When my editor set me up with this interview, she was sure to tell me about the quirkiness of this particular band. I like talking to people who don’t take themselves too seriously. They tend to have a good outlook on their art and the relationships they have with their bandmates. I was not disappointed. Adam Barnett of I Am God. proved to be entertaining in the way only a man lacking stuffiness can be. When I asked him how the band got its name, he responded, “The real question would be how did we get the band, since the name came first and is the only reason the band exists in the first place.”
Smile Politely: Who is in the band and how did you meet? What are the relationships and ins and outs?
Adam Barnett: Rantoul Fisher AKA Jon Tracey plays bass, Tyler Cochrane AKA Onarga Roberts plays the giddy-up guitar, and I, the wealthy Gilman Chatsworth, push buttons and scream sometimes. Rantoul and I met when he was in eighth grade and I was a freshman in high school when we both ended up at Laser Quest. He complimented me on my ability to play “Burning Heat” on heavy mode, two-times speed, mind you, on the DDR machine. Three years later, he stole my girlfriend, and then we became better friends for whatever reason, probably because our other friend Mike ended up stealing the same girlfriend from him, and we could cry together. I don’t know. We all ended up at Wheeling High School, which is where I met Onarga. We were both on the scholastic bowl team. I don’t think we really became good friends until we went to Culver’s, right before all three of us left for U of I.
I Am God. started a few months after I botched an opening performance for Wye Oak at The Canopy Club in 2010 as Crayon Box Massacre. I wanted to start a band called I am God., where we weren’t allowed to take the music seriously, and we couldn’t use any real instruments on our recordings, because I didn’t want to have to get out of my bed to record anything. I didn’t want all the liability, so I asked my good chums Rantoul and Onarga to join me. We lived together my senior year of college, 2012-2013, in an Urbana house called God’s House, where we covered a wall with porn and carpet swatches. I think the people who live there now call it “Spider Manor,” but I want to state, for the record, that I single-handedly pasted all of those carpet swatches to that wall, and Onarga and Rantoul provided the car with which we collected those swatches.
Anyway, most of the time, I record and release songs without telling them, especially because Rantoul lives in Chicago now, and Onarga maintains the job title “Scientist” at a major pharmaceutical company. I draw penises in lattes and give them to people for money.
SP: What’s the craziest gig you’ve ever had?
Barnett: Most of our shows are pretty low-key. Normally, only one pair of pants comes off, maybe a couple pairs of shoes. I don’t think any of us has gotten completely naked at a show before. We were invited to play a fake wedding at a University dorm, Allen Hall. We were late because there was a bat in our house, and we had to pack up the PA. We started playing and we cleared the room. We kept playing until the person in charge of the event asked us to stop. I’m really looking forward to our performance at Illini Dance Marathon this year, though. I don’t think we’ve ever performed in front of the likes of parents, children, and those involved in Greek life. It should be an experience.
SP: A bat? I’ve had a bat in my house! How did you get rid of it?
Barnett: It just flew out.
SP: Oh, you lucky duck. Ours had its neck broken by a professional with rubber gloves…Do you tour ever? How do you keep from killing each other? Wait. Have you killed any former band mates?
Barnett: We have never toured because we’re busy, lazy boys. I also have a dog and a cat; Rantoul has a dog; Onarga has a future. I played a show while I lived in Seattle for a summer, and then I played two shows while I lived in Athens, Georgia last year. One of the dudes from Elf Power stopped in to see who was playing, and then he left. But we like to tell the press that Elf Power was at our show.
SP: Technically, that’s true. What would you do with your last $20?
Barnett: I’d wish for World peace.
SP: What’s your dream jam session?
Barnett: The dream jam session would be us getting a million dollars to play a concert for the entire Galaxy without us having to play anything or practice. It would be people who look like us pretending to play over old recordings. Also, those people would be volunteers so we could keep all the money, like the girl from the Dresden Dolls did that one tour a couple years ago.
Catch I Am God. with Jamaican Queens and Mitchell Kent Dietrich at Mike N Molly’s on Saturday. Doors open at 9 p.m. and the cover is $7.