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Exclusive Interview: Autopipe's Sights are Set

Updated: Sep 15, 2021

The up and coming shock rockers have carved a name for themselves in the local scene by going against the grain and bringing something new to the table. When it comes to Autopipe's live performances, clothes are optional.


(From left to right: Arjun, Oliver, Nick (The homie), Liam, Hank )


Autopipe has taken the SLO DIY scene by storm these past two years with their wildly entertaining stage antics and energetic tunes.

The boys started recording material back in 2018 with the premiere of their single "Koala Dreams" and have dropped a few projects along the way. Vocalist Oliver Tawney, drummer Liam Graham, and guitarist Arjun Urbonas met each other during their freshman year at Cal Poly. Making waves ever since, their current lineup featuring bassist Hank McKay came together during the fall of 2019. Watch out for their full-length album. It's expected to release on all streaming platforms April 4th, 2020.

Embracing the spirit of cult classics like Iggy Pop and GG Allin, Tawney knows how to amuse a crowd while the rest of the group plays along. Clothes usually scatter the floor about halfway through their set as Tawney shreds his guitar, wearing only his boxers or possibly a leotard, similarly to the one found in the film, Borat.

In turn, these gimmicks make the crowd go bananas. Common living room shows morph into a chaotic pit where everyone's grooving around trying to get a quick look at the performers. It's a memorable experience and people spread the word like a wildfire. No doubt about that. Within these past few months, people have come out of the woodworks to jam-pack local houses or backyards whenever Autopipe sets up a local gig.

The local scene is blossoming as we know it and Autopipe has proven to be one of the heavy hitters. Letting their freak flags wave high, these guys know how to throw a show. I'm sure a banger of a set is in store once everything in the world settles down and we can all enjoy live music again. Until then, keep on rocking in the "free world" of your home shelter.

Curious to learn more? I had the chance to catch up with the band right before their set at the Orcutt House on Jan. 17th, 2020.


Here's what they had to say:

Q: (Danny) 2020’s looking to be a beautiful year. Essentially, what’s on Autopipe’s goal radar for this year?

A: (Liam)  Well, right now we have some stuff scheduled to record. Mostly, our main goal is to get some songs recorded.

(Oliver) To get a full album out. 

(Liam) Yea, we’ve been slacking on that. We have a live recorded set from the local radio station and hopefully we’ll be getting that out soon, but yeah expect some new recordings to be out soon too... 

(Oliver) and play more shows, always play more shows. 

Q: (Spenser) So your first recordings came out in 2018, did you start playing shows around this time or later in 2019?

A: (Oliver) We actually played our first show a year ago from tomorrow. So when we played our first show, it was just us three (Liam, Oliver, and Arjun) and then our buddy Chad hopped on for one song. He played with us throughout the rest of 2019 until Hank here joined us in the fall of 2019. 

Q: (Spenser) How have you seen the progression of the local scene while you’ve been here?

A: (Arjun) Honestly, it seems like it’s blowing up. Like, I came here maybe one or two times as a freshman, so shout out to SLO DIY on Instagram for putting out show dates... (someone walks into the room) this guy’s looking for a white Ford Fusion but that’s not my car. 

It’s just great seeing the scene popping up, ya know. Seeing so many people tonight, so many supportive people, I mean I’m excited to be a part of it like these guys are. 

Q: (Danny) In terms of playing a full live set on KCPR, how did that feel as a group?

A: (Hank) It was super cool. I’ve been playing music for a really long time and that was my first time doing that, so it was rad. It was kinda messy at times, but I thought it was a really great performance and we had a lot of people listening to it. People will see me around school and be like, “that was sick”, so that’s cool. 

( Arjun) It’s really nice when other people record you. I’m so used to doing all the work, so when I get to just show up and play, ooh. 

Q: (Spenser) When you’re playing live, you guys seem to have made a name for yourselves for having an energetic set. How do you normally prepare for your shows? 

A: (Liam) We usually like to practice at least two or three times a week. We get through the songs and then after we usually brainstorm to try and come up with some antics or something new to get the crowd going. You know, Oliver can tell ya more about that because I just sit behind the set. 

(Oliver) I feel like since the beginning when we first started playing shows, I really wanted to be memorable and something different from a lot of the other bands. None of us are extremely talented musicians (laughs) so like that’s a lot harder to get really good at. 

If you can just take your clothes off, people will remember that a lot. It’s just a lot of fun, for me and the audience. You know a bunch of performers do stuff like that. 

Q: (Spenser) What kind of performers do you dig that do that? 

A: I mean honestly when i was younger, I still love him, but Mac Demarco. I’d see a lot of those shows and see him. I feel like he was the King of Indie Rock and all that. So I’d see him when I was in high school and I was like, “that guy he’s getting fucked up, he’s taking off all his clothes, I wanna be like that guy.” Then people like G.G. Allin and Iggy Pop. I took them as a lot of inspiration too. 

