Funny or die?

Captain Amazing and the Okay I Guesses blur the line between humor and sincerity

Baby, we’re all-stars here—no joke.

Baby, we’re all-stars here—no joke.

Check out Captain Amazing and the Okay I Guesses on Saturday, September 22, at 7 p.m., no cover, at the Coffee Garden, 2904 Franklin Boulevard.

Sincerity is the last thing you’d probably expect from a band that calls itself Captain Amazing and the Okay I Guesses.

Perhaps it’s not surprising then that the four-piece started in 2009 as an outlet for its members’ weird, sarcastic ideas. Some of its early songs, for example, include the tongue-in-cheek “Who Needs a Girlfriend When I Got Drugs?” and “Puke-Man Loves Your Baby”— a song about a drunk guy who, covered in his own vomit, mistakes a woman’s dog for a baby.

Still, people—and bands—mature and, accordingly, Captain and company have developed into a much more complex outfit.

“I finally learned how to write songs with some sincerity. It’s a new thing for me,” said Josh Rhodes, one of the band’s two main singer-songwriters.

Captain Amazing also features singer-songwriter David Adams. as well as Rhodes’ brother Jordan on guitar and Adams’ brother Tyler on drums. In addition to vocal and songwriting duties, David and Josh also switch off between bass and guitar.

The band’s music is difficult to pin down. There are folk elements, punk elements and strange experimental elements. What links the songs together, however, is an offbeat sensibility that exhibits a musical sophistication and an irreverent appreciation for a wide range of styles. The band, for instance, sometimes layers its folk songs with a melodica and its members sing in falsetto voices or give their punk songs a nervous, deliberately haphazard feel.

Sonically, Captain Amazing most resembles Sebadoh—that ’90s-era band known for its hodgepodge of sounds and introspective, quiet bedroom recordings. Indeed, Captain Amazing and the Okay I Guesses have more in common with Sebadoh frontman Lou Barlow than just musical taste. Barlow was famously socially awkward—he practically invented the lo-fi sound as a result. Likewise, Captain Amazing, even during its early overtly sarcastic years, tapped into humor as a way to deal with its collective social awkwardness.

“I’m catatonically shy … [but] somehow being in front of a crowd is way less stressful for me than talking to two to three people,” Rhodes said.

The band’s name—a twisted take on a typical rock ’n’ roll moniker—is also rooted in humor and a self-deprecating ethos.

“I’ve always been amused and slightly appalled by all those band [names], where it’s basically like ’Johnny and the Guys Who Hang Out With Johnny,’” Rhodes explained. “I don’t understand why Tom Petty needs a solo album when it’s already Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers.”

Initially, the band played up the joke part of its name, taking it to the nth degree. At the beginning of early shows, for example, it would announce that Captain Amazing was dead and lying in a ditch somewhere, leaving the audience with the rest of the band, the ego-challenged Okay I Guesses.

Even as the band has moved away from such overt parody and goofiness, it still manages to infuse its work with humor. Take, for instance, “Love Took a Shit.” Here, the song’s expression of heartbreak is genuine, but the choice of words is shocking, funny and just plain weird: “My heart is a gas-station bathroom, and no one’s got a mop or even a broom / Wake me up when anything ever goes as planned.”

“The song title seems like something you would find on a tape in the ’80s at a Longs Drugs,” Rhodes said.

Clearly, the line between humor and sincerity here is still one that’s blurry. Usually Captain Amazing executes both simultaneously—just take into account the band’s desire to create a short film based on its namesake character.

“As musicians, we aspire to be living cartoon characters,” Rhodes said.

“We want to be larger than life. Each song has an emotion that goes along with it. We just want to write good songs that also have a sense of humor.”