Wednesday, August 31, 2011

The Sour Notes

Don't let the name they chose, The Sour Notes, keep you away from their music. It sure hasn't stopped anyone else.
That's them. On the left is bassist Amarah Ulghani, and right behind her is singer/songwriter/guitarist Jared Boulanger. That's mucho-instrumentalist Elaine Greer in the center there; and behind her is drummer Andrew Stevens. Looking on is guitarist Chris Page.

Here at Austin Independent Music we typically don't cover bands you've heard of, but this band you've heard about already. Probably - their website's Press page has a litany of links to reviews and other coverage. In the midst of our rummaging about the social media-ized world, we couldn't help but bump up against them, virtually, and be impressed: They're not like us, they're actually nice people.

Boulanger started the group in Houston back in '08, but then moved it here, where he lured Page and some other folks to the project, whereupon they commenced to record and gig and carve fans out of the Austin populace and realms beyond. The staff has undergone the inevitable changes, with Travis Hackett, Brandi Dipietro, Kelly DeWitt, Erin Mikulenka, and Taylor Steinberg moving in and moving on. But 2010 saw the formation of the band as you see 'em here.
They sit snugly in the "Alternative Indie Pop" category, and their sound is guitars + singing + solid rhythm + occasional vocal harmonies + occasional keyboards, so the designation sticks. But spend some time going through their recordings and you'll find a pattern of too-diverse-for-pop, too-bold-for-alternative, too-experimental-for-the-labels. If you're determined not to like them, just say they are too audaciously inventive.

Check out this cut to see why they remain local favorites, with the easy-to-like vocals + harmonies + slicing guitars, with the nice progression into dissonance:

There are 6 releases in The Sour Notes' discography (that we know about), with 2010's "It's Not Gonna Be Pretty" getting mucho kudos. You've got to check out track 1, with it's easy-to-love melodic construction and harmonies:

We alluded to their tendency to experiment; give a minute for this cut from their latest, see how unfearing they are to play around with dissonance:

After that one, you may be tempted to think they've earned the Sour Notes identity. Try this near-lullaby number on before you get too judgmental:

They've just gotten back into town from their summer tour (Houston, Denton, Chicago, New York, Atlanta, etc), and were the band de jour at the Paper Cuts showcase hosted by The Chronicle:

You might have missed them before, but you've got a chance to catch them at the Ditch The Fest Fest on September 17th, or the week after (9/25/11) at the Pecan Street Festival (4PM, Trinity Stage). After that, they've booked shows at the Mohawk, the Highball, Frank, and other venues we're not privy to at this point. You can make it to one of these shows, and you should.

Let's leave you with their latest, "Last Looks", which this review calls "...a flat-out perfect set of sweet, ultra-melodic, shiny-clean power-pop songs, with all the rough edges sanded smooth...":

Find out more about The Sour Notes on FaceBook, Twitter, Tumbler, MySpace, BandCamp, and Home Base.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Dead Station (a.k.a. Gods Are Ghosts)

Though their first release has just came out (8/23/11), you could have been listening to Dead Station for a while now: They've been going under the guise of Gods Are Ghosts until just recently.
Kinda hard to tell who's who in this pic, but it's so cool that we just had to lead with this one. At any rate, the band lines up likeuntoso: Bryan Canatella does drums, Donnie Miller attacks the guitar, Tommy Miller manipulates the bass, and Morgan James Duplant does the singing.
Asked why the name change, Duplant says "We just liked Dead Station better. When we started as Gods Are Ghosts we were a new band ... [but] never were 100 percent into it and it seemed to confuse a lot of people as well. Once we decided to continue to grow our band and branch out, we thought now was the best time to make a switch... Really we just wanted a name that we were all happy with..."
Though they site influences like Deftones and Soundgarden, these guys sport their own edged rock sound; cleverly-constructed, quick-change numbers adorned with chugging metallic fringes and howling melodic phrases. Try out the title track to one of their earlier releases, "A Violent Grace" to see where these guys live:

Their foundation is a thoroughly solid Rock in the classic sense of the word, and Duplant's voice will tempt you to make the Led Zeppelin comparison. See if you can imagine "Crawl to the Moon" being nearly as compelling without his performance:

They've been seen hither and yon; having played San Antonio, San Marcos, and New Braunfels; plus gigs at local spots Emo's, Red 7, ND 501, Scoot Inn, and they even burned it up at the Ghost Room before it was closed.
(Photos by Douglas Marshall)
With the name change, they've re-packaged all their Gods are Ghosts tracks, added three new ones ("I Will", "It Won't Be Long", and the afore-embedded "Crawl To The Moon"), to create one outstanding (though still technically "freshman") release: The self-titled "Dead Station", which we'll leave you with. Miss it and you miss out:

Find out more about Dead Station on FaceBook, Twitter, and Home Base.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

The Soldier Thread

OK, we'll come clean and admit we're a little late to the game. We heard all the scuttlebutt about The Soldier Thread. We ignored it. Then we read a couple of these blog posts up on Vivogig. We continued to ignore them. Then we saw some of their vids. Ignored them some more. Then one day, giving into the avalanche of positive vibes, we hunted 'em down on Grooveshark, selected "In Spades", and turned that into the soundtrack for our normal cubeland work.

