Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Zlam Dunk!!

Do yourself a favor - Give yer iPod a good Zlam Dunking. From these guys.

(Before you point out our spelling fail - Nope, we got it right, that's how they spell it. What do you expect from a Punk band??)

That's them there. From left to right, we've got guitarist Brett Thorne, keyboardist Ross Bennett, singer Charlie Day, bassist Taylor Hughes, and on the far right, drummer Daniel Vega. [And Yep, that's the Manateam Group Ross Bennett.]

Let's not dissect them too finely - Punk's charm is in it's sincere thrashing and bellowing vox, which Zlam's got in spades. Give this cut a minute or so; see if you're not tempted to snatch up your air guitar and windmill right along:

Though Zlam Dunk does The Punk with righteous credibility, they prefer to call what they do "Dance Punk". Check out what they're talking about in this number, which waves their 80's banner with their keyboard and guitars -

Punk, though, implies a certain amateurish rawness that these guys have grown way past. Sure, their numbers are lean and full of quick, punk-like guitar chops, but their productions are clean and their compositions too diverse to really fall into that category. Here's what we're talking about; a number that gleams with synthy saw-toothed goodness before giving way to punkier leanness -

Screech-crunchy guitars, 80-ish organic keyboards, sincerely-howled vocals, pounding acoustic drum lines; serving up fun 80-ish lean rock in a 2011-ish club setting - What's not to like?
The guys burn up the regular venues in the Austin-San Marcos area - Their last gig was the UltraFest Summer Jam, where they played with stalwarts Say Say Say and Fresh Millions. Turns out they're regulars at the Triple Crown in San Marcos - They also burned it down at South by 78666 this year too. And look who they've played with in the not-too-distant past (at The Parish, no less):
Before you go, you've got to check out the release we've got stuck in replay; the excellent, two-thumbs up "Noble Ancestry":


Find out more about Zlam Dunk on FaceBook, MySpace, and BandCamp.


Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Quiet Company

Quiet Company. Heard these guys?
That's Taylor Muse in the center; you could say he's the voice of Quiet Company, with additional duties on the guitar, keyboards, harmonica, trumpet, and even the saxophone. To the right of Taylor is bass player Matt Parmenter, and to the left you've got another multi-instrumentalist in Tommy Blank (for keyboards, guitar, and vocals). On the far left is drummer Jeff Weathers, and in the opposite corner we've got trombonist Cody Ackors (who ALSO plays a multitude of instruments).
Surely you've read this, or seen this, or heard a derivative of this or this.

No? Well then. Let us crack the ice on this one for you.

We'll start by saying their sound is more mainstream than what we typically cover on this microscopic corner of the internet (we're more into electronic stuff like The Future Process, Texas Microphone Massacre, or Art Versus Industry; though we'll admit that The Bubbles are pretty poppish, but arguably too quirky to hit pop culture in a Gaga-ish manner).

Accessible, vocals- & lyric-driven pop, with nary a strange synth or dark drone in sight. Pop (if we can say this without being sacrilegious) in The Beatles sense of the word. Guitar and keyboard-led pieces; clever, unique-but-familiar melodies; spot-on singing. All wrapped up in crystal-clear, masterfully-mastered productions, likeuntoso:

They are masters of songstering, in possession of an absolute knack for generating instant-anthem numbers like this one:
The scuttlebutt calls Quiet Company "piano rock"; we can only assume they haven't heard this number:

Now you can't really speak of Quiet Company without mentioning how un-quiet they are, socially speaking. Not quiet at all: With a bit of help from social media meister Paul Osbon, the band has managed to pull in quite a few of those jaded Austin-based music fans from the far reaches of the interwebs. (So much so, that SeƱor Osbon was tapped for a recent "social media & music industry" panel put on by Social Media Club Austin.)

