Three years since its inception, Brahctopus finally touches down with its debut album, Mothership | Music | Pittsburgh | Pittsburgh City Paper
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Three years since its inception, Brahctopus finally touches down with its debut album, Mothership 

click to enlarge Brahctopus - CP PHOTO: JARED MURPHY
  • CP photo: Jared Murphy
  • Brahctopus

Psychedelic jam-band Brahctopus’ album release party and live laser show at the Carnegie Science Center sold out in 53 minutes. When the tickets went on sale on Jan. 25, it was two weeks before the seven-piece band’s first full-length album, Mothership, was even available to stream. 

“Watching it was pretty intense,” says Ethan Kovalcik, Brahctopus ukulele player and lead vocalist. “It was like a countdown almost. ‘50 seats left, now there’s 10 seats left!’ It just all happened so fast; it was very exhilarating.”

For those unaccustomed to Pittsburgh's jam-band scene, it may seem like the group just popped up, made an album, and sold out a show. But Brahctopus formed in 2015 and has been steadily building up its following ever since. 

“Even though this was our first official album that’s on iTunes and Spotify and all that, there was an EP before,” says Travis Butler, Brahctopus’ drummer who joined the group in 2017. “We consider [Mothership] the debut album, but we had a pretty decent fanbase to let this out into.”

Along with stellar promotion tactics — considering Facebook algorithms, selecting the best time to post, etc. — Brahctopus credits the sold-out show to that solid group of supporters and the local jam-band community. Kovalcik explained that Brahctopus and other groups in the genre have “a very tight-knit group of fans that are constantly growing. [The jam band scene] in Pittsburgh is this industry that’s starting to boom right now. There’s so many great musicians in Pittsburgh that it’s unreal, and the whole scene is thriving on that right now.”

Initially, Brahctopus stuck to reggae-rock. But with the addition of Butler, keyboardist Austin Ostiguy, and guitarist John Wilcox, Brahctopus’ member count went from four to seven, and the sound shifted.

“It’s what naturally happened with the people that were added,” says Butler. “We kind of transformed this reggae-rock band into a psychedelic jam-rock experience.”

Traces of the Brahctopus’ reggae roots can be heard on Mothership. “Don’t Be Late,” the third track on the album, is the first song Brahctopus ever recorded and the only song on both Mothership and Keepin’ It Squiggly With Brahctopus, the original EP. 

The fifth and sixth tracks, “High Society” and “Just Believe,” respectively, were also written in the early phases of the group. But all three songs were adapted to fit the new seven-piece lineup. 

“We had songs from the EP initially,” says Butler. “But with the new personel, it didn’t really match who we were anymore and it would be kind of deceiving to the audience to throw them on there. [Mothership] was more toward representing who we wanted to be in the future.”

The resulting eight-track album, engineered and produced by Butler, dropped Feb. 8. It’s a trippy, harmonically-rich odyssey, mixing strains of reggae, funk, psychedelic, and rock. 

For those who were not able to get tickets to the release show, a friend of the band, Todd Schmersal of Crooked Snout Games, created a Brahctopus-themed video game, Enter the Mothership, available on its website. There is also an album-release show afterparty at Howlers on Sat., March 9.

“We won’t be playing,” says Butler. “But maybe you’ll see somebody jump up on stage and feature with one of those bands. We’re going to be cutting loose, celebrating with all of our fans.”

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