND AN EARLESS RABBIT WITH THE ASTONISHING ABILITY TO IMPROVISE SONGS OUT OF THIN AIR INSTANTLY WITH ONLY SECONDS TO PREPARE!!! IMAGINE A FOURSOME OF HOTEL LOBBY JAZZ PUPPETS LED BY A FATHER AND SON TEAM OF WILD MONKEYS ON GUITAR AND HORNS BACKED UP BY A SHY BEAR ON THE TWO STRING BASITAR AND A SMALL DUCK ON WHEELS TICKLING THE IVORY KEYS LIKE SHE HAS A DARK SECRET!!! NOW IF YOU WILL IMAGINE THESE TWO MUSICAL PATHS COLLIDING AND CREATING A SOUND LIKE NONE YOU CAN POSSIBLY IMAGINE!!!

BACK IN THE EARLY 1970'S THIS STORY ACTUALY CAME TRUE AND THE GIRAFFES BEGAN A NINE YEAR RELATIONSHIP THAT WOULD PRODUCE SOME OF THE MOST ENTERTAINING MUSIC YOU HAVE NEVER HEARD!!!! NOT SINCE DORIS AND THE DOORKNOBS HAVE A BAND SO SUCCEFULLY CAPTURED THE INNER RAMBLINGS OF AN IMPROVISING PUPPET!!!!!!!! BETWEEN 1974 AND 1979 THESE INERT GENIUSES EXPERIMENTED IN THE BASEMENT OF A SOUTHERN KENTUCKY HOME UNTIL A FREAK ACCIDENT DROVE THEM TO SEATTLE AND INTO COMPLETE OBSCURITY......FOREVER!!!! THANKS TO ARCHIVIST CHRIS BALLEW AND THE FOLKS OVER AT MY OWN PLANET RECORDINGS IN SEATTLE THE ALBUM, "13 OTHER DIMENSIONS" , WILL BE THE FIRST OF MANY REISSUES OF THE ORIGINAL RECORDINGS BY THE GIRAFFES THAT WILL COME OUT IN THE NEXT FEW YEARS!!! YOU OWE IT TO YOURSELF AND YOUR EARS TO TAKE THIS SONIC GEM HOME AND ENJOY IT OVER AND AGAIN!!!

- CASPAR BABYPANTS (SEATTLE 1979)

The Truth


These recordings were actually done over the course of the current decade by Chris Ballew, former lead singer/songwriter of The Presidents of the United States of America, on his 8-track cassette machine in a basement studio.

Chris wrote the songs, played all the instruments and produced The Giraffes Record. The people at Columbia Records were kind enough to license the material to My Own Planet Recordings because Chris and Michele thought it would be fun to put it out.

The Rant


Well, here I am having finished being a "rock star". It feels good to have been lucky enough to have it happen the way it did and to back off when the gettin was good. I always fantisized that if I ever did become famous that it would happen because people wanted to hear the music and see the band before the record companies took notice and that I would quit at the top of my game.


So I get to wipe my brow and say "PHEW!"

Now I get to go back to making music the way I was before the freak accident of being in a national and worlwide touring rock band happened. I used to make up songs and record them at home and make little cassette tapes that I would give to friends or sell for five bucks out of a bag. Those tapes were wierd and diverse and had all kinds of combinations of instruments and song types on them and that made making music challenging and fun for me. Then as I gave out more and more tapes I would start meeting musicians who liked the tapes and we would maybe form a band. But talk of going professional was always frowned upon and the person who brought it up was usally laughed at or told to sit down. No band ever lasted more than a year of two and that was healthy.



Obviously the oportunity to experience the whirlwind of attention and activity that the Presidents experienced doesnt come around every day and you can't plan that sort of thing. So even though deep in my gut I thought it was the craziest thing I had ever heard of' we took the plunge. I have no regrets about that decision and it was fun. But the repetitive hard sell business like nature of that experience didnt agree with my own creative style in the end.

And now ladies and gentlemen I give you the Giraffes!

