A Few Familiar Faces: Catching up with local artists at SXSW

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Cold Fronts at SXSW | photo by Rachel Del Sordo for WXPN | racheldelsordophotography.com

 

Back in March, I hopped into a van with Vita and the Woolf and headed down to SXSW for the very first time. I had no idea what to expect. It was loud, crowded chaotic and confusing. The beauty of it all lied it everyone coming together to support music and support each other. Amit the clutter and chaos I met up with eight Philadelphia artists who also made the journey to Austin. We talked in all types of spots, from chilling poolside with Caracara to sneaking around a fancy hotel with Vita and The Woolf to tracking down Speedy Ortiz after their showcase’s venue had to get moved in the middle of the show. Music was literally everywhere and I couldn’t wait to dive in.

Caracara

I interviewed Caracara poolside, and joked that the vibe was “tropical vacation with Caracara.” Unfortunately, multi-instrumentalist Carlos Pacheco-Perez was not able to take part in the shoot or the interview. 

On being removed from the chaos…

We’re really just on spring break. We came down to do this show and we played in Nashville on the way, visited some friends and family, seeing some gigs, so. I don’t know, it’s sort of chaos down here. I’m glad to be at a showcase that’s a little bit removed, a little more of like a, I don’t know, like a niche thing. Like, everyone here is here for this, you know? It’s far enough away that they’re here for this.

On the response to Summer Megalith

The record has done more than we really expected it to. It was the first thing that we made, it was the first thing we put out, we put it out before, or we didn’t put it out, but we finished it before we’d even played like a show. We had all been in enough bands that we know, we knew going into this that we didn’t want to screw around with like EPs or singles or anything, so we just made an album, like, this’ll either work or it won’t, and so far it’s been cool.

On embracing the unexpected at SXSW…

This is what I think is kind of the beauty of a festival like this. Last night we went to see our friends Hinds play, like at 1 a.m., and we really had no idea like what any of the other bands on the lineup were like or what to expect, and like I guess, I don’t know, Hinds is pretty punk rock, pretty loud, they’re super fun, and we assumed that it would be like that type of vibe. And the band playing right before them when we arrived was this act called Faye Webster and it was awesome. Like it was really not the mood that we were looking for — like we were trying to party and it was the most beautiful like alt-country, like they had a pedal steel onstage — but like I totally fell in love with the songs, like we’re gonna definitely spin that record a lot on the way home. Just sort of weird surprises like that are nice. Like we walked into that place like ready for, to like jump up and down to Hinds and ended up getting into a new alt-country thing.

On SXSW audiences of music fans and fellow bands…

South By audiences are such a mixed crowd, because they’re gonna hear a hundred bands in a day, and like, maybe you make an impression, maybe you don’t. But, you know, whatever happens, I mean, you have fun, you’re gonna meet people, you know, whether musicians or not, and I think that is what’s cool, it’s just such a gathering.

We’re definitely, you know, at least for us, we’re definitely trying to support our friends that are here, and in turn hopefully they support us, and support their friends, and go and see their showcases. I think, I think definitely if you’re playing here, you know, the musicians are definitely supportive of each other. But, you know, there also are tons of just, music fans who just love discovering music, and I think they’re here to just see as much as they can and hopefully find something they can listen to and love for a long time.

Tour Playlist:

Marc Maron’s What The Fuck Podcast, where Roger Waters of Pink Floyd was interviewed, followed by listening to Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon for the first time.

Cold Fronts

I ran into Cold Fronts a handful of times during my time at SXSW, most notably riding a kayak around a swimming pool post-Hinds concert. When I met up with the band at the end of the week at their showcase at Kababolicous, the band was amid a lively performance featuring tracks off their new album Fantasy du Jour which comes out April 20th. Frontman Craig Almquist was decked out in a cowboy hat and a “King of the Road” tee shirt proclaiming “if you are going to do Texas, you mind as well do Texas.”

Ill Fated Natives

On their tour van…

Otheni: We totally reimagined our van from last time. Last time we came down, it was eight of us, and we tried to use everything from our previous experience to build and have a better second round.

Bets: I swear we fucking rented that van from like Hogwarts or something, because every time we step away from it and come back it’s in chaos, all over again, it’s like, we just cleaned this shit!

