Why are they‽

The History of "Interröbang Cartel"

At First, It's Just A Gleam In USENET's Eye

In April of 2003 Jacob Haller, aka jwgh, proposed the creation of an International USENET punk band.

I think we should start an International USENET Punk Band! I'll play the concertina and my stage name will be ZIP DRIVE CLICK OF DETH! At the end of each show I will disassemble my concertina and feed it, piece by piece, to an iguana! Then I will stuff paperclips into my sinuses until they bleed! It will be great!
I will write songs about filth and large concrete buildings and beautiful necrotizing butterflies and I will shout them out to the world in a voice filled with angst and suffering and goldfish! I will force my bandmates to perform these songs until they all want to stick my head in a blender! My songs will employ the subjunctive!
I will die unexpectedly at the age of 32 as a result of my hitherto-unknown allergy to glitter pens!
Who's with me?

This led to a lot of discussion in both the original thread he started and a later one started by Casey B.

The Band Gets A Name

TWillis, in a different context, coined the phrase "Interrobang Cartel":

Don't be a fool. The idea that punctuation marks are rare and valuable is totally and completely false. The whole thing is the result of a conspiracy by the Interrobang Cartel.

After reading this, John D Salt asked to change his stage name from "Gokmop The Irrefrangible" to "Interrobang Cartel", but Jeremy Impson asked if it could be used as the band name instead. (Some other names that had been suggested were "Violent Bloody Anyone" and "Ponaris Nasal Emollient".)

Interröbang Cartel Becomes Bigger Than Chicago

After Jacob's call for band members, everyone declared their intended role in the band. There were an awful lot of roadies at first. However, Matt McIrvin, Karlo X and Ranjit Bhatnagar offered pre-Cartel songs they had written for anyone to record; they were soon joined by new song writers as well as people offering song and album title suggestions, album cover art, and the occasional sound sample for the band's use. The final lineup included a concertina, nose flute, theremin, triangle, keyboards and various people shouting and/or singing. Basically, a good time was had by all.

The First Recordings Begin To Surface

The first officially recorded Interröbang Cartel song was "The Robot Song". Jacob Haller wrote the lyrics, intending to record them later; Casey B soon recorded the cheery-sounding "Data" mix. A bit later, Not R recorded a "Dalek" mix of the song using a completely different melody, laying down the ground rule that Interröbang Cartel was not going to be a normal band in any sense of the word. To confirm this, Casey later wrote lyrics for "Pumpkin, Mrs. Farnsworth", based on a dream John D Salt had; he and Jacob then recorded completely different versions of the song simultaneously, released as the "London Sharehouse" and "English Country Garden" mixes.

After that, the chronology gets kind of hazy, with lyrics, song titles, and album names tending to flow in much faster than recorded songs. For a while, the original Interröbang Cartel web page listed mainly song titles people had suggested, with a few actual lyrics and the occasional MP3. Other early recordings included "Free Your Cones" (Karlo X/Jacob Haller) and the avant-garde soundscape "Young Human Body Transplant 13" (Talysman).

Interröbang Cartel Gets More Wanger

In September of 2003, the band assembled a CD of all the existing recordings to send to radio stations and what-not. This CD became the first album, Needs More Wanger. To date, we are unsure whether any radio stations have actually played any of the songs, other than [one college station] where we had inside help.

In October 2004, the band released a second CD, with the longish name of The Last Days Of The Crazy People's Supermarket. By this stage, the Cartel had actually recorded more MP3s than could fit on one CD, so several MP3s were assigned to other suggested album titles, such as Aspartame Placebo and Luxury Potato.

A Tribute to the Cartel

In May 2003, Paddy Smith noticed that the BBC had a list of the 20 least-popular internet searches in Great Britain, as provided by MSN. He thought it looked suspiciously like a track listing for a future Interröbang Cartel album.

Casey B helped fill in the future history of the Cartel:

Yes, in a vision unnervingly Wyld-Stalyn-like, we can see the future of Interrobang Cartel in the track-listing of this album - recorded in 2008 by several "old-timers" in tribute to the genius of the Cartel.

In Feb 2004, Talysman finally took up the challenge and wrote lyrics for all 20 songs, recording three of them as sound collages in early 2004 ("Zoo Heaven", "Virtual Geese Honking", and "Sausage Calories".) Tim Chmielewski later wrote alternate lyrics for four of the songs; Jacob Haller recorded "Walking Stick Making" and provided accompaniment for "Virtual Geese", Casey B] recorded seven of the songs (including three versions of "[[How To Be A Texas Ranger",) and Doctroid recorded an alternate version of "Hedgerow Hypothesis". The tribute album was finally finished as of 2008 as it had been predicted that it would come from that year. We did not want to be responsible for creating a possibly universe destroying temporal instability by failing to actually complete it so members Charlie, Doctroid, and Major Zed got busy and finished up the remaining unrecorded songs. Phew! A narrow escape from epochal failure.

The Cartel Goes Concept

Every band eventually does a concept album that pushes the borders of its own style, and Interröbang Cartel is no different. In Jan 2005, John D Salt, responding to one of Kibo's posts, took sentences out-of-context from Kibo's parody of a Monty Python sketch and created a track listing for a concept album entitled "Bad Coelacanth":

Charlie began to record tracks for the album; Tim Chielewski wrote stream-of-consciousness lyrics for all the tracks (except "Go past the volvox", which was recorded as an instrumental.) At this stage most of the first part is complete, and there are two tracks done from the second part.

The Cartel Answers Its Critics

In early 2005, playfully twisting a LiveJournal "meme", Talysman posted a challenge, vowing to write lyrics based on concepts randomly selected from the interest lists of anyone who asked for lyrics. Jacob Haller also issued a similar challenge; several of the resulting songs were assigned to yet another proposed album called "Right Of Reply".

Other albums have gotten sporadic contributions. In March 2007, Dr HotSalt proposed a new album, Rules for Dysfunctional Patterns, based on a post by John Winston, quoting (apparently) from the book E.T. 101: The Cosmic Instruction Manual for Planetary Evolution (also online here). A number of tracks for that album have also been recorded by Major Zed and Doctroid.