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"Early on, I wanted to go really crazy with costumes and stuff, and they kind of reined me in," Gargiulo remembers. "They didn't really say anything, but I kind of felt this insurgency happening, like, 'We're not going to put the Styrofoam hats on anymore.' I was always aiming towards the Flaming Lips--I wanted to be that level of goofy but cool."
"I had problems enough with you wearing jams onstage," Thedford says, and they all laugh. "'Please wear pants tonight.'"
Gargiulo turns red, either from shame or the salsa. "I'm not very cool."
None of them is, not that it's a problem. That was one of the best things about the group of guys, their complete lack of self-consciousness. Few other bands could make you buy into a song called "King of the Monkey Bars" the way Robot Monster Weekend could. Of course, they'd probably prefer their relative lack of coolness remain a secret.
"I'd do a 'Robot Monster Weekend' search, and I'd find somebody who had an online diary," Thedford says. "They'd talk about the bands they saw or whatever. 'I saw this really cool band, but they were really geeky guys.'" They all laugh. "Goddammit."
At least people were coming to see them. It wasn't until they released Turn Down Your Sorrow It's...Robot Monster Weekend in the middle of last year that the group started to find a real crowd. You know, people they didn't know from work.
Turn Down Your Sorrow didn't make them headliners, but the short, sharp burst of unbridled enthusiasm (as Cosmo Kramer might say) got them noticed. Clubs started calling them for shows and putting them on good bills. KDGE-FM's The Adventure Club put the disc in permanent rotation. A few like-minded bands, especially the Tah-Dahs, began using them as tag-team partners. By the end of the year, Robot Monster Weekend was no longer just an after-hours goof. It was a real band with a real future. They started working on a follow-up to Turn Down Your Sorrow, their first real album. This would be their breakthrough.
There would be no breakthrough, only a breakup. In February, a day after the group wrapped up recording with Matt Barnhart at the Echolab in Argyle, Gargiulo was offered the job with Blue Sky Studios, an offer he (heh heh) couldn't refuse. "Of the top animation studios, that's the one I wanted to work for the most," he says.
Still, "it was without a doubt the hardest decision I've had to make," Gargiulo adds. "It was definitely feeling like the band was on an upward course, you know? But this was always kind of just a hobby. And it's hard, because it turned into something where we could have pursued it a lot further. It way exceeded our expectations."
But this is where it ends, at a Mexican restaurant in March, a wake catered with enchiladas.
"I definitely wasn't ready for it to end," Gargiulo says.
"I'm just glad we finished the record, so at least we have something to take with us," Covington adds.
"It's kind of good it ended this way, because I really, really like these guys," Thedford concludes. "He's a good friend," he says, pointing to Mike, "and we collaborate on other stuff besides music. Man, that's the worst thing. He's leaving; he's a very good friend. Franko's leaving, too. We just found him out of the blue, and he just kind of fit in. There's no egos. It's just like a bunch of kids with tennis rackets in their room. I mean, we're playing like a bunch of kids in a tree house. That's pretty much what we were going for."
It'll be missed.