SXSW Interviews at The Horn


Hey Austin Writes Music friends,

I wanted to drop a quick line and let you know that I’ve been doing loads of SXSW preview coverage for the Horn via some incredible band interviews I’ve been lucky enough to be a part of. Click on the links to read up on amazing artists from around the world.

White Sea

Band of Skulls

Holiday Mountain

Wye Oak

Carbon Tigers

Lily & the Parlour Tricks

Keep your eye on the Horn and M Music Magazine for more of my SXSW coverage. I’ll return after the madness of March subsides with a round-up of favorite discoveries. Xo, Caitlin

Dana Falconberry gets serious with music

Photo by Alicia Vega

Dana Falconberry always pictured herself a dancer. From the time she was little, she envisioned herself dancing for her life’s work. Then when she attended college in Arkansas, something changed.

“I went to a school with no dance program,” she says. “I wanted to be a dancer, and I went to a school with no dance program.” At the end of the day, music took over and Dana chose to pursue it instead. “It did seem like an either/or type of thing, but everything kinda does in college,” she says.

Lucky for us, Falconberry has been pursuing music ever since, both with Peter and the Wolf and solo, following her own passion and vision. She says the flexibility of musical creation has trumped dance for her.

“When I’m dancing or choreographing I feel limited by many things, and I never feel that way in music,” Falconberry says. “It’s like, oh, my leg doesn’t go this way — well, then I don’t feel like I’m saying what I need to say because my leg can’t go over my head in the right way.”


What I’ve learned from Ben Kweller

If any Austin musicians are looking for the blueprint for successful indie rocker, look no further than Ben Kweller. He’s his own boss, in total control of his musical vision and fan interactions, plus he’s remained a down-to-earth, genuine person focused on his art and his family.

There isn’t a magic spell that brings you this kind of self-made success. In fact, Kweller says he just tends to view his art as his 9-to-5.

“I’ve always been a morning person,” Kweller says. “I love the day time. I love the night time, too, but I’m just way more productive during the day. I think it’s because, you know I’m a high school dropout, I never went to college. I worked at the skating rink, which was one of my only real jobs. I have felt many times that music’s the only thing I have, and so I always felt this yearning to pretend that it’s a real job.”


Talks with Strangers: Yeasayer’s Anand Wilder on mascots, aging & the internet

Anand Wilder has no idea who I am. The singer/guitarist/synth player from Yeasayer has been interviewed by dozens of blogs in support of the band’s latest album, Fragrant World, so he continues to answer his phone in between museum trips and sound checks to shoot off 15 minutes of insight to a perfect stranger.

“You get good reviews on blogs that you’ve never even really heard of,” Wilder told me while he was on his tour bus and I was sitting on a curb in the parking lot where I work, recorder pushed up against my cell phone’s speaker. “It’s this kind of gradual thing, and it’s super exciting, but you’re just kinda like, I dunno how important this weird blog is.”

But Wilder doesn’t take any weird blog for granted. “I don’t know how we would have existed without the internet,” he said, ruminating on Yeasayer’s history of spreading their music gradually and virally until they found themselves playing festivals across the world.

“And I don’t think Rolling Stone or whatever major old-school publication is necessarily helping us get people to come to our shows more than a blog,” Wilder said. “I think a lot of those old-school publications are for an older audience that doesn’t have their finger on the pulse as much as someone who is constantly scouring blogs for new music because they wanna go out and have fun on the weekend.”

If you are one of those internet-scouring party-searchers, look no further. Yeasayer have created a delicious modern R&B-electro-dance-pop-mashup record that will shake you straight through to your bones, so long as you are willing to give it a few spins to grow on you.

“I don’t really feel like we’re challenging people,” Wilder says of the new material. “I think the idea that people need to be spoon-fed some kind of easy pop drivel or something isn’t necessarily true. I think maybe certain songs take a little bit longer for people to get into, but I think those are generally the songs that will last longer and are more rewarding ultimately than the Carly Rae Jepsen songs you just love right off the bat.”

