2008 – present (14 years)
San Diego, San Diego County, California, United States
- Brianna Clawson (2012 – 2013)
- Camille Penyak (2014 – present)
- Carolina Gumbayan (2013 – 2014)
- Chelsea Penyak (2014 – present)
- Hatchworth (2010 – 2016)
- Matthew Elton Smith (2012 – 2014)
- Michael Philip Reed (2008 – present)
- Page Law (2012 – 2014)
- Rabbit (2008 – present)
- Steve Negrete (2011 – present)
- The Jon (2008 – 2012)
- The Spine (2008 – present)
- Upgrade (2008 – 2011)
- Zero (2016 – present)
Steam Powered Giraffe (SPG) is an American steampunk musical comedy project formed in San Diego in 2008, self-described as "a musical act that combines robot pantomime, puppetry, ballet, comedy, projections, and music". Created and led by identical twins David Michael Bennett and Isabella "Bunny" Bennett, the act combines music and improvisational comedy on-stage, although their studio works focus almost solely on music.
Steam Powered Giraffe has its own fictional mythology, with the band members portraying characters both on stage and on record; its fictional universe has been explored via several comic books mainly written and drawn by Isabella Bennett. Although the band underwent several line-up changes, it always focuses primarily on three robot characters (played by the Bennett siblings and a third performer, although the original line-up featured four robots), with several "humans" assisting and performing comedy, music and dancing on stage, and several smaller robots being performed via puppetry or voice acting. To date, they have released five studio albums, two live albums, several live concert films, provided the soundtrack for the 2015 video game SteamWorld Heist, and released an official single for the 2016 video game Battleborn.
The members of Steam Powered Giraffe met while taking Theatre Arts at Grossmont College. Afterwards, they became members of a local San Diego pantomime group called Troupe SD. Trained in pantomime by Seaport Village mime Jerry "Kazoo" Hager, and with collective backgrounds in clown, theater, music, and visual design, Jonathan Sprague, Erin Burke (a fellow pantomime artist) and the Bennett twins—Isabella and David—started street busking as quirky robotic characters in January 2008 at Balboa Park, California. For their first performance in public they called themselves Steam Powered Giraffe Presents: Peoplebots . Later that month they changed their name to just Steam Powered Giraffe). Erin Burke left the group in 2011 to pursue a career in acting.
Since their conception, the band has performed at venues including the San Diego County Fair, San Diego Zoo, Wild Animal Park, Legoland California, Ontario Mills, Downtown Disney, and numerous science fiction, fantasy, anime, and steampunk conventions.
In October 2009, the band released their first album, Album One. It contained the previously released single from May 2009 titled "On Top of the Universe", in 2009. In early 2011 the band released a single, "Honeybee", announcing that it would be on an upcoming second album. In late 2011 the band announced the release of a "live" album entitled Live at the Globe of Yesterday's Tomorrow.
Their second studio album, entitled The 2¢ Show, was released in May 2012. That year, they were voted Best Live Comedy act (and runner up for Best Family Entertainment act) on San Diego A-List.
Besides their musical endeavors, the band publishes a web comic and has produced a card game based on characters in their backstory. In April 2012 they released a DVD entitled, Steam Powered Giraffe: The DVD (and the Quest For the Eternal Harp of Golden Dreams).
On 24 September 2012, the band announced on their Tumblr page that Jon Sprague would no longer be a part of the group. On 1 October it was announced that Sam Luke, the drummer for the band at the time, would become the new robot in the band, "Hatchworth". On 2 November 2012, Hatchworth made his stage debut with SPG at Youmacon in Detroit, Michigan with interim drummer Mike Buxbaum (of A City Serene). Later, Matt Smith was named SPG's new drummer.
During this time, SPG also introduced the characters of the Walter Girls into their shows. The Girls started out by manning the band's merchandise tables at performances, but have started figuring in to the SPG stage show and back story. Described as "blue matter engineers", the porcelian-white skinned and blue-haired Walter Girls (now called Walter Workers) are essentially the robot's caretakers on stage.
In June 2013, SPG released a cover of Rihanna's "Diamonds", essentially a solo performance by the Spine. The accompanying video, released to YouTube, introduced a new character to the SPG canon, a robotic giraffe puppet named GG (voiced by Bunny Bennett). GG appeared again in July when the band released a comedic video, "Walter Robotics Rap", to YouTube.
On 9 August 2013, Steam Powered Giraffe announced the title to their third album, MK III. The album was released on December 3. In September of that same year, the band released a cover of Icona Pop's "I Love It" on their YouTube channel.
