An owl with laser beams shooting from its eyes graces the cover of Charlotte trio Hectorina’s new album, “Collywobble: A Rock Opera.”
That sort of imagination, humor, and willingness to tackle something as over-the-top as a 23-track rock opera for a debut CD and double LP sums up the rock band led by 25-year-old songwriter Dylan Gilbert, who’s been releasing albums ever since he was a teen.
“I got less interested in coffeehouse shows. I was kind of tired writing the same kinds of songs,” says Gilbert who began experimenting with different styles, time signatures and structures.
He’d recruited friends Zachary Jordan, 24, and John Harrell III, 23 as his touring band. As the group – then dubbed Dylan Gilbert’s Overeasy Breakfast Machine – grew more collaborative it adopted a new name just as Gilbert was growing tired of the singer-songwriter grind.
“In 2009 I remember telling a friend, ‘I want to do something completely crazy and don’t hold anything back, whether people think it’s silly or stupid.’ You have fun with every record you make, but I never felt like I went all out. I’m going to have this giant rock opera and it’s going to be ridiculous,” he said.
His new band mates were excited about the idea.
The result is “Collywobble,” a fantasy about a lost former astronaut whose adventures have him crossing paths with a socialite love interest, a mermaid, a band of explorers, and that owl.
Hectorina celebrates the album’s release Friday at The Milestone with guest musicians playing different roles, including the owl. Concertgoers are encouraged to dress the part.
“I like ‘Twin Peaks’ and there’s folklore about owls and birds and a lot of religions, Native American folk tales, and old literature talk about birds as spiritual beings,” he said of his choice of animal to guard the gates of heaven. “At one point it was a crow, but an owl – the eyes are so much spookier.”
Some details are based in Gilbert’s reality.
“The girl, Astrid, is an amalgam of the ultimate terrible girlfriend. There are plenty of lines and lyrics that are taken not just from one person, but a big group of the craziest ex-girlfriends melded together,” added Gilbert, who is studying music therapy at Queens University.
Aside from the supernatural storyline, “Collywobble” stands on its own musically. It’s anchored in driving indie-rock hooks, jangly guitars, compelling emotions, and a carefree, garage rock approach.
That carefree approach comes across in Hectorina’s charming live shows where the onstage banter between members is as amusing as the songs are fun to hear.
It’s the sort of chemistry that can’t be manufactured and it makes the trio’s concert a more memorable experience.
The Charlotte Observer welcomes your comments on news of the day. The more voices engaged in conversation, the better for us all, but do keep it civil. Please refrain from profanity, obscenity, spam, name-calling or attacking others for their views.
Have a news tip? You can send it to a local news editor; email firstname.lastname@example.org to send us your tip - or - consider joining the Public Insight Network and become a source for The Charlotte Observer.Read moreRead less