Just because Fragrant World is danceable does not mean Wilder and co. are singing about exchanging numbers and other lovesick exploits. They lyrics touch on everything from the politics (and bones) of Reagan, to impending doom. A lot of the material is about aging, like in the song “No Bones” where Christ Keating warbles, “Make no bones about it/We’re older now than I’d like to admit.”

Wilder isn’t surprised by this preoccupation. “Both Chris and I just turned 30 and all that, y’know, in the last year or so, and that’s kind of an interesting turning point where you’re not quite old, you start to get some aches and pains, and you don’t rehabilitate your sore, turned ankles as quickly as you did when you were younger,” he said. “And you just kind of, I don’t know — you kind of realize you’re not immortal, I guess. You start thinking about long-term life things, like marriage and kids and all that kind of thing, and it’s also just an interesting career that we have, where we’re really away from our home base for a lot of the time. Like half of my 20s were spent away from home.”

For music fans who recently watched James Murphy leave his fame behind to follow a more domestic lifestyle, this sentiment might send worry-shivers down your spine. But fear not: Yeasayer aren’t going anywhere.

“I don’t know what else I would do at this point,” Wilder said, in regards to leaving music behind. “I certainly don’t want to sit in an office somewhere. It’s fun to produce records, it’s fun to sit in the studio and make up music and spend time critiquing it and tweaking it, but there is a certain masturbatory quality to that. Part of being in a band, part of kind of legitimizing the music as a piece of art that’s worthy of someone other than yourself is to go out and sell it to audiences around the world.”

Yeasayer pride themselves on their live show especially — as well they should. Because of the band’s growing success, they have been able to invest in impressive stage shows that make for a full-sensory experience. Plus, the music is infused with the band’s own live energy, as well as their supportive and excitable fans. Wilder says he wouldn’t want it any other way.

“I would always rather get bad reviews for the album, and then make it better with the live show, than the other way around,” he said.

Because of the rich textures and encompassing lyrical content on Fragrant World, it’s tough to pick out a singular image that is conjured up when you think of the record. I asked Anand what he’d pick for the mascot, and he turned the question back around on me.

“‘Folk Hero Shtick’ is really the stand-out song on the album for me, and the distortion reminds me of those old 80s workout tapes, so…”

“So Richard Simmons, or Jane Fonda?” Wilder asked me.

“Oooh…I think it would have to be Fonda’s face on Richard Simmons’ body,” I said.

“Perfect. That sounds great.”

Despite this oddball vision for the record, Wilder said he feels like the band’s story wouldn’t necessarily make the best movie, since their journey has been so internet-based. “It’s just such a different narrative when you’re a band that’s starting in 2005, than being a band that’s starting in the 1950s or something,” he said. “It won’t make a very interesting biopic. It’s like, oh and then we got that blog! And then we got to play that festival in Norway!”

If they could get Justin Timberlake, I said they could turn it into a Social Network-esque adventure. “Right!” Wilder said. “You’ve gotta have the evil Pitchfork guy who’s trying to become your manager, and then doesn’t, and lives his life writing bad reviews about you.”

That’s the risk the band takes when they talk to one-off weird blogs. But this time, they got lucky.

Yeasayer play Stubb’s BBQ this Thursday, September 6.

Earth, Wind & Fire are Monster musicians and marketers

Everyone has to be a little more creative when it comes to working these days. People are often forced to define their own job, creating something where they see a deficiency. Particularly in the music industry, the changes have been analyzed and reanalyzed, as its become both easier and more difficult for new music to be heard. So how does a band that has been awarded Grammys, been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and has hits so ubiquitous that anyone from the age of 25 onward who even just sort of likes music would be able to chime in if a tune came on the radio, stay relevant today? This was the question on my mind when I walked into Bjorn’s in San Antonio, Texas, to check out a SXSW-like Q&A panel with Earth, Wind & Fire.

Earth, Wind & Fire are the masterminds behind 70s hits like “Shining Star,” “September” and “Sing a Song,” and have been recording and touring with minimal breaks since that era. Bjorn’s is a high-end, locally owned electronics store in San Antonio. I wasn’t sure what to expect when I walked into the store on a Monday evening. I was immediately greeted with folding chairs scattered around a forest of flat screen TVs, with three reclining chairs sitting up on a raised platform near the center of the menagerie. Naturally, Earth Wind & Fire was the musical choice being pumped through the store speakers, and I sat among a throng of older fans – the handful of kids who were there were children of attendees. There was free wine and hors d’oeuvres, and my boyfriend and I happily partook of chocolate covered strawberries as we sat and waited.

