Dabbling in Bliss

Horace PickettÂ’s dark, whimsical, and hook-laden tunes.

It's understandable one might approach Horace Pickett, the eccentric, five-piece Seattle-based band, with skepticism. For starters, the name smacks of a Virginia Woolf antagonist or a muttering grade-school custodian. Over coffee at the Capitol Hill Top Pot Doughnuts, the band's lead singer and lyricist, 25-year-old Ryan Kay, reveals that he chose the stage moniker Bologna Stormweather so that if the band becomes as successful as he hopes, he can still maintain his privacy. When it's pointed out that Horace Pickett's hook-laden, darkly whimsical vignettes are reminiscent of Robyn Hitchcock's or They Might Be Giants', Kay boasts, "I haven't heard any Robyn Hitchcock songs, and I've barely heard any They Might Be Giants."Which is shocking once you hear the songs on Horace Pickett's self-titled, self-released 2010 debut. Tracks like "A King Still Needs His Vitamins" ("A king still needs his vitamins/He's looking pale and getting thin/What kind of trouble is he in?") perk along jauntily with piano ("We're all huge Scott Joplin fans," says Kay), horns, and accordion, and stick in one's head like a rogue lawn dart. "Beggar's Map," a brief instrumental, might have been a jingle for a '70s Hasbro toy commercial (a compliment—who can't recall the ad for their favorite toy?); and while the band's press release claims "Don't Steal My Apartment" is about critters surreptitiously controlling a home, its lyrics ("We're caffeine tired/We have machine stairs/With magazine flyers/And gelatin bears") evoke a myriad of askew scenarios.Which makes Horace Pickett a perfect fit for Artopia's eclecticism. Each band member plays several instruments, and Kay writes and draws consummately. By the time our interview begins, he has filled reams of Top Pot's napkins with new lyrics and cartoons, the latter of which he inaccurately dismisses as "something you'd hang on a fridge, compared to what sells in galleries."Kay has incorporated his passion for juggling into Horace Pickett shows, and the band has taken to dabbling with masks and props, such as the giant fake tiger bassist Nick Scottsdale (Kay's cousin) found, which now perches on his bass amp. "That 45 minutes you're onstage is always complete bliss," says Kay.And though Horace Pickett currently travels to gigs in "a large Volvo," the group has been attracting its share of benefactors. After a recent gig, the members were approached by a drunk guy whose wallet burst with $100 bills. "He had about eight grand in cash. I've never seen that much money in one place," says Kay. "And he took one of the hundreds, tore it in pieces, and gave it to us, saying we had to stay together for it to have any worth."music@seattleweekly.com

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