The last two years have been non-stop for Courtney Barnett, and it looks like 2015 will be no different, with a debut album on the way and plans to perform at the SXSW Music Festival next March.
The rush is officially on. It’s time to begin preparing for SXSW 2015, as the first round of bands was announced today.
Toronto’s dream-pop outfit Alvvays made a big splash last year with the release of their self-titled debut on Polyvinyl Records (Transgressive in Europe, Royal Mountain Music in Canada, P-Vine in Japan and Hi-Note in Taiwan, Hong Kong, Singapore and Malaysia), with a series of magic button and sound gurus, including Chad VanGaalen, Holy Fuck’s Graham Walsh and John Agnello (Sonic Youth, Dinosaur Jr., Kurt Vile). A full year of touring between continents in the U.K., U.S. and Canada, included their first appearance at SXSW this year and is on the list to return in 2015.
We’ve all been there. Standing in the midst of a festival where our smartphones work great at taking pictures...that we can’t share until we’ve left the festival and returned to the land of Wi-Fi or mobile signals. But things are changing in the world of connectivity at festivals, and that’s what we’ll discuss with the people making that happen at next year’s SXSW 2015. But WE NEED YOUR VOTE!
Watching members of Augustines, Billy McCarthy, Eric Sanderson, and Rob Allen, playing and singing their hearts out a capella in the middle of the crowd at Larimer Lounge in Denver with lots of smiles from the faces surrounding them, these musicians live and breath their connection with these people huddled in this small rock club. Having seen them a few years ago at the Bluebird, my friend Jen and I enjoyed the after-show banter with the band members; the sumptuous dessert after a luscious meal of songs from the band's repertoire.
The guys cherish these moments to talk to the people that listen and drink in their personal tales of triumph and woe. As the double edge sword of popularity, relishing in the embrace of their fan base and growth, moments likes these are not always possible and may be even less so in the future, if all continues to grow and blossom.
As the paying-your-dues story goes, Augustines have the road rash and badges to show for it, including dealing with legal issues in regards to the use of their name and even personal and tragic loss of loved ones. Having reclaimed their identity and arrived at this point in their journey, the overall feeling and embrace of the aptly named self-titled album is one of rebirth, where a level of self knowledge and a more worldly perspective has been taken even deeper than before. Billy responds, “It’s always funny with anything like art, painting, photography, poetry, whatever, you’re, ‘I feel this way. I wonder if it will come out in the work.' We all really feel that way, and we’re constantly reinventing ourselves.”
While Augustines’ musical legacy and catalogue is strung together with silk threads of deeply personal stories put to song, the tracks on the new album move into the realm of thriving and not just surviving, about getting out of your mind, literally, as on “Nothing to Lose But Your Head,” set to triumphant percussion and choruses, catapulting your soul past loss and ache. To get rid of the human penchant of living in the past and bringing yourself into the present, turn to “Don’t You Look Back.”
“Well, we talk a lot, we think a lot, we reflect a lot on life,” Eric adds. “I think it’s only natural that it comes across in our music. We’ve talked about the ideas behind the record a lot now, and the truth is, we didn’t sit down and come up with a theme and then carry it out. We just carried on doing what we do; being present, being conscious, and trying to express what’s going on in our thoughts and our lives.”
According to Eric, this songwriting process involved a lot of soul searching, and “coming to terms with who you are, and coming to terms with the fact that you don’t know who you are. At the same time it was a really fascinating time not entirely knowing who we are. We had the opportunity to reflect on our lives and not be held back by unbelievable struggle. We had the opportunity to sit in some degree of comfort and look at ourselves and say, ‘Who are we?’”
At this point Billy looks at his bandmate with an expression of recognition of those moments, half laughing in a way of relief of those accomplishment emotional resolutions. Eric continues, “When you’re a struggling artist your entire life, you don’t have that luxury. All you have is this identity you form as the struggling artist…trying to prove that you’re worth something. Then you finally get to the place that you always wanted to be, you have to ask yourself, ‘Where are you going to go from there?’ because that identity of a struggling artist no longer exists.”
While Augustines may not have the opportunity to huddle in the middle of the crowd at every show to perform in the way they did in Denver, Billy vows they will retain their sense of closeness to the people who take their music to heart.
“We’ve always liked the word ‘community’ rather than ‘fans.’ because these are people who have homes, and lives, and jobs, and they’re coming here to be with us,” he said, delving into the other side of popularity in the form of sold out shows and radio airplay, of their music being picked up by the mass populous. “It’s a little threatening. We had to work through a lot of those thoughts. What happens when the crowds are so much bigger and we don’t get to get out there?”
Already Billy admits that in some cities it turns out to be a circus if they all go out into the crowd after the show, like the sold out turning point for Augustines at Shepard’s Bush Empire.
Connecting back to that time, the anthemic “Now You Are Free,” feels of sorts, as a love letter to London, and the making of its video brought the two countries of America and Britain together, representing the cross-country roots of Augstines’ members. In fact, Rob’s father is in the video driving the taxi. “That kind of integrates a lot of our community, family ethos.”
The Crookes sat down with Kaffeine Buzz today, theoretically speaking, via Skype (along with intermittent screen and audio freezes) to discuss the Sheffield band’s third album, Soapbox (out April 14 on Fierce Panda in the U.K, April 15 on Modern Outsider in the U.S.), and their third time back to Austin to perform a SXSW 2014.
As a veteran of SXSW, I’ve learned many tricks of the trade over the years to not only survive the ‘marathon, not a sprint’ annual conference and party extravaganza, but come out the other end thriving. Most of these lessons have been learned the hard way by being ill prepared or just not knowing what to expect, since things change from year to year. I’m sharing my SXSW veteran tips and tricks so you can enjoy an event better SXSW experience.
The beauty about music is it can lead anyone anywhere, figuratively or literally, as a listener or as a songwriter. For Griff Snyder, it took him from the snowy mountains of Colorado to the shores of California and back; from the days of folk music parties featuring his band Dovekins to the solo explorations of electronic music and the birth of Inner Oceans.
What may or may not be an 'official band photo' of Portland's Grandhorse is no doubt an apt representation of their persona: floating carefree in the water, jovial, and bonding with cold beverages.
After chatting with Harry Koisser, lead singer, songwriter and guitarist for Birmingham's PEACE, I realized that the band wasn't on a stretch for this current U.S. tour. He, along with Samuel Koisser on bass, Douglas Castle on guitar, and Dominic Boyce on drums had been going solid since I'd seen them on the last day of SXSW 2013, playing a blow-out set at the British Music Embassy showcase.