It was a surreal backdrop, and the main event was just as dreamlike. To introduce the stars of the evening, the store tried to blast a live video of the performers, but they had issues with the speakers, so Verdine White, Philip Bailey and Ralph Johnson entered the space almost nonchalantly, as applause slowly built around the room when they were recognized. Bjorn himself, the namesake of the store, was the host for the evening, and he seemed almost as overwhelmed by the uniqueness of the situation as the rest of us, briefly stumbling over the performers’ names as he admitted, “I’m just going nuts right now.”

The questioning began at the beguine, as my father would say. As the band members talked about the group’s formation, I sat totally baffled by how young they all looked. Philip just turned 60, and Verdine and Ralph are right on his heels, both with 60th birthdays in the next few months. Bjorn joked that the men looked quite different from the photos he’d seen of them, and Ralph quipped, “It has been 40 years. What if we got out pictures of y’all 40 years ago…”

Bjorn told an anecdote about attending the band’s show in San Antonio the previous week, and egged on Verdine: “Tell these people what you did.” Verdine smiled, and responded, “Well, I took my shirt off. I gotta show people what 60 looks like!”

The guys said the secret to their continued energetic live shows was the healthy food they ate. Ralph said firmly, “Drink the green tea!” Philip later attributed it to God – he seems very spiritual indeed, which many of the San Antonians in the room particularly appreciated.

Bjorn asked the group what they remembered most from their early days, and the guys shouted out, “Station wagons! Cheesecake! We’d just gotten turned on to chef’s salads. Walkie talkies!” This was back in the days when there were an underground college favorite, which is an incredible thought to try to process – at one time, they were just another Arcade Fire, waiting to find that one hit.

Earth, Wind & Fire are not only brilliant musicians, but also incredibly savvy marketers and businessmen. When Bjorn asked why they would ever play smaller venues, Verdine explained that they read their markets carefully. They play the big venues where the audience warrants big venues, and the small venues where fans would appreciate that setting more. “I always tell me friends, we’ll get you out by 11,” he said, acknowledging their fan base’s stage in life. “I know a lot of you have babysitters, and you gotta get back home.”

Thus, it is not at all surprising that the band has partnered with the electronics company Monster Cable. Monster makes accessories for home theaters, computers and mobile devices, and have been making high-end headphones, too. Being the audiophiles that they are, Earth, Wind & Fire partnered with Monster to make in-ear and outer-ear headphones. The in-ear headphones will be called “Gratitude,” and Phillip explained that they improve the listening experience for layered music like Earth, Wind & Fire’s. Ralph vouched for the headphones as well, saying he was very particular about his listening experience but found these phones to be balanced. Verdine explained, “Our records were mastered very carefully – that’s why people still like them today, and they hold up.”

Clearly, this partnership is going to work in favor of Earth, Wind & Fire. Fans in the crowd could be overheard whispering, “Oh, we’ll definitely have to get a pair of those!” It’s just a smart pairing – the band knows that their fan base comes from the era of a tangible listening experience, when vinyl was widespread and people cared about their speaker system. This trend is resurfacing, too, which could mean new fans for the band.

Most of all, the band is thankful. They thanked Monster for their partnership, thanked Bjorn for his hospitality, and thanked their stars for what they’ve been able to do. When Bjorn asked the group if they’ve contemplated a stopping point, they all quickly shook their heads no. “I am awestruck that we are paid doing what we love,” Philip said. “We don’t even think in terms of stopping. We’ll always be creative people.”

(L-R) Ralph, Philip, and Verdine sit on a platform while Bjorn passes the mic off to the band's manager. Verdine's nephew, far right, also helps on tour.

Check out Zack’s hilarious and fun take on the event here.

