UPDATE: For more on Pomplamoose, see our February, 23, 2011 cover story on the band.
The songs of Pomplamoose have seen millions of plays on YouTube. Fans from all over the world have downloaded more than a 100,000 MP3s of famous covers and the band's original songs on iTunes and other sites. Who knows how many TV viewers saw Pomplamoose's nearly ubiquitous holiday ads for Hyundai. But this Friday, the duo, based in Sonoma county, will play only its third-ever live show, opening for the Dresden Dolls at the Warfield.
Since Pomplamoose gained attention for its self-produced "video songs," which show Jack Conte and Nataly Dawn playing every instrument they use to recreate, say, Lady Gaga's "Telephone," the show will be especially interesting: How will Dawn and Conte's silly, low-key personalities and home-honed sound come through on a big stage? We spoke with Conte about this, the recent car commercials, and why you really shouldn't call them hipsters.
It's going to be different than the record, but I guess the main reason is because there's going to be other musicians playing all the parts instead of just me and Nataly. We have a bass [and] guitar, and then drums, and I'll be playing keyboard mostly and some acoustic guitar. We have a backup vocalist who's going to be playing a lot of the extra orchestration like glockenspiel, toy piano, and little organ parts and things like that. So we'll be a five-piece band.
You'll be picking your favorite songs from the videos and the record?
Yeah, we're doing some covers and some originals, just keeping a mix up and trying to play the ones that everybody likes best.
Is it a challenge to bring it all to the stage?
Oh yeah, for sure. But I think what we've been keeping in mind is we're just trying to have a really good time. I think that's partially what people like about our videos, although we're not entirely sure.
So your success is kind of a mystery to you, too?
Yeah. There's a level of je ne sais quois to anything that people like, but I don't know. We've been trying to put our finger on it. I think it is just that Nat and I have a really good time making music together. When we're at home recording, we're relaxed and happy to be doing it, and we get to do what we love. I think people kind of dig that. I think they like watching people do what they love to do.
You seem very much like you're real people, too. A lot of famous musicians show the world a tiny sliver of who they are. Through the videos, we see you guys eating cereal, chilling out, dancing around the house, and being silly regular people, too.
That's part of it. Getting on my soapbox here, I don't like how bands in the typical music industry are so smoke-and-mirrorish. Whenever I see my favorite bands, I just never think they're real people. I always think they're these musical gods that live up on clouds and only come to earth for the occasional performance. And everything -- their marketing team, their PR team, does such a good job at turning them into mythical creatures that I have no hope of attaining that level of musical genius on which they are constantly riding through life. That has always bugged me about the way bands are portrayed. So we try to keep it simple and normal as much as possible. A lot of people call [that] our brand, or whatever it is -- but for us, it's just a lack of one, I think. We try to just make it fun and happy and normal. I guess "normalcy" is the big word. And a lot of people accuse us of being hipsters for that, which I think is hilarious. They think oh, they're being such lo-fi hipsters, they're wearing shorts in their videos instead of a freaking Panic At The Disco, 18th-century fruffle shirt. I actually think that's hilarious, that when somebody's actually normal onscreen, they get called a hipster.
Tell me how Pomplamoose got started.
I was producing one of Nat's songs ... and we got together and we played it, and recorded it, and posted it on my YouTube channel, and we got just a really good response from fans. And we were like okay, maybe we should do another one. And well, if we're going to do another one, let's just call it something. So we just sort of picked a name off the cuff, because we didn't even realize it was going to be anything. It was just a way for us to spend time together in the studio.
How long does it take to put one of your "video songs" together?
Our best ones take under 24 hours. The longer we spend on it, the worse it usually is. That's just what we've noticed. But if we have some deadline, or we're just trying to get something finished for one reason or another -- which occasionally happens -- then those ones turn out the best. So we always try to create articifical deadlines for ourselves. It can take as many as three or four days of recording to get a song done. But "Telephone" was one of our most popular videos, that Lady Gaga song, and we did that in just about 24 hours.