Electronic tones rang in a central Casper living room where the three members of Leave it to Shiva began a song during a Sept. 4 rehearsal.
Sean Wallace gave a backstory before they launched into “Station Dweller” from the band’s in-progress sci-fi concept album. He’s a bionic buffalo escaping authorities who crashed into a space station, where he finds the Warp-speed Jackalope and the Subsonic Squirrel.
“So this is kind of the first song in the adventures of Leave it to Shiva,” he said.
Wallace switched between banjo and guitar during rehearsal, while Gary DePaolo played guitar or an octaviola — a viola with strings an octave lower to give it a deeper, cello-like range. He created electronica sounds with a keyboard and a laptop computer. His brother Camillo played bass, when he wasn’t rapping into a microphone.
Leave it to Shiva has performed at local venues, composed music for Wyoming Dance Arts‘ debut concert in April and entered NPR’s Tiny Desk contest. The band will perform Saturday at Frontier Brewing Company and Taproom.
The band’s music ranges from Americana to electronica.
“My brother (Dan DePaolo) described it as having a wheel of styles,” Gary said. He spun an imaginary wheel, which landed on hip-hop and then ambient, he said.
Leave it to Shiva formed as a duo in 2013 when local musician Chad Lore called Gary to open for band Speck Mountain a week before a show, he said. It turned out one of his best friends was in the band. Gary called Wallace and they wrote three or four songs that they still play to this day, brought some songs they knew and improvised the rest.
About two months ago, the band became a trio with Camillo, who moved back to Casper to start nursing school. The three had connected in the local music scene as teens in the 1990s. The duo, and then trio, clicked immediately as they combined their varied musical experience and skills they’d grown since, Wallace said.
“We all started jamming in the very beginning and then after all these years we get back together again,” he said.
Wallace started teaching himself electric guitar at age 11 and his tastes through the years progressed from metal, goth and punk music to blues, jazz and funk. He moved from England to Casper at about age 18 and befriended the DePaolos, he said. A few years earlier, a DJ at a pub there had asked him to take over for a few minutes and never returned, and the manager invited him back, Wallace said.
For the past several years, he’s performed solo and with local band One Child Left Behind, as well as collaborations with groups including Cory and the Crew. His SoundCloud features hours of his solo material with him playing several instruments.
In 1996 Camillo moved to Oregon where he performed with many bands, including hip-hop groups and blends of Latin beats and jazz, he said. In bands like Kawaida and Beat Crunchers, he played in small tours along the West Coast before he became an EMT about 10 years ago.
Gary is principal violist in the Wyoming Symphony Orchestra, runs the strings programs at Kelly Walsh High School and teaches violin and viola at Casper College. He’s composed for projects including “A Woman to Match a Mountain,” a documentary about Neal Forsling of Crimson Dawn; Casper College dance department shows; and soundtracks for plays at Casper College and Stage III Community Theater. Some of the soundtracks have been played in theaters around the country.
Gary’s composing started as songwriting.
“So this is kind of like a return to being 19 with a guitar,” he said.
He often jammed with Wallace and played for a while with Camillo in a jazzy funk band.
Camillo jammed with the pair during a Christmas visit last year. His contribution fit so well that the tracks without him sounded incomplete, Gary said.
The band is once again quickly forming together as Camillo’s learned three hours of music. It often takes six months to a year to find the cohesiveness that easily came with the group, he said.
“I think because we’ve known each other for so long, for me, it almost felt like I kind of knew what they wanted in those song tracks,” Camillo said.
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Leave it to Shiva creates music with a variety of instruments. Gary plays keyboard, and even his viola on occasion besides his octaviola, guitar and most of the electronica. Wallace plays banjo, rhythm guitar, hand percussion, bass on some songs and adds some loops and beatboxing. All provide vocals, and bassist Camillo raps on some songs.
A fourth “band member,” they joke, is the “inter-dimensional drummer,” “Larry,” in Gary’s laptop. Larry is featured in many of the band’s songs.
“So we do have that kind of electric heart of the band, in some ways,” Gary said.
They don’t use anything canned or pre-made like some electronica artists who push a button to start a track, Gary said. The song would have played the same way every time.
“So we came up with a way around that, to sort of turn the electronica into something that happens live,” he said.
They do a lot of looping — which begins with a live track, which they layer on top of and then trigger to play on and off through a song. It’s a tricky technique that takes precision and works 98 percent of the time.
“You’ll have a couple times where the computer just refuses to do something, and we’re like, ‘OK, let’s just make stuff up right here,’” Gary said. “We love to improvise, so that’s kind of what we do. It’s sort of like a synthesizer jam band if you will.”
The living soundscapes morph and change, often to audience response, Wallace said.
“The idea is that we wanted to create things that involve a live performance in the electronica,” Gary said.
They usually begin writing music acoustically and could perform most of their materially acoustically if they had to.
They’re working on a concept album they hope to release in about a year. The album will covers the adventures of Leave it to Shiva with characters that correspond to band members in “an anthropomorphic sci-fi story of epic proportions,” Wallace said.
Shiva in the story stands for “symbiotic hyperspacial integrative vector actuator” — an artificial intelligence that tells them where to play music.
Gary and Camillo’s brother, Dan, is an artist who creates their posters and is working on upcoming album art — which could eventually turn into a comic book.
The band’s songs are as varied as their instrumentation and aren’t all about space travel, Gary said. There are songs that are very emotional or on deeper topics. “Make St. Peter Wait” is about death. “Tougher” is about being a kid the late ‘70s and early ‘80s.
The almost prophetic “Human Fail” was written around the turn of the millennium about a future where people will be in many places at once and how overwhelming communication can be.
“It was written years ago and it has actually come true,” Gary said.
The band is fortunate for a chance to be 100 percent creative with audiences who enjoy their original music, Camillo said.
Leave it to Shiva spends a lot of time in the studio and rehearsal but hasn’t played a large number of gigs, although it hopes Wyoming festivals are in its future. The members plan to apply for Wyoming Arts Council opportunities, even if the band might be a little weird for that, Gary said.
“We’re doing it just because we love it,” he said, “and it’s kind of where we escape to.”