On March 18, 2014, it was announced that Michael Reed and Matt Smith would no longer be performing members of Steam Powered Giraffe. The Bennett twins stated that the reasons for their departure was to focus more on the theatrical elements of the act and to reduce the cost of touring.
Early in 2014, Isabella Bennett began to transition the character of Rabbit from male to female, coinciding with her own status as a transgender woman. She legally changed her name to Isabella Bennett on 22 January 2016.
More videos have followed in the meantime. In May 2014, they released their third cover, a mostly acoustic version of Daft Punk's "Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger". The video marked the first "official" appearance by the female Rabbit to the general public at large (although the band had played some dates prior and some photos and raw audience footage had been seen). The band then followed up with two new videos: "Fancy Shoes" in June and "I'll Rust With You" in July, with the latter featuring live footage recorded at Anime Midwest in Rosemont, Illinois.
In September 2014, Steam Powered Giraffe gave their first international performance, playing at the Grand Canadian Steampunk Exposition in Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario. They returned for the 2015 Exposition to do a collaboration show with Professor Elemental.
On September 1, 2015, SPG released The Vice Quadrant: A Space Opera, a 2-disc space opera concept album containing 28 tracks, although iTunes released it as two separate albums for download. The release followed a number of video releases to promote the work. This marked the band's first recorded work with Rabbit presenting as a woman, as well as the first full album recorded strictly as a trio. The album featured an appearance by Professor Elemental as well as vocals by Walter Worker Chelsea Penyak.
In December 2015, video game developer Image & Form released the game SteamWorld Heist for the Nintendo 3DS, and later released it in 2016 on other platforms. The game's soundtrack was composed and recorded by SPG, and they appear in-game.
The video game Battleborn by Gearbox Software released on May 3, 2016, and included an unlockable theme song created by Steam Powered Giraffe for the character of Montana; the same day, the band released it on digital platforms as a single.
On June 20, 2016, Steam Powered Giraffe announced on their website that their fifth studio album, Quintessential was available for pre-order. According to the article, a free downloadable digital copy of the twelve-track album would be included with the purchase of the CD.
On December 19, 2016, the band announced on social media that Samuel Luke would be leaving the group so he could focus more on his independent work as an artist and musician. He then announced that he would immediately be replaced by Bryan Barbarin and his character Zero. The next day, the Bennetts, Sam, and Bryan came together in David and Isabella's new podcast, The Bennettarium, to discuss the robot transition, among other things. Zero's first live show occurred on February 18, 2017, at The Center Theater at The California Center for the Arts in Escondido, California.
It was confirmed on March 12, 2017, following her appearance on The Bennettarium, that the 2009 original release of the band's Album One album, featuring a song and some vocals by past band member Erin Burke would be re-released. Both the 2009 and 2011 version now co-exist.
On July 20, 2017 the band performed a show during San Diego Comic Con with former member Michael Philip Reed joining them on stage. Since this show, Michael joined the band for most shows up until February 2020.
On January 27, 2018 Steam Powered Giraffe celebrated the band's 10th anniversary with a special concert featuring all members in the band's history, including all five former members: robots The Jon, Upgrade and Hatchworth, and humans Michael Philip Reed and Matthew Smith. It was later released as a live concert film on Blu-Ray, DVD, and digital video.
On April 18, 2019 the band announced the production of their next album, the first to feature Bryan and the first since MK III to feature Michael Philip Reed. They also confirmed that they would be releasing two new songs every three to four months alongside music videos for each song.
On March 3, 2020 the band announced that backing musician Michael Philip Reed was suddenly leaving the band to move out of the country. Reed had provided some contributions to tracks on the band's 6th album 1896 prior to his departure.
On July 1, 2020 the band uploaded two re-edits of their music videos Shattered Stars and Latum Alterum which removed former band member Michael Reed. In the pinned comments of these videos and a public post on their Patreon, David Michael Bennett from the band explained that the edits were in response to evidence brought to the band in private from multiple fans about Michael Reed’s inappropriate interactions with them. The band states that Michael had denied everything when the band contacted him about it, but that the evidence was overwhelming and they could not turn a blind eye to the people who came forward privately about said actions. Then on July 10th, 2020, the band posted publicly on their Patreon that they were no longer working with their live show sound technician Steve Negrete, followed by a statement from him. In the statement Steve said he was resigning from the band due to having had relationships with fans and that he must take responsibility for his own actions after reflecting in light of the information about Michael Reed. He apologized for his actions and stated that he will not be working with the band any further. The music video for the band’s song Shattered Stars was re-uploaded with another re-edit, removing shots of Steve Negrete in addition to the previous removal of Michael Reed.
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