On the difference between this year and their first SXSW…

Joey: The first time we didn’t have as many shows, but we were like really like in the mix still, so we were seeing a lot of shows, me and a lot of people, but this time it’s like kind of flipping on us, like we’re just picking up shows as we go along too, and we have like way more booked than last time.

On picking up gigs at an Orlando street festival on the way to Austin…

Otheni: We had like a main stage and side stage, and we got booked on the fly for the side stage, and we set up literally in the street, like an alley, for the way they had the event staggered was that no one would be on at the same time, so everybody at the festival was pretty much bouncing between. So right after, right after, this guy got us booked down there, after Taylor Jones, got us booked down there, we hit right after him, and everybody just flooded the streets, walked, like, came over and just stayed the whole time, was like really vibing out, literally, literally cleared our merch table off.

Which was really cool, because it’s like, those CDs are our first-ever live album, that we just dropped, Live at the Bitter End, so we did the show on the 26th of February, which gave us a week to mix, master, you know what I mean? Put all the songs together, pick the CDs out, put them in cases, put them in, get the, you know, the fucking inserts, all the shit that matters.

Tour Playlist:

Daft Punk, the Black Panther soundtrack, and on the drive through Mississippi, blues musicians like John Lee Hooker, Buddy Guy, and Muddy Waters.

Ivy Sole

On exploring the non-concert side of SXSW…

Today actually I went to the convention center to see the trade show element, and it was really really interesting, got to talk to some music-related startups which was pretty cool. Like Warm Audio, they’re really cool. They’re recreating a lot of like, old equipment, taking a lot of the schematics of really vintage recording equipment and making it extremely affordable, so that’s definitely of interest.

On networking…

I’m seeing a lot of people that I haven’t seen in a minute. I’m not necessarily like in the industry, per se, but I’m like, I do know a couple people here from the quote unquote industry, or I guess not like mainstream industry. Like indie for sure, we know plenty of indie folks. But to see like some of the A&Rs and like some of the more established artists has been nice. At the HBCU house, at Maggie May’s, I met Young Guru who’s like tangentially connected to somebody who’s like mentored me in the past, so it’s just nice to like see people, and to be able to network and stuff.

On Philly’s presence at SXSW…

I think there’s like a lot of people from Philly out here right now, everybody’s making really good stuff, everybody’s performing really well, which is nice. I think that RECPhilly’s doing a really great job of curating showcases and opportunities for people. And Jazzy Jeff had like the best set ever last night, so.

 

Hop Along

I met up with Hop Along amid the chaos of South by Southwest. The band had a ton of showcases in just three short days — including a gig at Willie Nelson’s ranch. It was a big week for the band, as it was the first time they played songs off their new album Bark Your Head Off, Dog to a live audience. These portraits were taken at the FLOODFest 2018 showcase, their final set for the week; the live shots are from the Ground Control Touring showcase a couple nights before.

Queen of Jeans

On SXSW advice for first-timers…

Mattie: Don’t burn yourself out.

Miri: Stay hydrated.

Nina: Try to have fun between gigs. If you’re doing several, try to explore the city. Austin’s really cool, there’s lots of things to see.

Miri: Eat lots of food.

Nina: Give yourself a lot of time to find a parking spot.

Mattie: Kind of just dissociate and check out and pretend it’s somebody else doing it so the enormity of it doesn’t give you a panic attack.

On their sound and how it’s grown on their new record Dig Yourself

Miri: We really like the 60s sound, I think a lot of the influences that went into the writing is the Darlene Love, The Ronettes, stuff like that. But then I was also really inspired by Angel Olsen, St. Vincent, Cass McCombs, artists like that. For the most part. But how it’s developed? I don’t know, I think that the more that we’ve worked together just the sound has changed drastically and we’re kind of like exploring different things and sort of still growing into our sound.

On making the record in three different locations…

Mattie: We started at a warehouse in Fishtown, and then we moved it to Bok, the abandoned vocational school in South Philly, and then we finished it at Nina’s parents’ beach house in Sea Isle City, New Jersey in the winter. So it was like really creepy and empty.

Nina: Yeah, we would just go down there on the weekends. We would work during the week and drive down, spend the weekend working, go back to work, then go back the next weekend.

Mattie: Well with our friend Brian Ziffren, he recorded us. He had like, sort of a mobile station, came in, you know. So not like in a studio.