And it's not just all virtual, mind: During this year's SXSW, the guys hit the streets, literally. Decked in these signs, with hugs at the ready:
They've got a new LP coming out in October, and this one will be piloted through the promotional release process with help from GrooveShark and Rocket Science, via their "Artist Focused Partnership" project:
"We think that any band with an audience deserves an opportunity to compete on a national level and we hope this project helps facilitate that.”
-- Jack DeYoung, Grooveshark’s VP of Label Relations
“The amount of exposure & attention that they are dedicating to our release is unprecedented and would rival even the best deal a major label could offer us. It is truly a dream partnership & an ideal situation for Quiet Company.”
-- Paul Osbon

National release? And not on a major label? Sign of things to come, say we.

You've heard a little, and sure, now you want freebies for your iPod. You can get some of their free stuff here.

But really you should splurge and get the excellent "Songs for Staying In" (embedded below). That way, you can say "I was listening to them before they were big".

Find out more about Quiet Company on FaceBook, Twitter, MySpace, YouTube, and Home Base.

[Photos by Leah Muse.]


Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Aperture

Been a bit, but the heat wave has primed the pump for some furiously-metallic rock: Time to tune into some Aperture.
That's Nathan Alvarado singing into the microphone there. Flanking him you've got John Thevenot on bass; and that's Jared Mears and Michael Proctor on the six-stringed axes. Behind them all you've got Justin Frary pounding on the drums.
These guys bring their hard/progressive sound to the Austin/San Antonio area on a regular basis, having played Emo's and The Parish here in Austin, and have melted faces down San Antonio way at Click's, Jack's, and The Falls.
They've got a nicely polished, neo-classic rock sound; made even more so by Alvarado's soaring vox. Check out how his voice notches this piece up from good to great:

All of their tunes carry the edgey signature of Big Rock at premium production levels: Seriously crunchilious guitars, thundering drums, searing solos, heavy-ish vocals. Good head-banging stuff.

Aperture is in the midst of OurStage's latest contest - The winner gets to open for Jane's Addiction. By all means, sign up and support your local rockers and help the hometown boys make good.
Be sure to take in "Now That You're Awake", their excellent (and still free) debut LP:

Find out more about Aperture on FaceBook, MySpace, Twitter, YouTube, and Home Base.


Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Social Poker Face - The Social Media Success Formula

The current thought is that success, in our "current economic reality", rests on the indie's ability to press the flesh, virtually, via that magic buzzword that makes us all a-twitter - Social Media.

Don't know what we're saying? Take quick scan over these articles and you'll notice a common theme:
Social Media for Bands and Songwriters
5 Superb Social Media Tools
How To Promote Your Band Using Social Media
10 Mistakes Bands Make in the Social Media Age

Build your fan base. Engage. Be that social butterfly you were always meant to be, let loose the chains that keep your inner diva locked up tight. Bust out of the fetters that keep you mute!

For some, swimming in the waters of social interaction is like taking a cool dip in Barton Springs on a hot Austin day. For others, it's more like diving into the shark tank; at best, a sweat-inducing endeavor of dubious value.

Now if you create things with your hands or perform a task that requires skill, the hope is that the skill alone will earn the attention it deserves. If your barbeque smells good, the neighbors will come a-knockin'. If not, maybe the silence should be post-mortemed.
This is only right. Pointing out your own skill is boorish. Tooting your own horn is uncouth.

But notice that "engaging your audience" isn't the same as tooting your horn. Check out what this article says about horn-tooting success.

Engaging = interacting with, which requires language skills, time, and a forum for said engagement.

Audience = the people who like or might otherwise shell out cash for your item of trade.

So if we may:

Success = Interacting with your clients, hobnobbing with your customers, shooting the breeze with your peeps.

But we gotta say: Sounds a little thin for a formula that guarantees success. And we'll go a step further and say we doubt the existence of a valid formula, be it in the music industry or any other industry.

Point 1: Audience. Before we blithely lump all music fans as lovers of the bombastic rock star, we should consider the range of musical styles and who attends those styles. Do reggae fans stay glued to their twitter feed? Do death metal heads spend most of their waking hours tethered to the Internet? Do fans of the top 40 get their cues from Facebook?