Mini-Golf and Muerta with the Boxing Lesson – Part 2

To read the first part of this piece, head over to

10 [Par 4] – The band is collaborating with Frenchie Smith Records, and it’s a very loving partnership. When they were mixing Muerta, Chris “Frenchie” Smith told the band, “You are the best I’ve seen you. Keep going. It’s gonna happen.” Hopefully, it will happen for both of the up-and-coming local music groups.

11 [Par 4] – The inspiration for the Muerta EP came from the video for the song that was directed by Jonathan London. “The idea for the video was like Radiohead’s ‘No Surprises’ video,” Paul explained. “The effect is done by fans. I look like an electric eel.”

12 [Par 3] – On hole 12 during our interview tournament, Paul managed to hit his ball off the course and to the front fence, twice. On the second go, he even took down another player’s beer can. It almost seemed to happen in slow-motion, as Paul took his swing and the ball soared quickly through the air, tipping the beer can without so much as changing course. As the other mini-golfer ran to salvage his brew, he looked over at our team in amazement and yelled, “How does that happen?”

13 [Par 5] – Meandering from hole to hole with the Boxing Lesson, you immediately get a sense of their personalities. Paul is full of energy, excitement, belief in his art and love for his bandmate. Jaylinn is a firecracker, hilarious and equally supportive of Paul. Though Paul does a lot of the talking, as Jaylinn quipped after an impressive 2-swing first hole – “Do not rule me out.”

14 [Par 5] – Paul’s musical tendencies extend to his love of different recording formats. He had a love affair with cassettes, but explains, “Vinyl is my true love. I’m way into vinyl.” New Fortune is producing Muerta double EP 7”s.

15 [Par 4] – Now that Paul has taken over the managing role for the band again, he said he enjoys getting direct feedback about the band. “I’m never going to lose this – connecting with bloggers and fans.”

16 [Par 5] – When the Boxing Lesson’s drummer, Venny Nunez, first played with the band at the ripe age of 16, Paul and Jaylinn had to rub club stamps off on his hands to get the underaged musician into venues with them. Now, he’s 21 and Paul says, “We’re prolific together.”

17 [Par 5] – There’s a new full album in the works that Paul says Muerta transitions fans into. Still, there’s no rush these days. “At practice, we’re doing it for us again,” Paul said. “We’ll spin records, smoke pot, play for fun. Sometimes, we’ll just play a G for 45 minutes.”

18 [Par 5] – The Boxing Lesson are, more than ever, D.I.Y. Through their hardships, they’ve come full circle to make everything they do about the music again. “We’re like a high school band again,” Paul said. “I own all of my own music, I have Jaylinn, I have shows and friends. We’re starting again, and doing this for fun.” Sounds like a hole in one to me.

At the end of the game, Zack has blown everyone away with a 43, Jaylinn comes in second with a 53.5 (after being robbed and making a hole in two strokes but having the ball pop up out of the ground as if by magic, we gave her the .5 on the last swing), Paul is close on her heels at 55, and I play a gentlewoman’s 58. Everyone is all-smiles. You can share in the joy: the band will play an in-store at End of an Ear on Saturday at 6pm, rocking out the entire Muerta EP from start to finish, and offering up free downloads for anyone who comes. You can also pick up one of their new vinyl prints – there are only 250 to be had.

If you want to check out the band’s 101 Homegrown Live gig at the ND on Saturday, leave your name and e-mail in the comment section and we’ll pick a winner to be put on the guest list. For another chance to win, check out part one of this interview at

Voxhaul Broadcast take on the world

In the first days of 2009, a hard-rocking, fun-loving group of guys from California made a huge impression on me. I was leaning up against the fence of the Beauty Bar in Austin, Texas with a friend, bored and unsure of what to do that dreary weeknight, when some tall, scrappy dudes boisterously busted through the Beauty Bar’s doors, musing aloud, “We’ve gotta find some people to come to this show!” Our eyes immediately met, and they asked, “Will you come to our show?” Asked who they were, they replied happily that they were in a band called Voxhaul Broadcast, and their buddies with them were in a band called the Union Line, and that their other friends, the Local Natives, were soundchecking inside. At the time, none of these names meant anything to us, but their chutzpah was so endearing that we headed inside. About ten other people joined us and we all had our minds collectively blown. A few months later, the Local Natives exploded at South by Southwest.

