CoSign: Built by Animals

Joe Rogan once said that the human race is nothing more than a virus. His direct quote was that we are just “mold on a sandwich,” and, in a way, he’s right. What makes us think we’re such superior beings? Why do we get to take over the Earth and industrialize as we please? This isn’t our planet; we share it with millions of species. We are, simply put, animals. This is a concept New York’s Built by Animals certainly agrees with. Animals are capable of doing some pretty amazing things, though, as band members and rare creatures Nick Crane and Morgan Von Ancken proved when I spoke to them.

Built by Animals is the college-founded brainchild of Crane and Von Ancken. Along with drummer Matt Graff, the three of them have taken on rock and roll like, well, animals. “Sometimes we’ll get in a circle, and we’ll just start yelling and playing as hard as we can and as loud as we can,” Crane says. “We’ll do up to half an hour of musical chaos, and eventually we find our way into a song. You know, it’s just jamming. No method… at all.” Eventually, people began to take notice. Built by Animals found themselves on a number of torrent lists, and their songs started to circulate around NYC. By using the chaos theory to create music, these two have already exhibited that we are nothing more than beasts.

Even the band’s name stems from this kind of notion. While Crane swears it was based on a dream that Von Ancken had about animals building a civilization, Von Ancken recalls the matter differently. Combined with a book title he once saw, Von Ancken recounts a story of Crane’s intoxication: “Nick was drunk one night, playing a complicated song on guitar, despite being very drunk. And I just figured it was a good fit for our band since we have tiny brains.” For having such small brains, these three are definitely smart. Graff attended Berklee College of Music (not an easy feat), they all made it through college, and they already have three or four albums worth of material. Small brains? I’m calling bullshit.

Built by Animals is the band members’ response to a dilemma far too many people this day are dealing with. When I discuss influences, Crane definitely exhibits his sense of humor by citing the ocean, sandwiches, and sweaters, but the last thing he mentions is employment. Von Ancken elaborates on this matter a bit. “I think you kind of have the interest when you’re a kid to create things,” he explains. “We went to college together, and when we got out, we didn’t really know what to do, and we felt like it was kind of a depressing moment. The prospect of working as a temp sucked, and we wanted to follow our artistic goals when we finished. That’s what we wrote about at first.”

This is eminently apparent in their songs. Crane mentions a song they wrote about a friend who worked for Hillary Clinton and his task of turning all the commas in her speeches into semicolons. Despite the fact that the band cranks out material at a rapid pace, they’re very solid tunes, complex works that you dwell on for weeks. “Leave the races that you run,” Crane sings on “Spreadsheets”, suggesting a shedding of working-class skin. The song builds up for the first half and then lashes out in an anti-authority breakdown.

The band also wrote a tune about indie heartthrob Ellen Page called, you guessed it, “Ellen Page”. On this track, Crane’s guitar sounds like Thurston Moore’s, as Von Ancken’s bass thumps lightly in the background. Graff’s drums eventually pick up in a moment of rock and roll fun and games. Their guitars get a bit Gibbard-esque on tracks like “Red Breasted Bastard”, where the band insists that they “know it’s going to get to you.” The conversational tone runs throughout, with lyrics like the confessional “you drink, don’t you?/ I do, that’s true, I drink every night.” “Teenage Rampage” is a poppy hit that brings you back to the era of new-millennium garage rock, and “Ducks” is a slower number where nice, clean guitar will make you want to sway with your date on a summer night until the finale comes crunching in with a sense of beautiful chaos.

The band plans on taking this chaos all over the country. They’ve started to branch out across the Northeast, getting gigs in upstate New York, Vermont, and even playing for our Canadian neighbors. Built by Animals are extremely down-to-earth because they are just like us: They got into the business because of their love of all kinds of music, ranging from The Unicorns to the Red Hot Chili Peppers and The Strokes. This is their outlet to show that they’re more than just the average working dudes. “As long as our music gives people some kind of thing to ID with, that’s the best thing we could ask for,” Von Ancken insists. We all want to build an empire in this lifetime, and we all want to be the kings of the jungle. Animals certainly are capable of doing some pretty wild things to get on top… you just have to be creative.


Built by Animals – “Animal Parade”

Built by Animals – “Ellen Page”

Heading to CMJ this week? Check out Built for Animals at the Lit Lounge this Wednesday, October 19th at 9:00 p.m.! Add the gig to your schedule!


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