With the start of the new year, Austin’s music scene continues to grow and change. Blossoming new bands play their very first shows just about every day of the week, sometimes splitting bills with bands playing their last. In such a musically cataclysmic environment, it’s easy to see why bands make up, break up, stay together, and cut records. This happens incessantly and in whatever order. Here’s a look at some of the new up and comers to the Austin music scene. Crooked Bangs, who have been earning their stripes playing out frequently in all your favorite rock n’ roll haunts, and Unknown Relatives, a band made up of some Sacramento/Memphis transplants. They are gaining a buzz and finding their place at home on the same stomping grounds. I got a chance to interview each of the bands about plans for the new year, music, and how they feel about what’s going on in Austin, after they played a show together recently at Beerland.
I went there for an interview with Crooked Bangs, a three piece that I have loved watching grow as a band since I first saw them sometime in the late summer/early fall of last year, and ended up being blown away by Unknown Relatives. They were unknown to me, so after the show I asked them if they would like to also do an interview for an article on newer bands in town. I was met with enthusiasm, charm and an all-around positive attitude about playing music. All I had heard about them was from a girl I knew, and all she had said was, "Oh yeah, Unknown Relatives. They’re really good. I just saw them.”
Later I heard some highly dubious quasi-legend about them all coming from different places and meeting on a bus to Austin and deciding to start a band. The truth sounds less like a shitty Cameron Crowe movie idea that never happened, and more like the reality of what usually brings people together who just wanna make music.
Louis: So where are you guys from?
Jason: Well, me and our drummer and bassist are all from Sacramento. We kinda moved here together. We all moved at different times, but then we converged after a certain amount of time and then we just started a band.
Louis: So did you guys know each other prior?
Kyle: No, I’m from Memphis.
Louis: I was just up there for Gonerfest.
Kyle: Oh really? Cool. Goner’s awesome.
Louis: Yeah, it was the first time I had been. I had a great time.
Jason: Check out anyone really good, did you see The Gories?
Louis: Yeah I got to see The Gories, and I really liked Brides, this old Chicago punk band, they were killer.
Jason: They’re fucking awesome, Brides? Man they’re so good.
Louis: Yeah I guess they haven’t played in like fifteen years or something. They were all bitching at each other between songs, but the set was awesome. I got the set list, it was on a pizza box, but then I lost it.
Jason: Yeah dude, I watch just like YouTube videos of them cause I can’t find any of their shit online, and I watched this video and it scared me, just watching it. I was like man this is getting out of hand. I thought it was great.
Louis: So what do you guys have in mind for 2012?
Kyle: SXSW for sure, we wanna get a couple gigs for that. That’s like our main priority, ‘cause we wanna get a tour going next year.
Louis:Have you guys recorded anything?
Jason: Were trying to do that, really hard. Talking to everyone, you know like man we’ll buy you a case of beer!
Kyle: We could have got that four track, but Chris never got my message I sent. If he had got it we could use that. Then the guy from These Are Words...
Jason: Yeah Ian, Ian might do it. I’m friends with These Are Words, I actually played bass with them for a little bit. Ian’s cool as fuck that dude has like … Have you heard that guy’s recordings before?
Jason: They’re so good. He has some These Are Words recordings and they’re spot on, awesome.
Louis: Are you guys thinking about doing some 7”s, or an LP?
Jason: We talked about it…
Kyle: But we think it’s best just to get them all out at once.
Jason: Yeah just get them out there.
Louis: So what are some bands in town that you like?
Jason: Strange Boys, Harlem, Woven Bones, Crisis Hotlines, These Are Words. This band I saw last night, Rufio, they were amazing. Love Collector, they’re the best, they’re so fun. I saw them one time and they blew me away. Oh and OBN III’s, they’re one of my favorite bands. Coma in Algiers…
Louis: So how long have you guys been living here?
Jason: Well I’ve been here a year. Nick’s been here since September.
Kyle: Me and Nick have been here about three months.
Jason: Jessie has been here about a year, we sort of moved here together.
Unknown Relatives: I hope their faces don't get stuck like that ...
Louis: So what made you guys move here?
Jason: Well I was already a big fan of a lot of music from this town. In California, I knew of a lot of bands I liked a lot. I knew when I moved here I’d be happy. Cause there’s good music, and wherever there’s good music there’s a great time.
Louis: What about you?
Kyle: I was living in Fort Worth, and one day I was just like I gotta get out of here.
Nick: I felt like I was going to die if I stayed where I was.
Louis: Where were you?
Nick: In Sacramento.
Kyle: It’s kinda weird how we met. I was living in Fort Worth, and one day I just drove down here randomly, I moved here by myself not knowing anybody. I was just like ... let’s see what happens. Jason, Jessie, and Nick all knew each other. Then I got here, I was just walking down the street the day I moved here. I was wearing a Spacemen 3 t-shirt, and within like three hours of being here I ran into Jason, and he saw my shirt and was like, "Hey Spacemen 3. I fucking love Spacemen 3." Then we started hanging out and now we have a band.