I’m forever indebted to the Voxhaul Broadcast guys for pulling us into the venue, and I’m both thrilled and unsurprised that they’ve met so much success since then. The band put our their debut full-length album, Timing is Everything, in late March, and are currently on tour with Rooney and Skybomber.

Though the first Voxhaul Broadcast recording, the EP Rotten Apples, came out in 2008, the band has been jamming together since their early teens, and a couple have known each other since they were in diapers.

“Tony [Aguiar] and Kurt [Allen], the guitar player and the drummer, they’ve known each other since they were like 3 or 4, playing out in the street,” lead vocalist and guitarist David Dennis says. “And I met Phil [Munsey] when I was 14, so we’ve all known each other quite a while.”

Dennis says the group’s longtime bond is reflected in the group’s music. “We pretty much learned how to play our instruments with each other. So, it’s really comfortable. It’s really comfortable to write and be in a band with each other and be with each other on the road, ‘cause we’re like brothers as much as friends, you know? It’s been one of those things where I think it makes for honest music. When people have known you for that long, they call you out on your shit; they really know who you are. You’re not fooling anybody.”

The guys have had musical leanings for a long time. Aguiar remembers when he and Allen were around eleven years old, yearning to somehow make it out to Woodstock ’99. “Instead of going, me and Kurt just decided to get a boombox and overflow my mom’s whole front yard with water and mud, and just jumped in it,” Aguiar says. “We destroyed my mom’s entire front lawn. And little did we know that they put insecticide in the grass that day, so me and Kurt ended up with rashes all over our bodies for, like, weeks.”

The band’s occasionally wild enthusiasm has not died down over the years. Touring around the country has allowed for many more adventures. “One time we were in Santa Cruz, and these people wanted us to come over to their house and we were like, ‘OK! They seem cool!’ And then we go buy a bunch of beer, and everybody’s drinking and having a good time, and then this person walks in and starts yelling and freaking out, and we suddenly realize that we’ve got a bunch of people living in a halfway home drunk. That was pretty bad,” Dennis says.

More recently, the guys had a brief encounter with the law that ended up winning them a few new fans. “We got pulled over online casino two days ago by a state trooper, and he took all of Phil’s pot,” Dennis says, laughing. “But he was really nice. He let us go, and the cops were making jokes. We ended up giving them a CD and they never gave us a ticket. They were like, ‘Ah man, I’m gonna look you guys up!’”

In their early touring days, Voxhaul Broadcast had to rely on the kindness of strangers to make things work, sleeping on floors and sharing gear with their fellow touring bands. Still, there were rough nights.

“We were driving through the mountains, up this hill, and there were semi-trucks slipping down the hill from the black ice,” Dennis says. “We didn’t have chains on our tires and the police wouldn’t let us go any further, so we pulled over in this town. This is in the middle of a blizzard, and all the hotels were taken up, because they already had turned a bunch of people in. We ended up – all four of us – sleeping in the van during a blizzard. It was one of the most awful nights ever.”

Things have improved since then. Now, the guys are trying to learn from veterans like Rooney. “Rooney have this air about them,” Dennis says. “I really like to hang out with dudes that tour that much, they kinda know how it works. We haven’t gone on a lot of big tours, so it’s been cool to chat with them.”

Even though Voxhaul Broadcast aren’t as veteran as Rooney, they know the ropes and know what it takes to make it in a band. “There are so many great bands in L.A., so many that I feel are as good as us, if not better, you know? And some of them don’t get recognized at all. So it’s really about the people believing in you and pushing you,” Dennis says. “And it’s one of those things that you really gotta love doing. If you think you have something else that would be worth your while and make you just as happy, you should probably do that.

“You’re not gonna make a ton of dough. Well, I mean; no … that’s not…true. You will make a ton of dough. But it might take a really long time. And you have to give up a lot of other things. It’s really hard to be in relationships and all that kinda shit. To keep friendships. You really have to be committed. There’s a lot of hard times before the good times, for sure.”

