Stefan Kucharczyk discovers the future sound of Birmingham...
When their space craft crashed to planet earth from 500 years in the future, five men and a singing robot emerged from the smouldering wreckage bearing a message of peace, love and rock 'n' roll.
Fresh from recording their imminent debut album in New York, I met Birmingham band Copter to find out about rock, roll and the future for Birmingham's own intergalactic time travellers.
On the face of it, this Birmingham six-piece have all the essential components of your average rock outfit: drums, vocals, guitars, and the like. But when you discover that one band member is a robot, it becomes easier to see that Copter's similarities with other, prosaic rock bands are few.
Reminiscent of David Bowie and his futuristic alter ego, Ziggy Stardust, Copter are a band drenched in their own fantastical mythology.
Entrusted with a mission to save mankind by their otherworldly spiritual leader, these spacemen from the future wield a kinetic blend of bluesy, sci-fi rock and roll that sounds something like The Hives riding the soul train with James Brown.
All this is marked with a streak of their own ingenious, anarchic distinction.
Schizophrenia might well be a professional psychologist's diagnosis, although it is probably more likely that Copter formed in Birmingham - rather than the edges of the Cosmos - five years ago, the myths surrounding the band are hard to crack.
"The whole story is a giant mess of soul heists, bad driving and time travel", muses band front-man, Stevie Copter.
"When we try to tell people it's like when someone is trying to explain one of their dreams to you, and everyone knows there's nothing worse than that."
Like everything else, Copter's legendary stage shows are pure theatre: "Our shows are rock n' soul at 1000 miles per hour, ladies and gentlemen. Our live show is a giant human generator - we thrive off everyone in the room."
With robot MILO Droid taking an active part in proceedings, a typical Copter event entails a steady stream of mesmerising rock and blues numbers, caked in white noise and delivered with the help of their own 3D comic book (no, really) and some very cool toys.
With home-made lighting-flash costumes and Bowie-esque makeovers, Copter have started to attract something of a cult following and not just from the local, lunatic fringe.
Despite having only toy ray-guns and two limited-release EPs under their belts, spells supporting Soledad Brothers and The Dirt-bombs have won the band significant acclaim.
Copter's audacity was rewarded with a prestigious invite to record their forthcoming debut album, Strangest Tales, on the Lower Eastside, New York, in September last year.
"We played a show with one of our favourite bands called Speedball Baby a while ago", Stevie explains.
"Their guitarist, Matt 'Verta' Ray, invited us to come and record our album at his studio because he dug our sound. This man is one of our rock n' roll heroes so it was a huge trip for us."
New York has clearly had an impact on the band.
For these local musicians, the step from the Birmingham gig circuit to the Big Apple is a significant one.
As well as benefiting from professional guidance in the studio, Copter also enjoyed quality time rubbing shoulders with some of the bigger fish in the rock and roll waters.
In between knocking back White Russians with blues legend Jon Spencer, Copter also had chance to collaborate with some of their favourite artists.
Stevie explains: "Cameron Blain, from a band called Bakelite, came over from Canada and sang on the album. Ali Smith and Christina Campanella [Heavy Trash] also performed beautifully on it and made us all weak at the knees.
"James Chance of The Contortions came down and played saxophone for us on a couple of tracks. The whole thing was a maximum strength Copter party."
Studio recorded albums can be a hazardous obstacle for bands such as Copter to negotiate.
The raw energy of live performances, the source of Copter's rocketing to notoriety, can be hard to capture in the studio.
Stevie and the band, however, are confident that Strangest Tales will buck that trend.
"Sometimes it can be a difficult thing to get across, but this time it was easy because it was pretty much recorded live, and Matt ['Verta' Ray] was a great motivator. Plus the studio was underneath a club and it was CMJ week - a big annual music festival - so there was a constant electric atmosphere."
"The whole thing was an explosion in a whirlwind and I hope it's reflected on the album."
The album is a hypnotic blend of soulful blues numbers etched with Copter's raw, energetic electro-rock sound.
On Shake It Off and 6ft Chicken (no, really), Copter demonstrate an exhilarating mix of rock and roll blues at a blistering punk rock tempo, with some pretty nifty harmonica riffs providing an inventive contrast to their signature sci-fi sound effects.
On Blues for MILO, the singing robot takes centre stage, and wrenches heart strings with his tale of woeful, electronic depression.
The electric ambience of Strangest Tales reflects the quirky and dynamic streak at the heart of this very strange band.
So what is the future - or the past, I suppose - for this gaggle of galactic time lords?
"Who knows, we're a fly-by-the-seat-of-your-flaming-pants kind of band. New website, we need to get the album out there, maybe a short tour of the UK around April, record a couple of EPs ourselves then get back over to America at the end of the year to record the next album."
Despite the fact that Strangest Tales will only be a limited release, the buzz developing around this band is hard to ignore.
That buzz could be white noise: a residual echo, leaking from their core reactor. But forthcoming tours and the prospect of another album in 2006, it is most likely the sign that
Copter are ready for take-off.
* Copter will be on tour in March. Strangest Tales is scheduled for release in spring 2006.