For the past five years, Glens-Falls-based numerical theorists Pete Pythagoras, Dewi Decimal and Albert Gorithm IV of the Mathematicians have schooled their audiences on angular rhythms, parallel lyrics and the absolute value of danceable electro-rock. The albums “Level I” and “Level II” have given us the political rap of “Weapons of Math Instruction,” the neosoul heartache of “What’s the Difference” and the infectious techno pop of “Binary Girl.”
Now the band, which has sold more than 5,000 copies of its albums, is hoping to reach an infinitely wider audience (that’d be the whole world) with its new feature-length film, “Transdimensional Odyssey of Doom.”
The film pairs clips of the Mathematicians’ live show with a fantastical animated story about the band members’ — along with filmmaker Jonathan Phelps’ — encounters with odd alien life forms while traveling the universe in their white cargo van.
In 2003, Pythagoras, Decimal and drummer Gorithm, each of whom had been playing in separate bands, decided to combine their talents.
“We had been playing in bands that were heavier and more experimental, and we wanted to make something simple and dancey,” said the lab-coat-clad Decimal, 30, who sings and plays the keyboards and vocoder. “So we got some beat-up old keyboards and started making music.”
Since then, they’ve played more than 500 shows, touring the United States no fewer than 11 times and hitting up festivals such as South by Southwest in Austin, Texas. The song “4Eyes” espouses the band’s philosophy:
“Who cares if your suit clashes
we’re no dance floor fascists it’s four then four on the xy-axis free your mind and wipe your eyeglasses.”
The Mathematicians is a theme band, not a joke band.
“We present theoretical and surreal and psychedelic figures of mathematics,” said Pythagoras, 29, who sings and plays bass.
The band’s sound is like Devo plus the Aphex Twin multiplied by Postal Service divided by Mission of Burma. The albums have digital precision. The live show captures melody, noise and maniacal geekoid energy.
The guys work hard to separate their band personas from the rest of their lives. For example, if you ever run into Nick LaFond, who runs the record label Make Your Fate, on the street and ask him when his band is playing, he’ll tell you, “That’s not me, that’s Pete. We just look alike.”
For the past two years, the band has teamed up with Glens-Falls-based filmmaker Phelps, 30. The partnership has led them on a path of auditory and visual outlandishness that culminated in “Transdimensional Odyssey of Doom.” The film carries on the tradition of other feature-length films from musical acts, such as the Beatles’ “Magical Mystery Tour,” David Bowie’s “Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars” and the Flaming Lips’ new “Christmas on Mars.”
Phelps is the co-creator of “Ravacon,” a kaleidoscopic television show that aired on Glens Falls WNCE Ch. 8. He is also the director of the films “Thing Versus Universe,” “Black and White and Red All Over” and the video for the O’Death song “Down To Rest.” Some might remember him as the cameraman from the 2005 Hudson Falls “Banana Boy” incident, when a Washington County sheriff’s deputy pulled a very real gun on a young actor who was holding up Phelps’ brother Chris, clad in a giant banana costume, with a prop knife for a “Ravacon” scene.
The first project the four did together was the elaborate video for “Weapons of Math Instruction.”
On Halloween 2006, three men wearing ski masks stormed through the packed crowd at Valentine’s in Albany, announcing that they had spent the past six months learning all of the Mathematicians songs and had kidnapped the band as they were unpacking their gear.
The restrained band members were shown on a projector from the secure locale where they were supposedly being held. As the masked marauders blitzed through a set of the Mathematicians songs, the screen showed the band members being tortured and killed, one by one, in blazing full color and gore.
At the end of the concert, the video showed the band being brought back to life by a team of scientists to be stronger, faster and better.
The crowd loved the theatrics. The band and Phelps, who directed the film, were pleased with the turnout. Phelps accompanied the band on three national tours, freestyling a series of astral, nightmarish images on a projector during concerts.
“There was a story line that would explain his role in a transdimensional portal being opened at every show,” Pythagoras said. “After the show, the audience would be safely returned to their home dimensions.”
The live portions of the movie are culled from footage shot at more than 100 concerts over two national tours. For some songs, the video is from one show. For others, the video jumps from concert to concert, showing the band’s reinvention and improvisation.
“We first thought about making a video for ‘What’s the Difference,’ but there’s never time to get out of the van and shoot,” said Phelps, 30. “So we decided that instead we’d animate in the van and shoot the live show.”
It was in those cramped quarters that the story line, chock-full of tentacled creatures, oozing spaceshells and jet-packed cyber bears, came together.
“We came up with names and back stories and what planets they were from, and did a lot of the voices,” said Decimal.
When they returned from tour last summer, artists and friends Corey John Shearer and Joel Barlow helped them flesh out the animations. They edited the 5,000 gigabytes of video down to 10 songs, and edited in a section of the story before each song.
Over Thanksgiving weekend, the band screened the film at Amy’s Dinner and a Movie in Glens Falls. Now they seek wider distribution and plan to send the movie to a smattering of film festivals.
“I’d like to do some international tours, maybe go to Russia, and I think this movie can help us get there,” said Decimal. “It really captures the rawness of our live sound. It can be our calling card.”