The Emo Diaries at ACL Part II

Tyler Jordan of Good Look

Austin-local since 2006, Tyler Jordan is not only an excellent kickball player, but also writes, fronts, and plays guitar in Keeled Scales’ Good Looks. We sat down on Zoom for a chat about their history, their future, and the Austin music community’s beautiful response to fellow bandmate Jake Ames’ shocking accident earlier this year.

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Disclaimer: Tyler is a personal acquaintance, so this interview gets kind of in the weeds. We used to play kickball together every week and we got a little lost talking about it near the end.

Stream “Bummer Year” (which, weirdly enough, was written prior to 2020) wherever you listen to music. You can also watch the interview below:

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Britt Daniel

I am so happy to have gotten to chat with fellow former Temple resident and current Austin legend Britt Daniel from the band Spoon during ACL

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We talked about Austin, first concerts, and where else Lucifer might turn up. I also got a great history lesson about our own KOOP as well as our sister station KVRX, where Britt used to be a DJ.

“I started there when I was a junior in UT. And then I after I graduated, I kept taking classes so that I could keep working at the radio station.” And if you like classic country, check out Paris-based artist Theo Lawrence.

Stream “Lucifer On The Sofa” wherever you listen to music. You can also watch the interview below:

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Primo the Alien

Austin electropop sensation Primo the Alien was scheduled to make her ACL Fest debut last year but was an unfortunate casualty of the rain. While we had to wait a year for her to rock the Tito’s stage, it was not a year wasted. She and her band came out, worked through technical issues, and still managed to slay the pants off everyone in the audience.

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Earlier this fall, she also got her chance to blow away everyone in Q2 Stadium when she performed the national anthem at the Austin FC game on September 14.

“I was terrified,” she said. “But once I started hitting the notes and everyone started cheering, then it was just exhilarating and amazing to hear that many people cheering for me at once.”

Watch my interview with her below (featuring her performance of “My Delorean”) and streamher latest album “Heart on the Run (Deluxe Edition)” wherever you listen to music. You can also hear audio from the interview and some of her songs on the October 21 episode of The Emo Diaries at 4:30pm!

Interviews by Stephanie Robinson

The Emo Diaries at ACL Part I

Charlotte Sands

Nashville-based rising queen of pop punk, Charlotte Sands, is known for her epic collaborations with established genre royalty such as The Maine and Sleeping With Sirens, but the blue-haired songstress is so much more than the songs she guests on.

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I was really looking forward to speaking with her about mental health awareness, not only personally, but because it’s something that KOOP is highlighting during the month of October. “I feel like a lot of artists come forward and talk about the fact that they go to therapy, they really push other people going to therapy and like think it’s really helpful. I am one of those people,” she said. “I think that taking care of yourself and taking care of your mental health and your emotional well-being and your body as a whole is the only way that you can take care of other people and actually live a healthy life… I think it’s just helpful for everybody to have somebody who’s on your side and somebody who supports you and just wants you to be your best self.”

Stream “Love and Other Lies” wherever you listen to music. You can also listen to the interview below:

 

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Me Nd Adam

On Tuesday, October 4, Adam Walker and Vince Winik of “Austin’s very own trashwave trailblazers” Me Nd Adam took time out from their busy schedule to hang out on Zoom for a brief interview. I mean, they were literally so busy, they were in the hallway of a dorm. We talked about how they met, what “trashwave” is, and what it was like getting to open for The Killers and Johnny Marr! “It was a fabulous experience,” explained Vince. “It was easily one of our best shows ever, from a performance stance and having the biggest audience we’ve ever played to, so we were very grateful for the opportunity.”

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They are also looking forward to headlining outside at Stubb’s in about 2 years. “We broke the rearview mirrors off a long time ago,” Adam said.

