Band of Brothers

Flying Mammals take experimentation to a whole new level

click to enlarge STEPHEN SCHLANGE
Stephen Schlange

Aaron Birdsall wants to install a zip line at his next show at the Knitting Factory. He wants trapeze artists, maybe fire breathers. Right now at shows, the lead singer and bass player climbs up on his amp stacks, hurtles himself onto a trampoline and flies through the air. In the middle of a song. While continuing to play.

Birdsall, 32, and his band, Flying Mammals, have plans for more trampolines, for more leaping. But until then, the local pop rock band just need you to look up from your Coors Light and pay attention to the live bands playing in your local bar.

“In this area, we’ve played at a lot of shows where people just go there to drink. We had a hard time getting people turning around to watch the show. That’s why we have the trampoline … [that’s] why I play blindfolded. We try to make it more of a performance than just a band playing,” says Andy Birdsall, 25, the band’s drummer, who has broken more bones in his short lifetime than in the human race’s collective history. Because of a broken arm, he was forced to play one-handed, Def Leppard-style. Playing one-handed helped familiarize Andy with the drum kit enough to the point where he could play without looking.

They’re thinking about blindfolding guitar player James Birdsall, 27, as well. He’s skeptical. He’ll do it if he has to, he says. He experiments with quirkier rhythms, loves the Red Hot Chili Peppers’ guitar lines, and plays acoustic shows when he’s not playing with Flying Mammals. James takes pride in his effects pedals and is fascinated with a more off-the-wall approach to music. His guitar lines delve deep into the funkier side of things before coming back to the surface. James brings a different sound to every song.

Lead singer Aaron plays bass and the keyboard, and also sings (while trampolining). One hand carries a solid bass rhythm while the other hand fills the song with airy chords on keys.

“It’s a lot like a conductor who looks at a sheet of music and sees the entire orchestra. Every page is a piece. But instead of an orchestra, I hear all of that in a song,” Aaron explains. Classically trained, the Birdsall brothers connect with all genres and all disciplines. For them, the creative process centers around growing as artists. Testing the waters when they get bored. Reaching into new territory.

As a family, they’ve been playing music for years. The brothers, born to a doctor and an actress alongside five other siblings, grew up surrounded by music, encouraged to pick up an instrument and figure it out. Originally, Flying Mammals started out as a family band with all eight brothers and sisters. But with siblings on other continents, in medical school, and settled with families of their own, the band boiled down to Andy, Aaron and James. And being family helped when it came to experimentation.

“The furthest I’ve gone outside of my comfort zone… ” Andy pauses.

“ …is when we made you sit down and play the piano. That one time,” Aaron finishes. He chuckles.

But for them, there is no official comfort zone. There is no safe word. They all experiment. Sometimes the sounds they come up with are weird. They work on it. They try something new. Aaron says he doesn’t hold back or worry about dysfunctional, strained relationships between band members. His band is literally his family.

“In rare cases, when a band is adapting, changing, growing and doing it together, the band grows,” Aaron says.

This time around, the band is growing up together all over again. 

Flying Mammals • Fri, May 10, at 9 pm • Gus’s Cigar Pub • 1903 E. Sherman Ave., Coeur d’Alene, Idaho • Free • 21+ • (208) 667-9834

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