Folsom musicians are back from 10-year break with a new four-track EP
By Cristian Gonzalez
Former Animals have resurfaced and released a four-track EP on April Fool’s Day, breaking a 10-year gap since their last release.
The math rock band’s album DUCKBEAROTTER is filled with entrancing tapping sections, lush bass lines and energetic grooves that could only be achieved when making music with close friends.
Guitarist Ryan Richardson met bassist Cameron Millard in middle school and then later crossed paths with drummer Rudy Lopez at a party.
“We immediately became best friends,” Richardson recalled. “It’s like we didn’t even have a choice. I met Rudy in 10th grade. I remember he was wearing, like, a dumbass fedora at some party.”
Guitarist Kevin Droese eventually completed the four-piece. The band released its first EP, “El Estilo de los Animales” in 2009, and a second EP, “MALADIES,” in 2012, which was well-received by the math rock community.
So why did it take so long to release a third EP?
“Kevin abandoned us,” Richardson said.
“We recorded two albums and the after that all three of these guys went to fuckin’ school,” Millard explained. “It was totally fine because I’ll always support any of them doing anything that’ll better their lives, you know, and we came back together in the end. I knew we would.”
The new album
Despite not making music together for a decade, the group says it wasn’t difficult to get the creative juices going.
“We have a really natural sense of creating music together,” Lopez observed.
And it shows in their newest release.
The songs were tracked with Ira Skinner at Alley Avenue Studios and then mixed by Sacramento mixing engineer Patrick Hills of Earthtone Studios.
“He is a Sacramento legend,” Lopez noted of Hills. “Everyone who’s ever worked with him knows it. All hail to Patrick, Earthtone Studios. He is the fucking shit.”
“Give him your money,” Richardson added in agreement.
And Hills is impressed by Former Animals.
“They have an extensive color palette of sounds,” Hills said of them. “Lots of pedal use transported me back to 2004, when guitar players were getting more experimental and trying to get the instrument to almost sound like anything other than guitar.”
Hills has an extensive catalog of bands he has worked with including Sacramento math rock staple Tera Melos, a huge influence for Former Animals.
“He put some headphones on me, and it was actually Tera Melos,” Millard remembered. “It was the melodies album. I remember the first time listening to it I was like–and I had never heard some shit like that before–and I was like, ‘What the fuck? What is this? Like, God I love this!’”
After leaving Hills’ care, the mixed tracks were sent overseas to Mino Takaaki, guitarist of legendary Japanese math rock band TOE, for mastering.
Listening to the new songs makes it clear who Former Animals’ influences are.
“For me it was bands like Minus the Bear,” Droese said. “I didn’t realize there was music that people were melodically tapping.”
“I fucking love Daughters,” Millard offered.
“I think about how we can rip them off like every day, and how none of you would like those ideas,” Richardson added resentfully.
“I’m a Swifty, through and through,” Droese said. ““When I don’t want to get super angular with my life. I just want to live. Those songs make me live”
New listeners will be greeted by song titles that some fans might think came from the most wholesome back stories conceivable. This includes a track about Lopez’s father, Mike Lopez, called “Cuzco Mike.”
“We’re talking about a 70-year-old man that knows about more math rock than we do,” Richardson said out of respect for the man who’s allowed Former Animals to rehearse in his home since 2009.
“He can palm a basketball,” Millard added. “Without Mike, I don’t think this band could be a thing.”
“We have this wonderful picture of him in Cusco, Peru,” Lopez shared. “He looks like he’s fucking transporting cocaine. He has like a giant fucking caterpillar mustache.”
“The jungle didn’t stand a chance,” Richardson noted confidently.
There’s also a song about a hamster. (Tomo! Tomo! Tomo!).’
“The realest, the fuckin most-gangster, the most top-tier mother fucker you could ever know,” Lopez said. “Hamster of the generation named Tomo. The motherfucker lived like seven years.”
Unlike most hamsters who sleep on their bellies, or even their backs, Tomo Tomo Tomo would sleep on its side, or “hamster rib,” Richardson recalled. “I’ve never seen a quadruped sleep on its side like Tomo Tomo Tomo,” he added in reverence.
The new EP DUCKBEAROTTER can be heard on Bandcamp or Spotify. The Former Animals catalog can also be found on iTunes.