And as time went by, we began to notice that our work ethic had vanished. We were distracted, in an excellently major way, by the new soundtrack.
That's them, that's the culprits right there. Left to right, we've got guitarist/vocalist/keyboardist Todd Abels, drummer Drew Vandiver, singer/viola-ist/keyboarder Patricia Lynn, bassist Chance Gilmore, and guitarist/keyboardist/vocalist Justin McHugh.

These guys have been doing their distracting thing since 2007, gigging through our better establishments and releasing a string of excellent recordings. In another era, they'd been called A Rock Band, but nowadays it's called indie-pop: The "pop" for their accessible, easy-to-love style; the "indie" for their not-on-a-major-label status.
(Photo by Christian DeVoe.)
Now that "pop" label suggests a simple sugar high, but that's not The Soldier Thread. No, these guys generate unique melodic numbers, laid atop the concrete slab of familiar chord progressions and a solid rhythm section. Check out the excellent "Fractions" to see what we mean:

You might have caught a glimpse of their penchant for drama in that one. Check out the spell-binding "I Won't Stop You" to see how far they'll go to nail that cinematic feel:

Notice the clever use of guitar and keys on top of that viola to conjure up emotion. Here's another dramatic one - Check out the creepy feel the dissonant viola gives the harmonic "So In Love" (be sure to stick around for the build-up about 1:30 in):

Normally, these kinds of compositions would be enough to get you called "good". But what pushes The Soldier Thread into the "great!" category is Lynne's vocal chops; topping off their numbers like the whip cream on your milkshake. (Sorry, it's been a very hot summer.) Check out this clip to see what this girl can belt out:

They've just completed an "acoustic" tour with Blue October, and one of their first gigs back in town was a blow-em-away set at Stubb's that folks are still talking about. And their calendar remains active through September, with gigs here (at Frank on 8/26/11), Dallas, and Houston. Maybe this is the month you latch hold of The Soldier Thread?
Everyone loves their latest, "In Spades", and you need to hear it. So pardon our hand-built Grooveshark Widget and the probably-incorrect track order (we couldn't find a pre-existing embed-able player), and enjoy it:

Turns out that, at this point in time (August, 2011) "In Spades" can't be had, not on Amazon, not on iTunes. So let's leave you with their latest attainable release, "Shapes", up on BandCamp:

Find out more about The Soldier Thread on FaceBook, Twitter, BandCamp, YouTube, and Home Base.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Bloody Knives

You can waste a lot of time trying to cook up a clever pun for a band called Bloody Knives, so let's zig instead of zag; leaving the vocabulary gymnastics to others whilest we zoom in on the good stuff - Their music.
There they are, caught in the very act. Left-to-right, we've got Jim Moon on synths (though his official credit is "sound manipulator"), Jake McCown on drums, and that's Preston Maddox on the right there, abusing his bass.

McCown and Maddox hail from Dallas-way, having made the trek and settled in these parts back in '03, playing together in a variety of groups and manning a variety of instruments in the process, before forming Bloody Knives. Apparently, drums are not McCown's instrument of choice, but Bloody Knives needed a drummer, he was up for it, and there ya go. It works - We managed to catch these guys at The Austin Electronic Music Grid's "Knife Night" (along with the always-brilliant Knifight) at The Loft at Silhoutte, and McCown owns the drum kit, with a frenetic, you-can-hear-it-down-on-the-street passion.
No doubt, the band's name bears metallic connotations, and you're assuming they're another heavy metal band pounding Austin's sonic landscape. And sure, their sound is heavy with bass and dissonant intervals. But take a longer look at this pic; you'll notice the absence of the holiest of ritualistic metal utensils; the six-stringed axe. Bloody Knives decided they'd get more flexibility, audio-wise, out of midi instrumentation; hence Moon and his midi trigger pads and effects panels.
So Nope, they're not metal; but rather a darkly-rabid psychedelic (the more accepted label is "shoe gaze industrial"). Here's a nice sampling of their style; unhappy industrial synths, pumped up with some solid drums and glazed over with some heavy bass stylings to complete the wall of sonic goodness:
Notice the constructive use of noise and the bass-driven chord progression? Here's another clever piece, along similar lines:
These guys have been on a gigging tear for the last 7 months, they've melted faces all over town (Beer Land, Scoot Inn, etc.) and around the country: From San Antonio and Houston to Des Moines and parts in between.