Stream “American Drip Pt. 1” wherever you listen to music. You can also watch the interview below:

Interviews by Stephanie Robinson

Local Music Spotlight: The Lonesome Heroes

The Band: The Lonesome Heroes is a cosmic Americana foursome fronted by lead singer and songwriter Rich Russell. Other members of the band include bassist Brandon Gonzalez, drummer Ben Galloway, and lead guitarist Gary Newcomb (also of seminal Austin band Li’l Cap’n Travis. Other friends and occasional band members come and go, depending on the gig. Rich and Gary have been playing together for over 10 years.

Where/When: The Heroes will be playing this Friday, June 24, at Sagebrush from 11:00 p.m. to 1:00 a.m. They’ll also be playing at The Porch in San Marcos on Saturday, June 25 at 8:00 p.m. They have an album-release party scheduled for Saturday, July 16 at 10:30 p.m. at the Austin Beer Garden Brewing Company to celebrate the release of their latest, Rise and Fall. Their most recent residency was on Sunday afternoons in May at Lustre Pearl South on Menchaca Road. With a little luck, they’ll return there or to the White Horse in the fall for a regular stint.

What’s Special About This Artist: The Lonesome Heroes is one of the best Americana bands working in Austin. They have a mellow, upbeat sound distinguished by enigmatic lyrics that flow from Rich Russell’s seeming bemusement with whatever life throws his way. Their music is thoughtful and fun. A Lonesome Heroes show is good for two-stepping, kicking back with a few beers, or diving into their kaleidoscopic lyrics, like this gem from the album Can’t Stand Still:

 

So give me your whole heart and nothing more

Leave the light on and a key to your door

I’ll tiptoe in silence dancing ‘cross your floor

While you’re dreaming of moonbeams

 

That album was recognized by the Austin Chronicle as one of the best Austin albums of 2015. The song “Western Style Saloons” was featured in a soundtrack for the Netflix series Bloodline. The first release from Rise and Fall, “Lucky by Birth,” seems to bring the Heroes’ music ever closer to the intersection of indie and country, or maybe even more indie. The sound and lyrics evoke early Beck:

 

I’m just weak in the knees

I feel the debris

A bump on a log  

 

One of the very best things the Heroes do is make offbeat, unserious music videos. Hopefully there are more to come with the new album.

 

Interview with Rich Russell

Q: How did the May residency at Lustre Pearl South come about?
A: We did some shows there in March. We’ve got a new album coming out that we’ll be touring for, so the residency is sort of a rehearsal for us. We might be getting another residency at the White Horse in the future, maybe every Wednesday in the fall.

Q: What’s the status of the new album?
A: We’re having a release party July 16th at ABGB. And we’re actually recording yet another album right now on top of that. Name TBD.

Q: Sounds like you’ve been writing a lot. What is your creative process like?
A: First, I have to credit Gary, who has produced the last three records and does a lot of the music arrangement. He’s a genius. I write the songs. I go on songwriting retreats. A friend of mine, Johan Wagner, hosts a retreat every year out west at Chinati Hot Springs called the Crooked Crow Songwriter’s Retreat. Every year there are 30+ songwriters. Everything on Rise and Fall was stuff I started working on at the retreat.

Q: How did you get involved in Crooked Crow?
A: We used to tour like crazy. We played 150+ road shows a year, and I never got to write. I was always managing. I met Johan at the Kerrville Folk Festival. He said, “Come out and cook for the retreat.” It was life-changing. Out in Chinati, I said to myself, “Holy sh*t, I’m an artist.” But I’m a sh*tty businessman. I had been negotiating for $600 gigs for Saturday nights in rural Wyoming. We toured Australia, and I ran up $15,000 in debt from that. I realized I needed to focus on writing and recording and stop chasing low-dollar gigs. Now I’ve been going to Johan’s retreat for eight years. He plays these classic songs and explains the musical origins. Everything in music is borrowed from something else. Nothing we do is truly original. For me it’s about respecting the work that’s come before and building on it. Two of our new songs have a melody like the Beatles’ “Norwegian Wood.”

