- Markus Burns
“My idea of the end of the world is plants growing around a television set,” Drake Wilcox says. “Everyone is dead and all that we’ve got left is this TV playing reruns of The Cosby Show.”
Wilcox and his band, Space Opera 77, are futurist-naturalists. Their music clings to the possibility that the end of the world as we know it is coming. They claim technology will eventually crumble. Nature will fight back.
That’s a good explanation for now, Wilcox says, hesitantly but still satisfied. “We kind of always have this idea in the back of our heads that no one will get to listen to our music except in this moment,” he says.
As the name suggests, the project was intended to be a rock opera. Forged out of boredom, the opera developed into a band in the last year. Since then, the mostly local group (harpist Melissa Achten recently moved to Seattle) has been slowly saturating the Spokane music scene.
The band’s indie-rock sound is polished — mature, given the band members’ collective experience and ages (20, 20 and 26). Driven by bluesy drums, a guitar, an occasional harp and an upright bass, there’s a sense of restrained power to the music. It’s dangerously close to being too loud and too heavy, but the young band keeps this energy in check.
Wilcox’s voice has a sexy, emotional-yet-detached swagger to it. He’s the type of front man who’s contagious but also one who begs the question: How can a 20-year-old with a blond curly Afro and knitted horse sweater have such stage presence?
Much like some of his favorites, Wilcox’s on-stage persona is grandiose. Think Ziggy Stardust and Freddy Mercury.
“We put ourselves in an alter ego of sorts,” Wilcox says, laughing and sounding like he’s convincing himself. “We’re bringing our outer space religions to the rest of the world.”
The band’s semi-theatrical performances often attempt to revive the rock operas and performances of the 1970s. Weird things almost have to be done when performed lived, Wilcox says: “I don’t think bands should just show up in their street clothes and perform.”
To date, the band’s onstage antics include playing in army uniforms painted gold, while the game Astromash plays on a screen behind them. Twice at Empyrean, they played with more than 500 balloons on stage. The band says they’ll incorporate more costumes and props when time and money allow.
“We spend all of our show earnings on costumes,” says Andrew Lewis, the band’s drummer. “It’s a way to get someone to watch us, even if it might be all bullshit and lies.”
The dynamic between Wilcox and Lewis is unique. Both have big curly locks, and both are eager to talk about their music. The expression “bright-eyed and bushy-tailed” couldn’t fit more perfectly. Right now, the duo isn’t entirely sure of themselves — what they should say and what they shouldn’t say.
Conversations with them feel like you’re stealing the password to a best friend’s club. They know they can play. They’re good. They understand the music part of the music business — but the business part is beyond them.
The local band is unsigned, but they say — in a roundabout way — they’ve got potential investors. It’s all a matter of learning to make a demo, Lewis says.
“Our demo was recorded in four different places and mixed in five different places, and it sounds like it,” he says. “Our goal is to be good enough musically that the demo can be so bad someone will want to record us.
“We just keep going,” he concludes. “It’s kind of like walking blind.”
Until whichever comes first — the end of the world or a record deal — the band will keep playing, plan a tour and hold down their everyday jobs until the extraordinary happens.
“We didn’t form this band to be a local Spokane band,” Wilcox says.
Space Opera 77 plays with Sirens Sister and Paid Under Envy at the Blvd on Saturday, March 6, at 9 pm. Tickets: $5. 21 . Call: 455-7826.