Nick: Yeah I remember the first band practice me and Jason had here. Me and Jason had played together in a couple bands back home. I get there and this little squirrelly fuck was already there in the room, and I was like “who the fuck’s this guy?”
Nick: Then Jason said, “This is Kyle he’s going to be playing with us now.”
Kyle: I was like, what’s up man? Cool! How’s it going man?!
Nick: Then the next morning we all wake up, all sleeping in Jason’s bed, Tri-portioned. I wake up and Kyle walks out ... and ever since I was a little kid I’ve always been a hot sauce junkie. You know how your mom would give you like Tabasco when you’d do something fucked up. ‘Open your mouth, now stick out your tongue!', but I was like "Ooooh all right" ..... then eventually she realized that her plan had completely backfired.
Kyle: So that first morning, we woke up and Jason was like “you guys can’t stay here anymore.” We were like “all right, we’ll figure it out", and the first thing I saw this man do was make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich ... and then cover it in hot sauce. Then he put it together and was like “alright! Let’s go!" I think that was the day we had like what, four dollars left?
Nick: No that was another day. We still had some money then.
Kyle: Oh yeah. That’s when we went and got 40s and got stoned. Then we went to Barton Springs and listened to David Bowie.
Nick: Yeah we had a two man dance party by ourselves. We were dancing in the woods and I was thinking, “I don’t know this cat, but this is the initiation. If he doesn’t get up and dance in the woods with me to Bowie, then he’s fucking stupid.” So I was like, all right. All right this guy’s cool .... so as they say in Robocop. “I’d buy that for a dollar.”
We all laugh.
Kyle: So yeah ... that day began our semi-platonic love affair. Haha.
At this point a homeless guy came up to the fence asking for money.
Kyle: I got nothing for you, sorry!
Homeless Guy: How ‘bout a quarter?
Kyle: I don’t have any quarters, I’m homeless too.
Nick hands him some change.
Homeless Guy: God is good for him. God’s going to bless this man.
![Crooked Bangs: Leda thrashes on the disgusting (possibly living?) Beerland stage.]
Crooked Bangs: Leda thrashes on the disgusting (possibly living?) Beerland stage.
Nick: God forgot about me a long time ago, but here you go.
We all three laugh at this.
Homeless Guy: God is good, God is always good.
Nick: David Bowie is good. David Bowie is always good.
Kyle: God is good, but Bowie’s better.
The homeless guy walked off after that.
Kyle: I like that question Johnathan asked us at the ballroom about that picture that was up there, which is the eternal question. Is that a lady or is that David Bowie? You know that one where he’s sitting in the chair and that dog’s jumping.
Louis: Yeah. Yeah.
Nick: Which reminds me of another eternal question. Is she hot, or just sixteen?
Kyle: The answer to that is yes.
Louis: Laughing .. either way.
We all laugh.
Nick: You wanna go to this Camel party and drink free beer?
Louis: Oh man I would, but my ride’s here.
Jessie: It’s right around the corner from here.
I mulled over the idea, let my buddy know that I was going down the street, and then left with them to go to a Camel-sponsored party not far from 7^th^ and Red River. I drank some free beer from a company I had never heard of, while gambling on a roulette table with tens of thousands of dollars in casino chips that held no real monetary value. Which sucked because I kept winning, and I didn’t want to wait ‘til they were redeemable at 1:30am for some kinds of prizes. People were eating sandwich wraps off of a bar and playing blackjack in the corner. I was having a good time and was locked in almost perpetual laughter since we began the interview, but I had to go back to Beerland. I had already hung out for longer than I planned, so I said goodbye to the guys, and gave Nick the rest of my chips to gamble with. When I got back to Beerland, Crooked Bangs had already finished their set to my disappointment, but I was still able to sit down with Leda and Samantha to ask them some questions about their prospects for the next year.
Jordan, their drummer, played his last show that night. They tried to get him to sit in for the interview also, but I think he was in the middle of a conversation and I don’t think he was feeling it since it was, after all, his last show with them.
Louis: So Jordan’s not playing with you anymore?
Samantha: No, it was a mutual decision.
Louis: So what do you have going on for the new year?
Leda: We’re trying to record. Really what we want to do right now is put out an album. Get something done recording-wise in the next couple months. We’ve got bigger and better things planned for this year, but were still trying to feel everything out.
Louis: You guys are a relatively new band, right?
Both: Yeah. Somewhat.
Leda: We started playing a lot around town like three or four months ago, but we’ve been playing for like eight or so.