Q: What do you like best about Rise and Fall?
A: We cut it all live. No overdubs. We did five or six cuts of each song. The core is bass and drums and me singing live. It feels good not to obsess over it. And with our next record, which we’re also cutting live, that’s even more true. Ben (Galloway) is a great singer and it’s making me a better singer. We’re singing together; it corrects my pitch. It’s exciting to feel we’re still getting better. Recording live has power to it. Beyond that, I’m happy just to get the album released so I can get on with my life.

Q: Where did you record Rise and Fall?
A: Public Hi-Fi, Spoon’s studio here in town, just west of Mopac. Georgia Parker is on three tracks on the new album, but most of the rest of the new record will be just the basic lineup, the four of us. I really wanted to make the record as a band. We’ve finally graduated to being good. There’s been a lot of learning: how to sing right, how to record, capturing the feeling of the live take. I think it’s harder to polish something and give it feeling if you don’t capture that essence in the live recording.

Q: How did the Lonesome Heroes get started?
A: When I moved to Austin, I played with a metal band, a bluegrass band, and then the Lonesome Heroes. We first got together in 2005. The band formally launched in 2006 with our first record. We started with a residency at Headhunters, which was featuring alt-country showcases and weird country music. Then we moved on to a residency at the Hole in the Wall and then started a residency in Luckenbach. We played there for about five months until they figured out we were too weird for Luckenbach.

Q: Your lyrics sound like scenes and sketches from various sources. Can you say more about your writing process?
A:  I’ve never considered myself a musician. I was a lit major. I try not to be too heady. A lot of my songs are inspired by western landscapes. Also, I used the cut-up method, an approach William S. Burroughs helped popularize. For instance, take three crappy novels, cut them up with scissors, and recombine the pages. Ginsberg does not work for this. Danielle Steel works really well. It’s kind of still connected to your subconscious. I like to see what I can come up with from the same three books, scraps from things I hear people say. I write on scraps of paper. I had a binder. I left the binder at a gig. It’s lost, but I have recordings of it all.

Q: Your song “Western Style Saloons” has a curious reference. You sing, “I wish I could borrow Larry’s lighter and put my troubles to an end.” What’s that about?
A:  That’s a reference to Ramsay Midwood’s last album, Larry Buys a Lighter. My song is about a dude who’s been on the road too long. I was inspired by Ramsay, who has a way of not caring in the way his sings. His voice isn’t emotive, but he’s playing really cool sh*t. He uses a straight J.J. Cale drumbeat. Dennis O’Donnell appears in the song. Dennis was manager of the Hole in the Wall before he took over at the White Horse and then Sagebrush. Dennis would bring us trays of shots. On that song I wrote “And then Dennis marches over with the whiskey and a devilish grin.” He was the Devil. And he’s more invested than anyone in keeping Austin music cool and weird.

Q: How do you describe your music? What genre would you place your work in?
A: We’re Americana, I guess. I say indie rock country. Alt-country used to work as a descriptor, but we don’t sound like alt-country now. I guess cosmic Americana works. We’re right between the hippies and the cowboys and the hipsters. 

Q: What are your favorite Austin bands?
A: Li’l Cap’n Travis, Little Mazarn, David Longoria, the Weary Boys. The Weary Boys were our original rhythm section. I like Long River. They do fingerpicking, folk. I’m an indie rock guy. I like to listen to spacey art rock and then dance to country. My friend Jeff Johnston is in the duo Little Mazarn (with Lindsey Verrill). They had a Tuesday night residency recently at the Hole in the Wall. Must-see.

Q: In the summers, you play a bunch of gigs in Wyoming and nearby states. What’s the connection?
A: A while back we decided to go west. I love camping, the mountains. I use the band as a vessel to get out. It makes up for not making any money. So much of the last album (Can’t Stand Still) is about the West. We’re trying to drop that and move on. Still, Laramie is our other home base. I have a whole other band up there. We tour these little towns. The old hippies and cowboys come out. We’ve had the same gig in Jackson for 15 years and also in Centennial, a tiny town outside Laramie. We’ll be there in early July. Everyone is in tie-dye and has a snow mobile and a gun, and it doesn’t make sense. We played a total solar eclipse there four or five years ago. We opened for Reckless Kelly. We avoid that crowd now.

