If the rhythms of rock 'n' roll are like a heartbeat, it's no wonder the Giraffes have one of the most unique rhythms in rock today.
Aaron Lazar, the lead vocalist for this Brooklyn band, has a heartbeat that his doctor says is almost completely original, and that few survive. Lazar described his condition to me last week. "One of my doctors told me, 'I'm not saying no one has ever had what you have before, but they didn't live long enough to see a doctor about it,'" he says.
When Lazar's heart begins to race, it climbs to a speed of 300-400 beats per minutes. Then it just stops, randomly, without warning and without apparent cause. "The actual medical term is sudden cardiac death," says Lazar, "and it carries a survival rate of around 2%. I had two in four hours one morning on my way into work."
The condition makes mortality an immediate presence in Lazar's life. He lives and performs with a defibrillator implanted in his chest. Lazar was once "defibbed" on stage three times during a live show in Chicago. Still, he managed to finish the set.
The Giraffes are in Madison this week to celebrate the release of their new CD, Prime Motivator. The title track recounts that experience of being defibbed during a gig. The music sounds like a racing heart, and the tension is palpable. "I don't feel so fine," sings Lazar. "The machine makes up its mind; and it gives me some more time."
Madison is more than just a tour stop for the Giraffes. It's also home to their record label. The band signed to Crustacean Records earlier this year.
Signing the Giraffes to Crustacean "was a totally natural pairing," says label co-owner Jake Shut. "They fit really well with the bands and wide-ranging sound of our label. Like many of our acts, they deftly straddle the line between punk and metal. They have terrific musical chops and really know how to put on a show."
Prime Motivator seamlessly blends hard rock and dreamy atmospherics. It's the most mature collection of songs the Giraffes have assembled in their 10 years making music together. "I suddenly found myself with experiences that were far stranger than anything I could have dreamed up," says Lazar. "So naturally it came out in the songwriting."