Point 2: Mystique. Before we define success as verbosity from our favorite acts, we best be sure that that's what we want. Would knowing what Reznor had for breakfast make us adore him more? Will finding out about Snoop's hygiene habits lure us to buy more records? Would knowing how long Gaga spent applying makeup increase our idolatry? Naw - It's the mystery; the implied supernatural endowments that keep us tuning in, trying to assemble the clues we have about our idols into applicable steps to our own success.

That said, we've got to step back and say Sure, some have succeeded this way.  Talking to your fans does help: Take a look at how The Quiet Company does things, and you'll see true masters of Social Media in action. Or see what Major's doing for his band, For The Most Part, to get an idea of how some are able to tailor social-media tools to a band's brand.

But does this success formula work for all?  Should you pin all of your hopes on a steady outpouring of tweets and status updates?  Does more talk = more fans??

What say ye? Is Social Media the Formula for your band's success?

Bring the comments:  Shoot us down, praise our genius, or just SHOUT. 


Wednesday, June 1, 2011

The Bubbles

Memorial Day has come and gone: Time to brush away the crumbs of Spring, put those shorts and flops back on the top of your clothing rotation, and cruise on into Summer with a bit of The Bubbles' power pop in your ears.
The Bubbles formed back in '07, after William Glosup had compiled his loose collection of pop-flavored songs and needed some like-minded souls to give live vehemence to his bedroom compositions. Over the years, the cast has changed ("We have had 6 drummers, and 4 bassists so far", says William) but the power-pop emphasis, and stalwart Christopher Balcom, have remained intact.

When we say "power pop", we mean the summer-ish, feel-good sound that's all over this track from their latest, "Daydreaming in Technicolor":
For that sound, that poppish clarity, coupled with Glosup's vocals, we couldn't imagine a more fitting moniker than "The Bubbles".
The name The Bubbles came from a few different places. First of all it was a simple tangible image that rolled off the tongue nicely; secondly it was inspired by two different songs which are "Think About Your Troubles" by Harry Nilsson, as well as "Bubbles" by the 60's bubble-gum pop band The Free Design.
-- William Glosup
Let's not dump these guys to the "pop" bin just yet. Give this track a bit (about 2:40), and watch it transform from sing-along ditty to psycho-thrash:
You can see where the "pop" label comes from: Catchy, simplistic, guitar+vocal driven tunes that drag you along for the fun, sometimes even against your will. But with The Bubbles if you start in the land of saccharine, it's a safe bet that the train won't stop until you've been drug through some of the seedier parts of the musical landscape. Check out the optimistic "We're All Gonna Die" for a great example of this:
Now for something a little different, yet still not out of character - Watch how this piece relaxes you with the woodwind/guitar counterpoint, then turns into a psychedelic treat before it's over:
Another thing The Bubbles do well is production: Notice that "loud & clear" sound? These tracks were recorded the old fashioned way, in a studio; Superpop Records studio, to be exact, watched over by the experienced eyes of Seth Gibbs. Then mixed by Danny Reisch, and finally mastered by Erik Wofford at Cacophony. With those kinds of hands on your audio, you can bet they'll coax the best out of your sound.
And you can expect more: They're putting the finishing touches on their new EP, "Darker Days", which is "coming out really soon":
You could definitely say it is enormously different. We have done 2 straight-ahead/semi-psychedelic pop records, and this is much more dark, loud rock and roll. Definitely a little something we needed to get out of our system.
-- William Glosup

William says the live band is in the process of reforming, but you should be able to catch them at their usual haunts (The Mohawk, Emo's, 29th St. Ballroom), or at the very least, they'll be at the "Top of the Pops" at 29th Street Ballroom on July 15.

We'll leave you with the music video for the excellent (and appropriate) "Never-Ending Summer":

Never-Ending Summer (official music video) from The Bubbles on Vimeo.

Find out more about The Bubbles on FaceBook, MySpace, and BandCamp.