SONIC REDUCER San Francisco street rats, go play some other day. House heads, scamper beneath some disco ball far away. And, kraut rock kidz, don't you dare mistake Maus Haus for just another tinned Can tribute band German spelling or nein though the Bay Area ensemble has been known to rock the occasional Faust track behind closed doors.
Instead Joseph Genden, Tom Hurlbut, Jason Kick, Sean Mabry, Josh Rampage, and Aaron Weiss all real birth names, folks make some of the most original music to scuttle along the edges of aural indefinability, right here in the Bay. Just don those giant Mickey ears and take in the boom-bleat orchestral art-rock bounce, chugging motor-iffic rhythms, and squealing theremin-like shrieks of "Rigid Breakfast," the opening track of Maus Haus' latest, Lark Marvels (Pretty Blue Presents, 2008). Fractured psych patients, bent-but-not-broken folk-funksters, soft-acid bluesmen, Silver Apples acolytes, and Captain Beefheart praise-sayers all these descriptors touch on, yet don't quite capture, the inviting, inventive sonic nest Maus Haus has built.
"It's a project that started out as a guideline of concepts that we wanted to fulfill but we had no actual idea of what the music would sound like," explains drummer-keyboardist-multi-instrumentalist Mabry by speaker phone alongside Kick.
"We definitely like a lot of late '60s psychedelia that's something we all agree on," vocalist-keyboardist Kick adds. "But we didn't intend to do anything with a retro sheen necessarily." Rather, Maus Haus chose to simply identify with the pioneering spirit of early psych. "Our heart is kind of in the same place," he says.
Hard to believe this gang of friends some assembled via Craigslist, a clutch relocated from the Midwest (Wisconsin, Michigan, and Indiana), two hailing from Sacramento and Half Moon Bay, and all involved in bands as varied as Social Studies, Battlehooch, and Pope of Yes started working on music together just two years ago, and at the encouragement of friends, they played live together for the first time a year ago. "It felt like there needed to be a band to represent the songs," Kick says, "instead of it just being an esoteric recording project.
Enter the crazy quilt of onstage instrumentation, in full pack-rat effect when Maus Haus played Bottom of the Hill not long ago. "We have so much stuff onstage it's kind of ridiculous," says Kick. He counts off a Rhodes keyboard, Omnichord, drum set, assorted floor toms, an electronic drum pad, two MicroKorgs, the theremin-emuutf8g Chaos Pad, trombone, sax, trumpets, bass guitar, MIDI controller, and laptop, though he says, "We might stop using the laptop because computers shut down at the worst times." Sounds like the song "We Used Technology (But Technology Let Us Down)" was written from experience.
So what are these brain baths that Maus Haus recommends as one of several "special things to do" on their MySpace site? That suggestion, along with the rest of the list, emerged from a series of surrealist word games undertaken to generate lyrics. "Nerdy but true," says Kick. Still, one imagines a good saline solution dousing accompanied by Maus Haus' bubbling score might set the imagination reeling. "You can do it clothed," Kick offers, "or naked."
Fri/27, 5 p.m., free