(Danny) They’re forces, like forces of nature almost. Essentially, it brings the show together. 

(Arjun) Yeah, definitely. It brings the show to a whole other level. 

Q: (Danny) In terms of style and how you dress/act onstage, could we get a few of your individual inspirations? 

A: (Liam) I mean recently he passed away, but the big man Neil Peart. Love that man, but yea also Bernard Purdie another amazing man. 

(Oliver) I don’t know, like I just said Mac DeMarco and a lot of that indie rock stuff. I also think Johnny Marr from the Smiths is incredible and like one of the sickest guitar players. Also, the songwriting of the Beatles, so that’s definitely what I look for. 

(Arjun) I like to balance the low intensity of bands like Khruangbin with high intensity bands like King Gizzard and try to find a nice middle ground to where you’re tight but not up there onstage looking down at anybody or doing anything crazy. 

(Hank) Yeah, I’m more mellow but I’m just really focused on what I’m playing. I’ve been interacting with my pedals, working on my sound. I like bass players like Justin Johnson who was in Nine Inch Nails for a while. I’m sort of really like at the nexus of bass playing and experimenting with effects pedals and sounds. 

Q: (Spenser) So for your upcoming album, did you all have any themes in mind while writing it?

A: (Liam) I mean I don’t know too much about recording or anything. Arjun, Oliver and Hank have more experience with that, but yeah we’re definitely trying to experiment more with different mixes and all that. 

(Oliver) As far as the themes and all that...when I write the lyrics for songs, I usually don’t have an overarching theme for an album or anything. It’s just kind of like this is the next song, this sounds like fun, ya know. It’s not too cohesive yet. 

I don’t know, maybe that’s something for the future but for now it’s all about just getting the songs out there. 

Q: (Spenser) That kind of brings up another question about the overall sense of creativity that comes with songwriting. Do you all like jamming and making songs from those sessions or do you approach it by finding what chords and rhythms sound good?

A: (Liam) For a couple of our songs, I would hear a song that I enjoyed like the song “Whiplash”. It’s in 7/8, so I came back to practice and was like we should do a song in 7/8. Another time, I heard a King Gizzard song and thought it was dope, so I was like “okay we gotta make a song like this”. We’ve just taken a lot of inspiration from other artists, or Oliver will write a cool chord progressions and I’ll write the drum part, Arjun and Hank will give suggestions for the structure.

(Arjun) We do a lot of noodling in between songs when we practice as well, so sometimes jams do arise from that. 

(Oliver) But we honestly don’t jam that much. It’s mostly practicing and building new songs instead of just jamming. 

Q: (Danny) This might be the biggest question in everyone’s head. I gotta ask out of popular request. Where did the name Autopipe originate? 

A: (Oliver) The name originated from our good friend Carly Weitz. She kinda has a lot of slang that she comes up with, like she’s just a funny girl. Whenever she’d see a guy that she that was really attractive, she would say automatic pipe, as in I would automatically fuck that guy, and then she would shorten it to autopipe. 

So when we were coming up with names, our roommate Drew was like, “you guys should just be called Autopipe.” We thought it sounded cool and it can be interpreted in many different ways. 

(Arjun) It was really appropriate for us as well. 

(Collective laughs)

(Hank) I didn't really know much about their band when I joined it, but I looked up autopipe to see what was online and most of the results are like mechanical engineering software and it’s like showing tutorials with people doing shit with pipes. So I guess it means something in that mechanical engineering design realm. 

(Arjun) We’re intelligent as well as sexy. 

(Oliver) I feel like now, this is also kind of an afterthought, but like the symmetrical-ness of it. I think of it as a very square name because it’s like four letters each word, a u t o p i p e. 

It’s an even 8 numbers, or letters. 


Photo by: Kelli Johnson


(Nick walks in) It smells like shit out there. When you push someone, they smell bad. 

(Nick hands out Autopipe stickers) 

(Oliver) You can take two if you want, we have a shitload. 

(Arjun) This is the guy that makes them, the merch guy. 

(Nick) Dude, yeah take more. 

(Danny) Nick, as the honorary band member, the OG of OG’s...

(Nick) We’ve been members, what’s good dog? 

Q: (Danny) Autopipe, just gotta thank you one time, thanks for being with Clear Vision. 

Any last remarks?

(Liam) Thank you so much, this is super awesome probably one of the first times we’ve done something like this. I mean, come to our shows, follow us on Instagram. Hopefully, we’ll have some stuff up on Spotify and Apple Music soon, so yea until then check us out on Bandcamp.

(Arjun) We love all of you listening or reading this right now.

(Oliver) Fuck yeah.

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