Q: Making ends meet as a musician can be challenging. How do you do it?
A: I used to have a house on Wilson Street, just south of the H-E-B on Oltorf. There were some old cottages. Janis used to live there way back. It was $500 a month for me. That was super doable as a musician in 2010.  They tore those down and built condos. I used to do construction for 10 years. Then I was a Lyft driver for five years while playing music as much as I could. Now I deliver the Austin Chronicle. I’m the youngest member of the delivery team at 42. I’m lucky to own my house. It’s in the Holly neighborhood in East Austin. I rent it, and I live in the shed out back. I freelance all the way. I paint houses with my girlfriend, take odd jobs. I do sound for other bands. People know me; I get jobs. I say to younger musicians who are starting out that playing on the road is romantic, but make sure you have a side hustle so you can make your own art.

Q: You mentioned you’re a fan of KOOP. Do you have a favorite show?
A: Jamaican Gold, Art Baker’s show from 12-2 p.m. on Sundays. I also love the Thursday morning western swing show, The Lonesome Stranger. I always listen to it while I’m delivering the Chronicle. KOOP is a perfect model of what I love about Austin and what it used to be. It’s community. I would quit music if it wasn’t for the music community here.

Article by Fred Richardson

SXSW22: A True Revival

the author taking it all in, photo by Roger Ho

Armed with a press badge, I took #SXSW22 in stride, dabbling in film, interactive, and musical offerings for KOOP. Back was the thrill of hailing pedicabs, cutting lines (and also waiting in them), pounding the pavement to catch bands all over town, stomach full of free tacos and beer. As familiar as it all felt, there were growing pains as SXSW finds its wings under new ownership and an Austin changed by the past few years.

While there are opportunities for improvement (investing in sound! better outdoor venues! more diverse panelists! crowd control!), I think all would agree that SXSW’s revival was a success for the city. A few trends and takeaways stand out as South By’s shadow starts to fade—read on for some legendary musical reunions, a spotlight on local Austin superheroes, and why the ubiquitous conversation about web3 fell short.

Listen to our SXSW playlist as you go!

cymande, photo by max puglisi

1. Revival stories all around

While SXSW was on its own revival path, many musicians were also hitting the road after a few years- or a few decades- away. I was honored to be at performances by no less than 3 bands (Cymande, WITCH, and Ural Thomas and the Pain) whose winding paths through music deserve their own documentaries. One of those groups did come to SXSW as the subject of the world premiere documentary feature from Tim Mackenzie-Smith—Getting it Back: The Story of Cymande. The film was goosebump-raising, enriching Cymande’s live performance with a fascinating backstory.

Cymande (pronounced sigh-mahn-day) is a calypso-inspired funk group formed in England in the early 1970s. With their undefinable fusion of sounds—owed, in part, to their Caribbean roots—the group’s music came to fame via a tour with Al Green in the USA. Not long after, the band split and went on with their lives in Brixton, London, where they were essentially unknown. Their records, however, lived on on American airwaves: the hypnotic rhythms they contained eventually became essential samples in the formative days of hip hop and disco. In Getting it Back, DJs from Jazzy J to De La Soul speak reverently of Cymande’s self-titled 1972 record, calling it the most influential album of their early careers.

Fast-forward to Friday night of the fest, on Rainy Street: a hip crowd—some aware of the mystical status of the band and some just drinking—gathered in the cramped backyard of Lucille’s. Those in the know laughed at the randomness of a mid-sized cocktail bar hosting a group of certified legends. When Cymande took the stage, all of lost our minds to the tune of “Bra” (a song that you would almost certainly recognize by sample if not in its original form). The fusion of all the instruments—bongos to saxophones to the most wandering of bass lines—was a taste of magic that the documentary hammered home.

Another revival group played the same bill that night, lucky audience members pinching themselves all the while. WITCH (We Intend To Cause Havoc), was the quintessential band of Zamrock, an afro-psychedelic genre born in the 1970s in Zambia. Original members Emanuel “Jagari” Chanda and Patrick Mwondela performed dressed in traditional African fabrics alongside a group of Tame Impala-esque session rockers. They enraptured the 1am crowd with a fuzzy, percussive set, dressing up the lo-fi tracks from across their 10-year-long discography.

