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By Hannah Shih | October 18, 2016 | Culture
For those trying to fill a void from the emptiness felt by the ending of this year's ACL Music Festival, don't fret. Here, we chat with some of the most noteworthy artists from ACL about fashion, inspirations, and favorite Austin hangouts. Get to know them here:
Their ACL Memory: Seven years ago, Yadira Brown and Erin Jantzen played at ACL with a previous band, LAX. "LAX was the beginning of our musical relationship, so its nice to come full circle once more."
Inspirations for Their Latest Songs: The band's latest EP, Corners, dropped on Oct. 6, the day before their ACL performance. A moody departure from music previously released by the Brown-Jantzen songwriting duo, the four-song album draws inspiration from the four natural elements that govern the natural world: fire, water, air and earth. "It’s about creating balance in every corner of your life and the process of growing as a person."
Their All-Star Team of Producers: Bird Peterson produced Corners—he was the latest in a string of producers that the band has worked with to seamlessly transition between styles and subject matters. "His inspiration is a bit deeper, and he guided us to delve deeper to get to the root of the emotions that existed on that album."
Love at First Meet: There is a certain inevitability to how Keeper came to be—Brown and Jantzen orbited each other in the Austin music community for years before joining forces. "During our first time hanging out, just the two of us, we were just so happy to know each other that we were crying [by the end of the night]. There was some whiskey involved, but also tears outside of old Emo’s at 2 a.m. in the morning."
Functional Style: "We don’t have to talk about our sweat, but we wear all black because it’s the most flattering on stage, its easy to put together, and allows us to seamlessly flow through all the different things you need to do when performing live."
Small Town Mentality: "The Austin music scene has amazing camaraderie between the venues and the musicians in Austin, but on a grand scale, Austin is still a smaller town in that we don’t have a ton of booking and management. But the grassroots people who are creating the Austin music scene are super lovely. Your resume is every day that you work, that you perform, that you need anyone, and you know that if you see a friend across a crowded room, they are family."
The Journey: "We are writing from our own voices now fully and that feels really good. With LAX, when we joined, it was already an existing thing, so it was like we jumped into someone else’s vision, which was great and a valuable experience—but now we are doing what we wanted to do from the very beginning."
Austin Eats: Their favorite taco shop is Pueblo Viejo, but they love to check out Justine’s for special occasions like the Corners album release. Casa Columbia is another favorite, as is Korean barbeque.
On Performing at ACL: "To be a part of ACL is incredible to be around all the people and bands that I love and respect. We opened up the BMI Stage for this weekend, and we were really surprised and thankful for the way ACL set the stage up so that it is a great entry-level stage for bands like us. It felt like we were playing a well-attended show."
Challenges of Touring: "We've made it to the west coast twice this year, and the growth has really been incredible returning to places we’ve been before and seeing all these faces. But living on the road can be pretty grueling from sleeping in a tiny hotel; then you're in a van for eight hours a day before playing a show, but it's really cool to be out in the world working for what you love."
Appreciating the Sense of Community: "I love the fans we’ve gotten to meet, and the bands we start to recognize, and every city—it’s like we have a family of friends from going out to these places and seeing your fellow artists as they grow and you grow."
Their Favorite ACL Artists: Susto checked in with fellow musicians playing on the BMI stage: Austin band Blue Healer (who Susto might tour with next year) and New York based singer Margaret Glaspy. Other band favorites are Willie Nelson and Haim, who have "the best bass face in the industry."
Why Names & Titles Matter: Susto comes from the idea of a state of prolonged panic, when your soul is separated from your body. "On our first record, there's definitely that thread of, 'What am I doing with my life? What is this life, who am I?,' and coming to terms with yourself. With & I’m Fine Today, we are saying we went through all that, and there’s still some shit in life—some heavy conversations in this new record, but it's about refocusing that concern for yourself to the broader world."
Mighty Fine Music: With their sophomore album, & I’m Fine Today, mixed and mastered, Susto performed some of their new music at ACL. "There’s an evolution that’s happening that expands on what we started with the first record in beautiful, wonderful, and innovative ways. We have some bangers that we love to play live that went over really well, and it’s cool to see already that people are responding to these songs live so well."
Their Favorite Austin Hangout: "We would love to take a dip in Barton Springs to escape from this heat."
On Being Back in Austin: "We were in Austin two years ago for SXSW, and it’s been mindblowing to be back and to think back about how far we’ve come since then—being able to spend time in a city we love and perform with artists we admire and respect at this festival. It’s really been such an amazing dream."
Top Artists to See at ACL: "Part of the festival experience is stumbling upon people you have never heard of before, so someone we are really excited to see is Gina Chavez, whose drummer we befriended. We are also excited to see Band of Horses and M83, but we won’t get to see Cage the Elephant and Willie Nelson because we are back on the road on Saturday."
Help Wanted: Back in 2013, Grimm and Almquist posted a flyer looking for a drummer at the University of Maryland. Isabelle De Leon said: "I saw this really cheesy flyer that said industry connections, experience managing bands, and it was just the right place at the right time. I responded because my sister said to just do it because you never know where this might take you."
Taking Chances: Grimm and Almquist packed their bags for New York to see what could happen in a year, and in two months, they released Victor, which really took on a life of its own: "We had no photos, just this picture of a butterfly that was faded and super imposed on this light pink graphic."
Mixing Sounds & Cinema: Grimm, the producer for Prinze George, came from a heavy metal background before diving into film scores and becoming interested in soundscapes. "Our sound has really transcended to a new level now that we focus on bringing a cinematic feel to our music and have an electronic sound with a live instrument feel."
