A few years ago, the members of Tjutjuna were calling themselves Mothership, making concept albums about space-opera silliness, and not getting very far in the process. Once the band rechristened themselves after a hard-to-pronounce (choo-choo-na) Russian snow monster, dropped the vocals, and refined its sound to embrace overstuffed, maximalist psychedelia, things caught on. The act became a mild sensation in the blogosphere, alongside other Fire Talk Records affiliated artists, such as Woodsman and Tennis, as Tjutjuna’s densely packed, volatile mix of guitars, effects, and oscillating synths struck a chord in the post-millennial psychedelic underground. With the band celebrating the release of its self-titled full-length Friday, Nov. 19 at Larimer Lounge, guitarist/keyboardist Brian Marcus spoke with The A.V. Club about the dichotomy between blog hype and semi-obscurity in his hometown.
A.V. Club: You’re not playing the same kind of music as you did in Mothership. Do you consider yourself to be a completely different band than Tjutjuna’s predecessor?
Brian Marcus: Totally. We don’t really play any of the songs anymore. It’s funny, because it’s like we always get the Mothership question, so to speak. We don’t really think about it anymore. We talk about it and laugh, but that’s about it.
AVC: New musical direction aside, the name “Mothership” had to be common enough to potentially confuse you with other bands.
BM: If you look on MySpace, there’s a dozen really bad Motherships around the globe. They run the gamut from bad, amateurish dance punk to bad, white-guy funk that you have to wear dad jeans to dance to.
AVC: There are so many bands anymore it has to be almost impossible to come up with a unique name.
BM: That’s why we chose this name. Whenever anyone finds out you’re in a band, it’s, “What’s your name? Oh. What does that mean?” The biggest thing is it wasn’t taken. There’s literally millions of bands on the earth and there’s only so many words. That’s why you have bands like Of Montreal using prepositional phrases and stuff, all those witch house and haunted house bands using symbols and stuff.
AVC: Tjutjuna is one of a new group of bands in Denver that didn’t really come up by scoring with local talent buyers and local journalists, but got more attention from out of town. How does that happen?
BM: Woodsman or any of us have never sold out the Hi-Dive or the Larimer Lounge or anything. I think we also don’t represent a lot of the other bands in town. Not that Denver has a certain sound, but there aren’t really any other bands here that sound like Woodsman or Tjutjuna, but there are a lot of bands that sound like us all over the world, especially in other places like Germany and Japan. I think a lot of the bands that get recognition anywhere are a little more palatable. They’re easier to digest, especially because the Denver scene is so social. It’s good bar music in a certain sense.
AVC: It seems like there are a lot of local band who spend years building up a following in Colorado, only to instantly crumble when they attempt to grow their fan base outside of the state. Why do you think that is?
BM: I feel that Denver doesn’t really look past itself a lot of times. It’s like, “This is what’s going on in Denver and this is as good as it gets!” Really, there’s a lot of great bands here, but there’s a lot of great music in other places. If we don’t measure ourselves on a yardstick that the rest of the world uses, we’re never going to get anywhere. There’s a lot of great bands, but there are also a lot of bands that aren’t that good. It’s like that anywhere. There’s always going to be good stuff and there’s always going to be bad stuff. Just because something happens in your backyard doesn’t mean it’s the best thing ever. That’s just the way things work here. Everyone is really proud of their friends and it’s a really collective atmosphere. At the same time, no one’s really looking beyond local shows.
AVC: So camaraderie is as much a weakness as a strength?
BM: If I could say one thing about the Denver scene, it’s that it’s not challenging enough. I don’t think the audience asks enough from bands and I don’t think the bands ask enough from the audience.
AVC: With that said, do you guys feel at home in Denver?
BM: There probably are some places that are better for us, but we have family here and good friends here. We’ll see what the future brings. I do enjoy Denver, though.