It would seem Voxhaul Broadcast are hurtling into their good times. After a killer run at this year’s South by Southwest music conference, and back-to-back tours with Rooney and the Airborne Toxic Event, the band is hoping to keep plugging along and making progress. They’ve also already outlined the Holy Grail band goal they want to achieve.

“One of our ultimate goals we always talk about is, like, if we were as big as U2 and we just needed to go a step further, we would wanna be the first band to record a record on the moon,” Dennis says. With one eye on the moon, the band is pleased with where they’re headed on Earth for the time being.

“If we just keep on playing shows and hope that people like the music that we’re writing, we’ll keep on enjoying what we do and we’ll hope that other people do, too.”

Voxhaul Broadcast will open for Skybomber and Rooney tonight at Emo”s. They”ll be back in Austin May 22, opening for the Airborne Toxic Event at La Zona Rosa.

A-Trak talks tech, Twitter and turntablism in Austin

Hitting up an A-Trak gig in 2011 is a very different experience from when the DJ was starting out back in 1997. In the late ‘90s, DJing and turntablism made up a huge scene in the music world, but the general public was still familiar with DJs as the friendly morning voices telling them about the weather, and cranking out pop and rock hits between commercials. If you were at a DJ gig, it was in a club and you were on the floor, dancing wildly and lighting up when a piece of your favorite song leapt out at your ears from the mix, or raving with glowsticks under the influence of cosmetics. If you were really into the scene, you were nodding your head as other DJs scratched sick patterns into vinyl grooves. The prevailing venue for DJ gigs, though, was the nightclub, and no matter how technically talented a DJ was, he or she was still mostly considered a background performer.

Flash forward to April 20, 2011, in a new club in downtown Austin called Venue 222. A bouncer collects tickets from fans at the door, who are lined up to see one of their favorite artists perform. There are no drums onstage, though, and no guitars, basses, or even mic stands. When I walk in at 10 p.m., there’s just a folding table set up with two turntables side-by-side on top, and two guys with huge earphones slid around their necks, nodding their heads. This is the modern-day DJ gig:  it’s like any other rock concert, which makes for a very diverse crowd.

After warming up with opening sets by the Gaslamp Killer and Kid Sister, the audience was antsy for A-Trak’s arrival. As the stage crew cleared the folding table from the front of the stage, a giant structure covered by a plastic grey sheet became the focus. After setting up behind the sheet, the crew finally pulled it off to reveal a giant, abstract “A” with LED lights inset. It was very 70s and very, very cool. When A-Trak entered the scene, the crowd went crazy and the diversity really revealed itself. During his set, half of the crowd was club dancing (and one guy had LED gloves on, passionately raving by himself as onlookers smiled), while the rest held up their phones and pocket cameras, recording songs and snapping photos of A-Trak, just like you’d see at a rock show.

A-Trak, born Alain Macklovitch, is totally savvy to the changing world of DJing, since he’s grown alongside it through his young adult years. He got into DJing when he realized he had a knack for it.

“I found I had this sort of natural disposition for it, and then that turned into a really serious hobby, where I would come home everyday after school and practice for many hours,” A-Trak says. “It was a lot of dedication — a little obsessive.”

The obsession paid off. At the tender age of 15, A-Trak won the DMCs World Championship, the biggest DJing competition at the time. And no wonder — he was incredible. This win kick-started his career.

“Suddenly I was getting a whole lot of press, all types of magazines, and getting booked internationally from clubs to festivals to really experimental stuff, collaborating with all different musicians — it opened a lot of doors,” A-Trak says.

A-Trak has since expanded his resume; he’s sort of the Jack White of the dance and hip-hop world, producing albums for Kanye West, breaking Kid Cudi on his music label, Fool’s Gold, working with huge fashion labels like Nike and Zoo York, and remixing and DJing with an expanding list of genres. “That’s how my mind needs to work,” he says. “I need to work on many things at the same time.”