Always Creating: "Music has always been a vehicle to see new places, get new experiences, and get new inspirations for writing and playing, and to really feel like we are hustling. Kenny brings his portable production station in the van to take in all this inspiration and to be productive on the road."
Earliest Music Memories: Born and raised in Austin, Lukens grew up attending ACL. "Some of my most formative music experiences were here at ACL when I was a teenager, like seeing the Flaming Lips 10 years ago and seeing that entire crowd coming together. Even more recently, the LCD Sound System show [this year] was amazing and probably is the only set in the last few years that I danced to the entire show."
The Magic Number: "When I put out a record three years ago, I made an album in my room, and I had to figure out how to play it live. You know the thing about 10,000 hours to achieve perfection? In the last three years, I’ve definitely spent 10,000 hours on my craft."
On Constantly Thinking about Music: "If I could turn it off, I think that I would, but at this point in my life, music is a total compulsion. I’m always humming things and coming up with lyrics; inspiration comes a lot of different ways, and I find it’s about making it a priority to capture it."
Taking a Chance: Lukens debuted his new song, "The Touch," the morning Lukens was set to perform at ACL online and on stage. "People were trying to sing along even when they didn’t know the words."
What Inspired His Latest Album: "We aren’t reinventing the wheel with what we do, but we’re a hybrid of a lot of different stuff from pop, rock, and some R&B, and this new album, Never Understood, is a lot more R&B influenced than anything I’ve ever done before."
It's Not as Glamorous as It Looks: "Being a musician is a crazy life. You got to travel a lot, there’s not a lot of money in it. The people I play with now are crazy enough and devoted enough to really make this their life and they are amazing, but it’s really a self-selecting process."
Why Austin Helps Create Unique Sounds: "There are a lot of milestones you can achieve in Austin like getting Laurie Gallardo to put you on Austin Music Minute or KUTX Studio 1A or opening at Stubs or Mohawk. But beyond a certain level, Austin lacks big-name industry, and I think if those companies were here, the Austin music culture would change, so I'm in favor of the way it is."
Where to Find Him: Lukens lives in Manor, and frequents El Sapo Botanas and El Chile Café for Mexican food, and Figure 8 for coffee. He takes his dog to the Greenbelt when he can to take advantage of the outdoors. A sucker for vintage, Lukens shops at Amelia's Retro and New Bohemia.
Battling Unforseen Obstacles: The five-man band emerged out of their cave into the blazing heat of a Texas summer for their performance on the Miller Lite Stage. "Pickles overheated; we thought he was going to pass out. Afterwards, the guys had to rush him off to the vodka tent and bathe him in watermelon juice."
Upholding Tradition is Key: "Austin is important to our legend—we’ve got family here. We’ve done SXSW so many times that it’s really a ceremony for us." When in town, the bandmates can be found at Justine’s Brasserie sipping, L’enfant Terrible, and chowing down on steaks with pepper sauce.
Nonstop Performances: After performing at ACL Weekend 1, Caveman jumped back in the van for a classic Gulf Coast tour, playing in Atlanta, Birmingham, Houston, and New Orleans before arriving back in Austin at 3:30 A.M. to perform again.
Experiences Matter, the Good & the Bad): "Everything was upside down when we were recording "Otero War." You got to live your life, and get your heart broken and have successes and failures—you can’t sit around and watch television; you need to be vulnerable.
On Maintaining the Mystery: "When I was younger, I wanted to explain everything, and now I want music to be more mysterious. Nowadays, with Twitter, you know what the biggest artists are having for breakfast whereas back then, there was this magic, this mystique."
A Band of Emotional Brothers: Members of Caveman have been producing music together since high school, and with this history comes trust. "From the beginning, we had this telepathy—we would look at each other and just know what the others are thinking. It’s a marriage, lots of beds together, lots of cuddling. We are emotional men."
On Making Dreams Come True: "We met at ACL eight years ago, and I remember looking at Jason and saying we are going to do that one day—and here we are.”
Constant Growth: The Roosevelts started out as a party band that played at fraternity parties and corporate events. But slowly, they began writing songs that evoked the present-day Roosevelts. "We do three and four part harmonies now, and it’s been fun to see the evolution and the expansion of the sound in the past album and the next one."
Why Touring Feels Like Home: "Touring has been crazy in the last couple years because you can feel it growing, and feel the momentum. You see the same people over and over again, and we see people on this routine basis—there’s really a familial element to it. Everyone goes home on the holidays to see their family, so it’s like we are always on Christmas and Thanksgiving trips home in all these different cities."
On Missing Austin: As Austin residents who recently packed their bags for Nashville, The Roosevelts speak fondly of Barton Springs, Texas food, and the life-long friends they've made living in East Austin. From Veracruz All Natural to beers at Gourmands, the list of Austin staples that Kloess and Mason wish they could have at Nashville never ends.
Where They Fuel Up: Before performing at ACL, Kloess and Mason made a pit stop at Juiceland for the Wundershowzen smoothie, and cheap dollar breakfast tacos at La Cazuelas.
Creating vs. Working: When asked about balancing tours and working in the studios, The Roosevelts said: "You can really have your cake and eat it, too, but the studio is fun because you can do anything you want. It's this amazing creative space where you turn off your phone and really pull a song out of nowhere. It’s this cycle of gathering fresh inspiration on the road and then really working on the next tour in the studio.”
photography by David Brendan Hall (keeper, susto, walker lukens, the roosevelts); facebook.com/prinzegeorge; Sara Marjorie Strick (Caveman)
March 3, 2017