I also tagged on a quick visit to San Jose to see Ural Thomas and the Pain, whom I previewed for KOOP. The soul-and-funk, gospel-tinged band featured a saxophone & trumpet, and Url’s voice was almost as sweet as his smile, which poured over crowd in a way can only be described as lovely.

all day all night alright fest, photo by Thomas Blumer

2. Locals supporting locals

I had the responsibility (and pleasure—let’s not get it twisted) of producing a 2-day event called All Day All Night Alright Fest produced by Art Island ATX in collaboration with many local producers and promoters. The event featured shows curated by music festival MoFest and record labels like Mas Music and Howdy Gals, with afterparties that ran into the wee hours. We saw our RSVP slots and tickets sell out before our eyes as we scrambled to keep up with the demand of a 2-day event, even on Tuesday and Wednesday of the week. The demand was shocking—our lineup was mostly packed with local bands playing a smaller stage than they normally would, but it was all about the Southby vibe!

Once I finally recovered from our 2-day marathon, SXSW music was in full swing and I was several days behind. While I was itching to see the “world come to Austin,” many of my friends wanted to see their local favorites for the first time in forever. Similarly, I kept finding myself back at Hotel Vegas nearly every day during the week, waiting in a line that wrapped around the block to catch a grab-bag of local groups and rendezvous with friends. It really did seem like Austin’s weeklong Bounce Back Bash, and Austinites were ready to celebrate their city in the presence of familiars.

Sunday after the fest, crowds of locals looking to decompress headed out to the Hill Country for an annual pilgrimage to Chill Phases, a bespoke day-long art and music gathering set among a juniper thickets. Many of the artists—playing folk, experimental, and alternative rock to a picnicking crowd—live in the Austin area and cut albums at the recording studio on the ranch’s premises, run by musician and producer Dan Duszynski (a.k.a. Dandy Sounds). Dogs ran wild, gentle melodies blanketed the sleepy crowd, and together we watched the sun set on SXSW2022—Texas style.

All these experiences combined brought me to discover some new favorite local groups! I’ve been jamming to Christelle Bofale (soulful folk), TC Superstar (80 dream pop vibes with live choreography!), Caelin (juicy vocals and full rock backing), and Skunk (saxophone-charged hip hop/jazz fusion). Austin turned out for its own, which is very good news for local bands, venues and promoters, whose roots and pockets grew just a little bit deeper.

web3 enthusiasts, including pussy riot’s Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, on a panel about DAOs

3. Web3 chatter didn’t address the elephant in the room

With an opportunity to reflect on the insanity of politics in America and beyond, the pandemic’s lingering impact on global supply chains and public health protocols, not to mention the climate crisis, panelists and thought leaders chose to talk about the invisible instead.

Nearly everyone was talking about web3, the “next iteration of the internet.” The network relies on independent ledgers as information centers, together building an untraceable network of data that powers NFTs (“non-fungible tokens”), DAOs (“decentralized autonomous organizations”), and cryptocurrency (bitcoin, ethereum, etc). This web holds as much promise to decentralize banks, networks, and information centers as it does to make those using it rich beyond imagination (for some, it already has). Panelists spoke in elementary terms to rooms full of reporters, tech pioneers, and, likely, those who are already holders of cryptocurrency. The conversation seemed at ties more congratulatory than critical, with few dissenting opinions present onstage.

No one addressed the elephant in the room: web3’s current energy usage is accelerating climate change. Though still in its infancy, cryptocurrency “mining” consumes more energy globally than the nation of Argentina America has become a world center for the energy-hungry trade. At the most innovative tech conference in Texas—in one of greenest cities in the country, no less—it’s disappointing to see the focus on technologies that further enrich the wealthy and degrade our environment, rather than industries coming together to forge a future that’s sustainable and ethical for everyone.

 

By Maria Gotay