Louis: The first time I saw you guys, I thought you were pretty good. Since then, I feel every time I see you, you get progressively better.
Leda: That’s cool. Thanks!
Samantha: We have our good moments.
Leda: Right now, we’re working on our oldest song ... and trying to make it the best. We used to be in another band with like six people.
Samantha: With four dudes ...
Leda: ... and us two. We had this song Blood Castle, and that was our oldest song. That was the first song that I wrote lyrics for in Spooky Scary, our last band, our old band. Then when Spooky Scary disbanded, we changed Blood Castle and we played it for a long time. Then we cut it out of the set after a while cause it was just so rough, and we were just like “what in the hell is going on with this?” So we’re trying to fix it now, and that’s going to be like our new uncut, bigger, better South Park song.
Louis: Okay so do you have any influences you guys wanna cite?
Leda: I don’t think I really have any influences in mind. I mean when we first started playing, for the first two months we didn’t have any vocals. I was too nervous, I didn’t put any vocals to the songs. Then I started singing stuff. Then by the time we started playing shows, everyone was like “Oh, you sound like Danzig...”
I laughed at this point, because I had heard this a couple times, totally separate from the occasion. This was a topic I wanted to touch on, but I figured, rightly so, that it was something that annoyed them.
Louis: I have heard that.
Leda: Yeah, I haven’t been able to shake that.
At this point, my friend Lisa, who also writes for The Austin Cut, brought a round of whiskey shots for us all to take. Then someone else brought another...Enter the Haze.
We all cheered as we took the shots.
Leda: We’ve got one more.
Louis: One more.
Samantha: Oh Shit.
We all cheered again.
Leda: Thank you. If you’re real Austin, you pump your shots. Anyway, yeah I don’t have any influences. I mean, Samantha is my influence because she’s the brains behind this band.
Samantha: What band?
Leda: She wrote all the songs. She would be like, “hey I wrote this" and then she would play it for me, to show me how to play it.
Louis: I feel like starting out, you guys had an idea of what you wanted to do with your music and you just followed through with that and it’s just developed since.
Samantha: Yeah, I hadn’t played or been in a decent, solid band til I moved to Austin. That’s why I fucking came here. [She laughs] It helps to play often.
Leda: ... and to have a good person to play off of, and give each other ideas. It helps with the progression of the band.
Samantha: Yeah. Her and I, we have a good thing going.
Leda: Yeah. We have a good dynamic. Every time we play we want to get better, and it’s a hackneyed thing to say ...
Louis: … but fuck it. If that’s what you mean, that’s what you mean.
Leda: We just want to play our music.
Samatha: Yeah we just want to put on a good show, and play something that we like.
Louis: Anything else you wanna add?
Leda: Yeah I love French onion soup and space heaters. They’re wonderful!
Louis: Yes! Space heaters, I have one at home they are wonderful. When I wake up in the morning I sit next to mine and smoke cigarettes till I’m warm enough to get dressed.
Leda: What other questions do you have?
Louis: How do you feel about bands in this city that play in the same music scene?
Leda: That’s hard to say. I feel that the music that we go for is made to combat any girl band stereotype.
Samantha: I’ll concur.
Louis: I’ll even fucking concur. Thank God. You put out music that’s aggressive, but you don’t compromise it by making a big deal about eighty percent of the band being girls.
Leda: Come on. Jordan deserves more of a percentage than that.
Louis: Whatever. Jordan is five percent if he’s lucky! ... I’m just kidding I really like that guy.
Leda: Although he does contribute some percentage of vagina. Laughing.
Samantha: He’s got the biggest fucking vagina of us all.
Leda: Put that in the paper.
Samantha: Print it up! No we’re kidding don’t print that.
Louis: [Laughing] Pressed and pressed.
Samantha: But, yeah we just want to play what’s in our heart. I’m not playing music because people like it. I’m not writing songs to tell anyone who I am. I’m playing it because it’s what I wanna hear. I feel like music in Austin ... is really dark, but pop centered. We try to find a nice middle ground.
Leda: I feel like there’s this weird tendency to go toward whatever genres are happening in Austin. There are like four or five really big genres going on right now. Like metal, punk, pop rock ... 70s inspired...
We all laugh.
Leda: … and then the fancy shit, but then at the same time, still incorporate ourselves. I think we are almost definitely doing what we’re trying to do. So that’s our spiel, that’s our life story.
Samantha: That was a crappy interview.
We all laugh.
http://austincut.com/sites/default/files/images/unknown-relatives-full.png "Unknown Relatives: I hope their faces don't get stuck like that ..."
[Crooked Bangs: Leda thrashes on the disgusting (possibly living?) Beerland stage.]: http://austincut.com/sites/default/files/images/leda-crooked-bangs.png "Crooked Bangs: Leda thrashes on the disgusting (possibly living?) Beerland stage."