Mike and Tim Biskup started making music and art while growing up in the small town of Clovis, California. They created a steady stream of homemade tapes and records, amassing a catalogue that explores some of the stranger, more idiosyncratic corners of the musical universe.
By the early 90s they had built a small but dedicated following spread out worldwide and aided by their association with San Francisco experimental music legends The Residents and their label, Ralph Records.
For nearly 30 years Mike & Tim have continued to explore art and music together and on their own. Tim's work has been featured in museum and gallery exhibitions throughout the world, and Mike has focused on raising his family while quietly developing his own visual style. The Biskups are also the latest art and music duo to take over The Box at The Standard, Hollywood. On Friday, February 13, The Standard celebrates Big Butter’s sound and artistic vision with an improvised electronic performance from inside The Box. Intrigued? You should be.
The Standard recently caught up with the brothers Biskup to unpack the complexities of their catalogue and the camaraderie of their 30 year collaboration. For a bit of context, check out their illustrated discography, and listen to their sampler below.
Big Butter's catalogue of releases
What was life like in Clovis growing up?
TIM BISKUP: We lived in the middle of a fig orchard about five miles away from anything and rode our bikes everywhere. It was not very inspiring on a cultural level, but we got very creative in the ways we entertained ourselves. We made movies, surfed in the canals behind cars or motorcycles and played music constantly.
MIKE BISKUP: Fun. Lots of time with my brothers trying all kinds of crazy and/or goofy things. Always experimenting with humor, sound, and making stuff. It was also sometimes very quiet and allowed for deep listening and reflection - beautiful almond blossoms.
Greatest unrealized project?
TB: We've never been crazy ambitious, so it was possible to do most of what we set out to do. There are a few unfinished recordings, but those usually find their way into something else.
MB: Not getting our song "Praise" onto the Ralph Records "Beets" Compilation. That really bummed me out. It would have been one of the better songs on that thing.
A compilation of tracks from Big Butter's catalogue
Your installation will take place in our outer lobby. And your first recording is called Outer Lobby Only. Do you believe in fate?
TB: Absolutely! That kind of thing has been happening over and over leading up to this event. Every idea that we have lately is met with astounding acceptance. The idea of performing from inside The Box was something I thought I'd have to convince people to let us do. We did a show from inside a refrigerator box back in the late 80s, so I guess this is an extension of that. More fate!
MB: Yes. And faith. I've always had faith that we would get to share our body of work somewhere down the line...and destiny.
There seems to be an overlap in the visual styles of both of your works … Do you see the similarities? If so, care to hazard a guess of how that came about?
TB: We saw a lot of the same things growing up, so I imagine that's part of it. Remy Charlip's "Arm in Arm" was a favorite of both of ours. I see that book in my work all the time. Lots of playful details.
MB: What Tim said. (I have that book on my shelf. Love it.) Also I think we have always loved each others' creations and they have inspired us unendingly. I created a drawing of a stack of people once - it said "Folk Stack" under it...Tim had it on his wall long ago. (I was thrilled back then that Tim would hang my drawing on his wall. That's a really cool thing for a big brother to do!)
"Astral Scratch" a preview track from Big Butter's new record, "A Step Felt in Full"
Any brown bear dreams of late?
MB: Last night I dreamt Tim gave me a really bad haircut. Later in the dream I could actually see and feel my skull through a gash at my hairline in the front - Ouch. Luckily all I felt when I woke up was a mild headache.
Looking back, which is your favorite collaboration?
MB: From way back: Screen printing the (epic!) covers for "Bearded Horses". More recently - Working together on readying the art for "Slow Culture".
TB: There's a part of our "Brainsled" album where we break into "Ukranian Bell Carol". There's one part of that where it really blows up. That stands out for me. Very bombastic.
Last question. You open the sliding glass door to find a beaver on the back porch? Do you:
a) Shoo it away
b) Invite it inside
c) Offer it a beer
d) Call animal patrol
MB: Invite it inside, welcome it thoroughly, and find out why it showed up if possible. If it's not possible, just be thankful that it did and celebrate it.
On February 13, The Standard, Hollywood celebrates Big Butter’s installation with a special improvised electronic performance. The artists’ work will be displayed throughout the month of February.