Antarctica Takes It!
Up until a few months ago, Antarctica Takes
It!’s MySpace page carried a simple message: “We’re
currently taking a break while we write our new record. This
time we’re using a microphone.”
The four piece, from Santa Cruz, CA, whose joyous folk pop
has been compared to Sufjan Stevens, The Decemberists and
Beirut, weren’t kidding. A bedroom band put together
by 22-year-old Dylan McKeever, Antarctica Takes It! recorded
the songs on their debut, “The Penguin League”,
straight onto a friend’s laptop, using the computer’s
internal microphone. No problem if you’re a straightforward
rock’n’roll band, but Dylan’s songs boasted
an array of accordions, glockenspiels, cellos, ukuleles, trumpets,
harmonicas and pianos.
The result should have been extremely lo-fi – and in
places it is (you can actually hear the instruments battling
for airpace at some points). But, overall, thanks to Dylan’s
patience and prodigious talent, “The Penguin League”
conjures a tiny orchestra out of thin air. From the opening
“I’m No Lover” (featuring the cheery promise:
“I will turn your lover’s bones into tiny violins
to play when you die”), which sees mariachi horns collide
with a rattling folk melody, to the magical “Flightless
Birds”, which transports “Pet Sounds” to
the Antarctic wastes, this is a record that sounds like it’s
anywhere but a suburban bedroom on the American West Coast.
In fact, lyrically and spiritually, Antarctica Takes It! reside,
as their name suggests, slightly further south. The album’s
highlight, “Antarctica”, sees the band knee deep
in a polar expedition ("We traced shapes across the starry
skies/And made our way through each tender night/We heard
the weary whales’ tune/And sang along ‘neath the
silver moon"), while the photos for the cover and CD
booklet were provided by Dr Samuel Silverstein, who headed
the 1967 American Antarctic Mountaineering Expedition. Dr
Silverstein also writes about his photos in the booklet, which
makes this the first album to be released with sleevenotes
by an Antarctic explorer.
Dylan McKeever introduces Antarctica Takes It!
Takes It! began in the winter of 2004 where I started writing
and recording songs in my room at the 218 on the westside
of Santa Cruz, CA. One day I walked down the stairs to find
a picture of a penguin wearing a radio-backpack taped to my
bass drum and was inspired to name the band Penguin League
after the mysterious picture. Vanessa was the second member
of the band, contributing the lilting sounds of cello and
In 2005 the band began holding rehearsals at the famed Beehive
and recruited the lovely Maria on vocals and glockenspiel.
In July of that year, the band started recording songs onto
a friend's laptop computer using the computer's internal microphone.
Later that year, Tyler joined the band providing his talents
on keys and horns. It was during this period that the band
played a number of house shows around Santa Cruz and decided
to rename the band Antarctica Takes It!
Currently we're all between the ages of 22 and 24. All of
us went to UCSC (University of California Santa Cruz). Maria
and Vanessa were Art majors, Tyler and I were Literature majors.
Maria is a big fan of the alcoholic and bitter-tasting "Sparks."
She is very outgoing and expressive in a kind-of showtimey
broadway-musical charisma. Vanessa is often fretful and sleepy
at the same time. She is an excellent artist and was once
a giant paper-mache ham for Halloween. Tyler is a genius of
music and wit. He is impossibly energetic and owns about 57
keyboards and chord organs. Tyler and Maria are prone to argue
vehemently about anything they can think of.
Before any of these songs developed I hadn't written anything
in musical form. These are in fact the first songs I've ever
written or recorded. Before they came about, I was usually
too shy or self-conscious to try to sing or try to put words
to the few guitar chords I knew. I had some rudimentary knowledge
of how to play guitar and piano but oddly enough, my real
forte was in playing the drums (and I feel it still is). I
think it was largely my favorite band at the time, Belle &
Sebastian, that really encouraged me to start trying to piece
these songs together. I had been a big fan for years and had
always dreamed of being able to make something sound as lovely
and I think after listening to enough "If You're Feeling
Sinister" I finally sat down and began writing and singing.
Another big influence was one of my close friend's bands named
DAD. DAD played a show in my garage in 2004 that really spoke
to me about how songs don't have to be complicated or heady
in anyway, but that humor and beauty could be found through
simplicity and heart.
The whole recording process was a rather lazy yet difficult
ordeal. I had never made a recording before and thought that
the quality of a laptop microphone sounded fine enough to
my ears. Thus, every instrument, from trumpet to handclap
to violin to vocals were recorded on the same laptop microphone.
As time went on, I became a little more picky about the sound
with its clips and hiss and distortion but was too stubborn
to start over again or buy a microphone. I picked consistency
over audio quality, although, today I've started using a real
After becoming a cohesive group, we toured around Northern
California playing in San Francisco, Oakland, Fresno, and
of course Santa Cruz.
To buy a copy of "The Penguin League" by Antarctica
Takes It! go here