Turns out all that blue-collar dues-paying has paid off for Bloody Knives: As this article was working it's way out, it was announced that they had signed to XD Records, a boutique shoe-gaze label. (Find out more about XD here.) And this is not Bloody Knives' maiden voyage into La La Label Land either - Maddox has been running his own label (Killed Rocket Records) for quite some time now. Check out this interview from the When The Sun Hits blog for more.
When it comes to production the guys are at home, literally - They've recorded a lot of their songs in (yep, it's true) Maddox's garage. (Turns out he's also recorded 2 CDs worth of material for Laserz, another Austin-based indie.)

So with a DIY studio at the ready, 7+ months of steady gigging (in and out of town) behind them, AND with a new label ready to push the promotion wagon, expect Bloody Knives to carve a bloody trail of fans from here to... Well, kingdom come.
Before you go, give "disappear" a good listening. Better yet, download the thing for maximum pleasure. You know you want to.

Find out more about Bloody Knives on FaceBook, BandCamp,, and MySpace.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011


We've spent lotsa words on bands per se; examining the local entities as creatures unto themselves; organisms of sound; mechanical things generating audio waves. But now let's drill down a bit, to the individual contributors, the artists/musicians whose teamwork creates said music.

But let's not pick just anybody, no. Let's go traveled, let's go prolific, let's go hard-working. Let's go rItchN, aka Ritchard Napierkowski; a Yankee-born, Austin-transplanted, post-modern troubadour and jack of all trades; who is, arguably, one of the most influential artisans in the Austin electronic music scene today.

Don't let this yearbook photo spin you the wrong way - riTchN is better known in the industrial/electronic/metal circles thisaway:
And when we say "travelling"? We don't just mean he moves from place to place, physically, though he has:
...I had moved back to NY (where I grew up) from Florida after living down in Orlando for a year and knew I needed to find another base of operations. A friend and I put together a road trip to look for a new "home" and drove around the country. Austin happened to be one of the main stops even though I was still picturing Yosamite Sam and tumbleweeds in my head....New Orleans almost ended up being my stomping grounds...but between the musicians, festivals and tech field jobs Austin won my blood-pumper.
-- riTchN
No, by traveling we mean Rich, like a lot of musicians in Austin, plays with a variety of musical entities. But this guy is more prolific than most - He performs (or has performed) with subNatural, Inertia, Carbon Theory, Panjoma, Hipnautica, Chant, Personacide, sick_muse, and Destroyed for Comfort.

PLUS the occasional personal project. On the side, you know. When he has time.
It helps that he can handle most instruments. Though primarily known to work a synth/sampler, he also does duty on guitar, bass, drums, "...a little bit of everything... I want to get a nice Accordian to play some "unplugged" shows..."
With all those projects going on, which do you prioritize? The response is a bit of the old hem and haw: "'s almost like a constant struggle...subNatural's always been a labor of love... With Panjoma we're working on new material...Carbon Theory needs to record and Jim and myself will hopefully be jamming/playing again soon... And there's always the solo stuff..."

The Panjoma project is working him; with a Madonna cover, a WarPigs cover, vids for both, upcoming shows, PLUS new material to be recorded in August - "hopefully".
But for the majority of his time, Rich is focusing on subNatural. Started as a solo project in '98 and weathering several personnel shifts, the band is back and very busy indeed: Re-recording their entire catalog AND working on a new LP AND tons of shows lined up in both Austin AND Houston.
With all that to do, you'd wonder if this guy has time for a day job. Turns out he has a pretty sweet music-related gig - He's the head sound engineer at The Elysium, and does the same duty over at Red Eyed Fly on weekends:
...instead of just "quitting" my day job, music helped propel me further into a career I enjoy. My desk-job has more buttons/faders and knobs than ever.. Well.. a few jobs definitely had a bunch of knobs.. just less gear-tastic and more knob-headed...
-- riTchN
With his solo website getting a makeover, and new projects in the works, thought we'd ask the relevant question: Any advice for other indie artists?
USE EXISTING RESOURCES!! I'm all about experimenting and coming up with something new.. but when it comes to distribution, videos and everything else don't try to reinvent a wheel unless you're really gonna trick it out. The're so many wonderful resources out there from blogs, to websites/forums, to groups of folks out there with so much information readily available it's almost insane. It's all good playing shows but if you're serious about a project do some research.. Spend a few days planning what you want to do and how you're going to do it. As far as just creating? Don't push yourself too hard or stop because "someone else is doing it". Trial and error not only shows us what works.. but new ways of trying things.
-- riTchN
Try to keep up with riTchN by watching subNatural or Panjoma on Facebook.