Amid hushed anticipation, a band of rocksters step on stage and the crowd goes wild — with laughter. No, you haven't stepped into a space-time continuum — you're just watching The Axis of Awesome.
Who are they? Well, take your cue from the name: on target and just awesome, of course. The name is a play on the term "axis of evil" used constantly by former U.S. President George W Bush in reference to the War on Terror — and the group might well be diametrically-opposed to all that Bush stood for. Think less death and destruction, and more rolling in the aisles with a knot in your tummy as the only possible collateral damage.
The three-man band from Australia has been around since 2006 and has found their niche as a musical-comedy act, having performed and honed their skills at the Melbourne International Comedy Festival and the Edinburgh Fringe.
There's Benny Davis, he's the keyboard-maestro and does vocals. He's the smallest of the group, but with possibly the biggest voice and a falsetto that can rival any operatic singer's, you can't miss him.
Also on vocals is Jordan Raskopoulos, actor and singer with a commanding presence on stage and a vocal range that runs from a low tenor to a higher pitch that leaves you wondering if it hurts to sing that high, and feeling the need to check for a hernia on your person, by proxy.
The trio is rounded out by Lee Naimo, on guitar and vocals — think lanky, introspective artiste wielding a mean guitar and who sings key notes to pull everything together, and you've got the picture
The group covers a wide range of music, with varying performance styles to boot. From pop parodies to original music, The Axis of Awesome is best-known for "4 Chords", a medley of over 30 songs which all have the same basic chords running through them.
This revelation came to Benny as he was performing during smaller gigs, when people would request different songs. In playing them, he realised that many of such songs all had the same four chords underpinning them.
Therefore, assuming that all it might take to write a smash hit is the G, C F and A chords isn't too much of a stretch of the imagination, it would seem. The video on YouTube has seen millions of hits — and is one of their standout performances to date.
The group was in town recently to perform for fans here, playing at entertainment space TAB, which is fast getting a buzz for bringing in underground acts that will rock your socks off. Yet another sold-out success for TAB, interviewing the trio is an exercise in keeping a straight face. Their laugh-a-minute answers keep you in stitches and you can see why these guys do what they do, and they do it so well.
What you see is what you get: they are pretty awesome. Although some might say they're not necessarily on the axis, more so a little off-centre. Without further ado, here's The Axis of Awesome. Maestro, if you please:
Just how awesome are you?
Jordan: Somewhere between a dinosaur holding a sword that's on fire and a giant hot dog eating a pizza. So… pretty awesome.
Tell me about the band; what is your history and how did you come together to form the group?
Lee: Jordan and I met during the gold rush of 1852 in California. I was a prospector and I was panning for gold one day, and Jordan came up and said "This is my territory get out!" and kicked me in the face. We've been best friends ever since!
Benny: And then in 1927 I was delivered in a basket to their doorstep by a stork and they've been looking after me since then.
When you were starting out, why did you decide that there was a market for a musical comedy act? Are you music group or comedy act first, if you had to label yourselves?
Jordan: We're both musical and comedy, but you're more likely to see us in a comedy setting like a theatre or stadium, or perhaps an arena. Our act also features lots of knife-fighting. In fact, we used to be a 9-piece band.
Benny: Rest in peace Smiddy and Lucky Joe.
In your song 'Sexual Harassment', you sing: "You say I'm not allowed to comment on your figure. Well, if this will get me fired, baby you can pull the trigger."How did you decide this was the perfect material for a song and why was there so much sparkly stuff in the video?
Lee: Sex sells. And who doesn't love glitter?
Benny: We were filming a bunch of clips, and between us and our management, decided that was a good one to do. It felt like a good choice to get out there.
More seriously though, any fears of taking too-controversial a stand or alienating female fans — or is it gloves off, with anything as grist for your mill?
Jordan: There's always a chance someone will get offended at anything you say or do. We don't set out to offend people but we also don't try and censor ourselves too much either.
Have you faced any detractors, in your quest for musical comedic excellence? What do you say to those who don't 'get' what you do?
Lee: No comedian or band will ever be enjoyed by absolutely everybody, so everyone will have their detractors. The good thing is with the increased use of the internet, it's a lot easier for those detractors to tell us exactly what they think of us.
Jordan: If someone doesn't like us or doesn't get us, I usually tell them to get $%&*##%%(#@#ed.
What are some of your favourite songs?
Benny: Inception by Leonardo DiCaprio
Jordan: Catcher in the Rye (by JD Salinger)
Lee: Kramer vs Kramer vs Godzilla vs Charles Barkley
'The Four Chords Song' is brilliant — how did you come to realise that this is the foundation of many standout songs? Were you surprised at its success online?
Lee: Jordan and I thought of that while having a bath together one day.
Jordan: A shallow bath.
Lee: Yes, quite shallow. An apple hit Jordan on the head and he thought "Eureka!" and then he rinsed me off and we wrote the song.
Benny: Alternatively, you could chose to believe that I thought of it while performing covers gigs in bars and people kept asking me to cover songs that I realised that the same chord progression. I strung them together into a medley and people seemed to enjoy it. It's been a bit surprising how successful it's been but we're very glad.
How did the shows here go?
Lee: All three of them were delightful. At the first show a woman bought us a beer each during the show. Jordan drank them all.
Is this your first time to Singapore (individually or as a group)? What will stay with you on your trip here?
Lee: It's our third trip here as The Axis of Awesome. And I guess this tattoo of a unicorn driving a forklift will probably stay with me.
What do you think of Singapore?
Jordan: Yes, Merkman