Though DJing has become far more widespread over the years, A-Trak says there are definitely still a few misconceptions about it. “Every era has its own misconceptions. I think now, the big catchphrase everybody likes to say is, ‘DJs are like rockstars!’ I don’t even know what that means. I think if anything, it points to the idea that the biggest thing about DJing now might be the cult of personality. Maybe people don’t know so much about the craft, you know what I mean? A lot of people just know, ‘We’re gonna go to a show and watch this guy play songs we like, and he’s gonna throw his hands in the air.’ That’s one aspect of DJing, but there’s definitely a craft.”

A-Trak is a master of the craft. In his later teen years, he began to develop a notation system for scratching. “It looks more like a seismograph than anything, like a lie detector almost. The basic idea is just to draw a graph of the record movement. It’s very scientific.”

Despite his technical proficiency, A-Trak himself admits that one of his biggest hits, “Barbara Streisand,” which he did with his partner Armand Van Helden in his side project Duck Sauce, was far more basic. “The music is deceptively simple. Super simple. It’s more about the emotion and the reaction that it brings out. I think a lot of it even has to do with our personalities and how we gel with our sort of weirdo sense of humor. What we actually do in the studio, is kindergarten.”

Still, he says, there is a craft to the simplicity here, too. “The production is super simple, but I think the big key to the success of Duck Sauce is the fact that we get it to sound really good. For songs to become universal, of the level that ‘Barbara Streisand’ got, they have to be at a level of sonics that just please people at an instinctive level, where you don’t really think about, ‘Oh yeah, that really sounds good!’ It has to work everywhere. If a car’s passing by and the song’s playing on the radio, you wanna be able to recognize it.”

With technical talent and a knack for great production, A-Trak could really consider himself set. But on top of this, he’s a savvy performer who knows how to use modern tools to communicate and brand himself.

“The relationship between the artist and fans is really different,” he says. “It’s a process where you have to be more directly involved with your fan base, ‘cause they have to go buy tickets.” So he’s utilized social media sites like MySpace and Twitter to reach out directly.

“I think in the beginning I was a little hesitant to get on, because on the more personal life level, it’s like I don’t wanna meet people online, that’s weird. You know? But I kinda had to do it because of my career, and once I got on, my impression is — it’s just how things are.”

A-Trak has become the king of Twitter, sending short notes to fans directly as he tours around the country. “I like Twitter because I like the immediacy of it. I’m always on the move, and anytime I hop in a cab and for ten minutes I’m just kinda sitting in the back seat, with no one to talk to, but not enough time to really do anything constructive — I just start tweeting. There are a lot of moments like that, with just the way my life is. There’s a lot of movement, a lot of in-between things I have to do, and it’s fun to write my thoughts. I’m a fan of the brain fart, something that pops in your head and you say it.”

Not only does A-Trak utilize social media to connect to fans, but he’s an expert at working off of the crowd in live performances. He knows just when to flash a grin, when to climb up on top of his table, when to step back and survey, and when to talk to his fans to pump them up. There is also still a bit of the brazen 15-year-old DMC Champ in A-Trak, choosing to use his samples to communicate through his music. More than anything, these days he lives up to his promise in the Duck Sauce hit “aNYway:” “I can do it any way that you want it.”

Interview – Nathan Christ, Director

Nathan Christ is a director from Austin, Texas, whose documentary Echotone focuses on Austin”s music scene during a turbulent year, all culminating at South by Southwest 2009. The film has already been screened in San Francisco, and will be released to mass audiences in the fall. I sat down with Nathan in East Austin to discuss his path to film, the documentary itself, and the future of music in Austin.


Interview – JBM

It is rare to find a performer capable of silencing a room within their first song; someone who quiets everyone with a heartfelt tune that is given, like a gift, to the crowd.  If you have a chance to watch JBM, the musical moniker of Jesse Marchant, you will find just that.  Marchant crafts delicate, engrossing songs that he performs with calming effortlessness.  He self-released his debut album, not even in July, in early 2009, but it will receive a well-deserved publicity boost when it is re-released through Partisan Records in April.  You might also recognize Marchant’s voice from the gorgeous and heartbreaking songs in the movie, Lovers in a Dangerous Time.  Marchant is currently on a North American tour with Sondre Lerche, but took some time out to chat on the phone after his soundcheck in Tallahassee.

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