With tens of millions plays on YouTube, you just might have heard Australian comedy music trio Axis of Awesome hilariously deflating any number of pop music conventions. But now, the band – lead vocalist Jordan Raskopoulos, keyboardist and vocalist Benny Davis and guitarist Lee Naimo – have moved beyond viral video stars with their first American album Animal Vehicle, which Laughspin Records — a division of Laughspin.com — has proudly released.
I recently chatted with Jordan about their first American tour, the new album and much more. Check it out.
Have you seen any major differences between audiences in the States and those in Australia?
There’s not a major difference. Australian audiences are a little bit more laid back. We really don’t have a culture of being excited— no pep rallies or glee clubs in our schools. American crowds for us are little bit more enthusiastic, which is fine. That’s not a complaint, for sure. Other than that, it’s the same.
They laugh at all the right places, clap at the end of songs. The thing that’s troubling me is that we’re doing college audiences and I’m realizing suddenly I’m 29 and I’m a little out of touch. I need to replace all my He-Man references with Pokémon references.
Why is making it here important for the Axis of Awesome?
Australia is only 20 million people, and there are 300 million people in the US. That’s a much bigger number. Also, popularity in the States trickles down to the rest of the world. In Australia we watch a lot of US film and TV. So as an investment in time, working here seems to be the logical thing to do. But we’re also juggling it with our UK fanbase as well, and for some reason, Sweden; we’re really big in Sweden. There’s a lot of flights.
Yeah, do you have any semblance of a normal life?
No, I think the correct phrase for us is that we’re ‘international hobos of the world.’ No fixed abode. Lots of plane trips and hotel rooms. But it’s a good problem to have— always wondering where in the world are we going to perform next.
You’re living a lot of people’s dreams, man.
Yeah, I suppose. Let’s just hope it’s my own dream as well.
You guys cover a lot of genres on your album. But what type of music do you personally gravitate toward the most?
I like a lot of 70s soft rock. A lot of old music. My iPod is filled with Bowie, Velvet Underground – things of that era. And a lot of British music, like Oasis. I like American stuff like Journey and Boston. I also have a soft spot for Dragonforce. I love the iPhone app Shazam, because now I can just listen to a song and I can get my iPhone to tell me then name of the song and then add it to my iPod list. But yeah, I listen to everything. Everything, except 90s punk; I think it’s ridiculous.
Is there any new artist that gets under your skin?
Nothing springs to mind, which is probably a good thing, since it means I don’t hate people. I guess anything that feels really manufactured, that kind of soulless pop music with generic lyrics about lust, or music about girls pining over boys in school that play football. Anything in that realm is retarded.
But a lot of people hate certain types of music not because they legitimately dislike them but because they want to fit into a certain crowd. But then you get older and you’re like, ‘if I like Coldplay, it’s alright. I just won’t tell anybody. I’ll just listen to it in secret.’
What got you into musical comedy as opposed to pursuing a traditional stand-up or musical career?
I had a comedy career in Australia before the band. I used to be on a sketch comedy show on TV and did stand-up and improv for a long time. This was really kind of a side project. Benny, who plays keyboards in the band, has a musical background; he’s classically trained and has two degrees in different instruments. And then Lee is a big fan of Iron Chef. I think that’s what he brings to the band.
The three of us were all doing improv comedy in Sydney. Lee and I would perform improv shows and Benny would play the music for them. And then we had a couple of videos that went viral. So we started taking the project a little more seriously. We took the show to the Melbourne comedy festival and then we won an award and went to Edinburgh; and then the “Four Chords” song happened. It just kind of snowballed, and suddenly it’s a career. It was never my objective— the musical comedy wasn’t the goal of all of our collective careers. We were doing all sorts of different things in comedy and this was just the thing that stuck.