Miri: It wasn’t ideal, but it was fun, and it was something that, I looked forward to every weekend. Getting back in our beach house studio.

Nina: It’s nice ‘cause in the winter, nobody’s down there, so we could, you know, be as loud as we wanted, work at night if we needed to, you know. We could leave and go to the bar if Miri needed to be alone and to work on her parts.

Miri: We ate a lot of Wawa, so we still felt like we were at home.

Tour Playlist:

Courtney Barnett, Lucy Dacus, St. Vincent, a Cher’s “Walking in Memphis” on the way into Memphis, a Sun Studio Spotify playlist on the way out of Memphis, and podcasts My Favorite Murder and This American Life.

Speedy Ortiz

On coming to her seventh or eighth SXSW…

At this point, I kind of know how it goes. Obviously the something different is you get to see different bands and different friends. But for me it’s more about that I just love Austin and I used to live here, and on tour you only get one day per city, so I’m always really thankful to get a whole week to spend in the city I love so much.

On the influence of electronic pop on Twerp Verse

Obviously it’s more pop than Speedy has been in the past, but the primary reason I did it was wanting to self-produce and home-record. So there are more synths on the Speedy record than previous records, but I don’t know if that’s like distinctly because of the Sad13 project. Certainly we all listened to a lot of pop music together, so it was fun to do songs like that as a full band rather than just me alone in my room. We were really thinking a lot of some 70s and 80s rock bands that we like that incorporate pop elements, like Blondie and Squeeze were big influences on this record. So more like that and less like the Sad13 stuff, which is like, I’m thinking about Grimes on that and Solange and artists like that.

On artists that impressed her at SXSW this year…

Shopping was one of them for sure, and Haley Heynderickx who played earlier. Some of my friends’ bands I’m excited to see, Devon McKnight who used to play in Speedy has a new project called Monica and I’m gonna go see them a couple times this week, Doe is a band I like who’s playing this week. There are just so many things.

Tour Playlist:

Caroline Rose, Sidney Gish, Ed Schrader, and some 311 on 3/11.

Vita and the Woolf

On how this SXSW compared to their first one…

Jen: The first time I tried to play SXSW, I played a taco stand and that was it. Nobody was there, it was just tacos. But this time around, we played six shows, and they were all really really really good. The best was probably playing our very last showcase with our friends Cold Fronts, it’s always good to hang out with them.

Adam: Also there were other Philly peeps there too, like Caracara, so we were chillin’. My favorite part this year was the food, I definitely took advantage of that more this year than in the past. I went to this place The Vegan Nom, which had sick tacos, the best I’ve ever had. And also, I did a hike when I was down there, I did part of the Green Belt Trail, and that was sick. I made a concerted effort to not just do SXSW activities.

On changes in the band’s setup for this tour…

Jen; I got a new synth, it’s called a Prophet Rev II, made by none other than the famous Dave Smith, and I got it because I’ve had the same old synth since I was 18 years old. But I am much more in front of the stage now, I’m not behind the keyboard as much anymore. I’m doing a lot of dancing, which I’m having a lot of fun with. I’m drawing inspiration from the Riot Grrrl stage presence, and trying to incorporate that more into the live format. I just jump around a lot, it’s really fun.

Dane: I tune my guitar lower. Tune it down a fifth.

Adam: I don’t have a bass drum anymore. The last tour we went on with the band Yoke Lore, the drummer for that band, Zach Mullings, does this thing where he uses an electronic trigger pedal. It’s a video game pedal, it’s a pedal that makes a bass drum sound, and I thought it was really cool, it compliments the electronic vibe of the music really well. I’m still figuring it out, but I like it, I feel like it’s more genre-appropriate.

On the new songs they’re playing on tour…

Jen: The new stuff is a lot happier, it’s a lot more upbeat. But it’s not actually happier. The music is more in the major key, they’re danceable, but a lot of the songs are about my ex boyfriend. I think the poppy side of it just happened, I really like pop music. I’m not writing to be anybody in particular, I’m writing songs to be fun and have an effect. The last record was very emotional and big and this one I want to make good pop music that’s fun to listen to.

Tour Playlist:

Black Tapes podcast, Hardcore History podcast, Phoebe Bridgers, Kurt Vile, ambient rain noise

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