My hope is that I can go back to opperating in the way that I want to, making diverse and interesting albums without the brain numbing boredom of touring and repeating the same songs over and over again. I hope I can make a living making recordings in the same way an artist makes a living making a painting or sculpture. They have a style but unless they chose to they dont have to repeat themselves. I don't even know how to play alot of the Giraffes songs because they come together on tape as I record them or the instruments are all in wierd tunings and I dont remember what I was playing. And I like that alot. I don't know the material so well that I hate it and I can sit back sometimes and enjoy a Giraffes record like a fan.

Actually, a big reason why I started making tapes in the first place because I wasn't hearing the music I wanted to hear on the radio so I just decided to try to make it up myself. So it is important that I can improvise and enjoy my own recordings as if I didn't even make them.



It feels so good to finally be addressing the sound I have in my head with out making comprimises. Being in a band is a thrilling experience when you are playing live and getting the good love from the audience. There is nothing like it. And it also involves democracy and I found I got less and less interested in the sonic comprimises I was making. But it is no good being a dictator and so after four years of letting the real sound I wanted to hear sit on the back burner I am super excited to try to get it out of my head and onto tape and into your ear and see if it is as good as I think it is.

The Giraffes is my vehicle for this and it feels good to be the puppetier insted of the puppet!

I would love to make alot more Giraffes records and little super 8 films of them performing and have people continue to enjoy them and to continue to enjoy making them for a long time until I am old and crusty. Who knows this may turn into a live band in the future but right now it feels best just to hang back and experiment and see where it goes.

STAY TUNED!!!

 

Main releases:

13 Other Dimensions

The Days Are Filled With Years

List of all known The Giraffes songs:

He
Track: Source: Year: Details:
All The Good Times Zero Friction 2000  
Black Shadow The Days Are Filled With Years 2000  
Bone Dry The Days Are Filled With Years 2000  
Brain On Yer Tung 13 Other Dimensions 1998  
Burned By a Summer The Days Are Filled With Years 2000  
Chocolate Dimesion 13 Other Dimensions 1998  
Clean Machine Zero Friction 2000  
Comin' Around 13 Other Dimensions 1998  
Congratulations In Advance Congratulations In Advance (unreleased album) - Uncirculating studio recording from unreleased Giraffes album.
Cypress Ghost The Days Are Filled With Years 2000  
Don't Forget To Remember All The Good Times Zero Friction 2000  
Drunk On The Sweepings The Days Are Filled With Years 2000  
Easy Phantom The Days Are Filled With Years 2000  
Every Crocodile 13 Other Dimensions 1998  
G.R.E.A.T Zero Friction 2000  
Ghost Of a Bad Friend 13 Other Dimensions 1998  
Giraffes In The Underworld The Days Are Filled With Years 2000  
Gone Again Gone The Days Are Filled With Years 2000  
Good Morning Tycoon Zero Friction 2000  
Headphone Sunset The Days Are Filled With Years 2000  
Here     Uncirculated released studio recording. Uncirculating.
Hopeless (Rub It In) 13 Other Dimensions 1998  
Kill The Cake The Days Are Filled With Years 2000  
Little Champion 13 Other Dimensions 1998  
Lonely Chicken 13 Other Dimensions 1998  
Mess Of Doubt The Days Are Filled With Years 2000  
Mr. Microphone  (demo) Unreleased studio recording. 2000 Demo from the Zero Friction  sessions.
Nuthin' 2 Looz 13 Other Dimensions 1998  
Pale Moon 13 Other Dimensions 1998  
Poodle Mouth 13 Other Dimensions 1998  
Poodle Mouth Zero Friction 2000  
Queen Of Eyes Zero Friction 2000 Robyn Hitchcock cover.
Queen Of Eyes (demo) Unreleased studio recording. 2000 Robyn Hitchcock cover.
No guitar intro.
Room Forever The Days Are Filled With Years 2000  
Rot In The Sun Zero Friction 2000  
Slow Slow Fly 13 Other Dimensions 1998  
Some Postman Is Grooving Zero Friction 2000  
Stay With Me Zero Friction 2000  
Suck Or Shine Zero Friction 2000  
When She's Gone The Days Are Filled With Years 2000  
Wither Without You 13 Other Dimensions 1998  
Zero Friction Zero Friction 2000 PUSA re-recorded this to Love Everybody album.