Tuesday, February 28, 2012

DSGNS Interview

This interview is week 8 of Sean Claes' 52 Weeks of Austin Music Interviews.

Welcome to the New Noise

By Sean Claes

Formed in early 2011, Austin hardcore outfit DSGNS is one of the stand-out young metal bands on the local scene these days. They seem to be one of the newer brands of bands as well, as they take their marketing, image and presentation just as seriously as they do their brand of face melting metal.

They released their self-produced 4-track debut EP, WSTLND, in January. The first track, “Thousand Yard Stare,” caught the ear of Chuck Loesch who played the track on 101x’s No Control Radio. It’s no surprise the song is being played as each track on the EP is well produced and the music is pretty fantastic.

A nod to their marketing is the fact that the EP is also in every conceivable storefront including, iTunes, Amazon, Rhapsody, Spotify, Zune, Bandcamp, and locally at Waterloo Records and wherever they are playing live. They’ve also got a full set of merchandise that includes shirts, patches and stickers.

Did I mention they’ve been together as DSGNS for less than a year?

They are also making the rounds of Austin clubs who support metal including established venues like Emo’s (they played one of the final shows at the Red River location in December), The Scoot Inn, Trophy’s and The Dirty Dog Bar.

Speaking of The Dirty Dog, they take that stage for a free show on March 1, 2012 as part of the Texas Metal Collective’s Hardcore Showcase.

The members of DSGNS include Jake Raines (vocals), Stephen Sanchez (guitar), Jeremy Hrabal (bass), and Keith Hernandez (drums).

I thought it was time to get to know the guys a little better.

Sean Claes: How did the band form, and when?
Stephen Sanchez:
We originally were called Cobretti, a band that was started by my good friend Adam Elias, and after a few member changes we just weren’t the same band, so we decided to change to a name that was more fitting.

Jake Raines: I put an ad on Craigslist in Feb of 2011 as a "last ditch" effort to join a band. There were a couple of vocalists before me and I got really lucky that they were looking for a replacement. Stephen sent me the tracks, I laid vocals over them, sent them back and we started practicing a month later.

Claes: How did you end up calling yourselves DSGNS?
Keith Hernandez:
Stephen had the name DESIGNS picked out and we all liked it. After a while he suggested we drop the vowels and go with DSGNS. We all thought it was cool for a couple reasons. The fact that the name doesn’t give away the sound or genre and the fact that it just looks cool!
Jeremy Hrabal:
We decided not to go the route of a cliché metal name or anything that you can try to categorize our music as.

Claes: Being a fan of bands like Terror, Every Time I Die and Norma Jean, I really sunk my teeth into your music. You guys do it well. What are some of the previous projects you’ve been a part of?

Raines: A few years ago, I was in a band called Earth Eater. We made a small name for ourselves around town, but we disbanded in 2009.

Keith: I grew up on metal, then hardcore. I’ve been playing in bands since about 97. My first band was from VA. It was a screamo/noise band. I also played guitar in a metal band called Angelhead.

Most of the other bands I’ve played in have been more hardcore style bands. Project 208 was definitely the most fun and the band that went the "farthest.” In the early days it was more punk rock than hardcore, but towards the end it got a lot more aggressive.

Sanchez: I was in Thumbscrew for a number of years, then Cobretti now DSGNS.

Claes: What does the scene look like for Metal/Hardcore Music in Austin these days?
It's making a comeback after a few stale years. There are a lot of really good bands in Austin right now, in all genres of Metal/Hardcore and there are great promoters that are working hard to build the scene up, the guys in Texas Metal Collective and Anthony with Come and Take It Productions are really working hard to make sure bands like us have a home in Austin. And bookers like Winston at Trophy’s, Rich at The Annex 1808 and Rufus at The Scoot Inn are helping out the scene by booking metal/hardcore shows. There is a lot of promise in the scene.

Hrabal: It blows, people need to get out of Fucking dance clubs and start banging their fucking heads!

Claes: Hardcore is a genre that is usually overlooked in mainstream media. What are some of the ways you’re getting your word out?
That’s the $20,000 question. Facebook and Twitter help a bit. Having an active website and blog that people want to check out and trying to keep them interested is important. But nothing beats the old school approach of making awesome fliers and hitting the streets!

Austin is tough because there is just so much music everywhere that the locals become a little jaded and don’t seem to care as much.

We've been trying to stretch out a bit from Austin and gain some attention in the surrounding areas. It’s definitely an uphill battle but we are pretty determined.

Sanchez: In these times, you have to be online; you have to have a Facebook page, twitter, available music online, and pictures, you have got to be accessible to the Ritalin nation.

We don’t rely on the internet alone. We combine the online with the “in your face” aspect, we still hit the pavement and hand out fliers, go to shows, we want to be an actual physical presence within our scene.

Claes: One of the things I noticed right is you’ve got some pretty sweet t-shirts and stickers designed by Daniel Maldonado of Trash Art Designs. How’d you guys connect?

Sanchez: Daniel and I were in Thumbscrew together, we spent many hours, days, weeks, and months in small quarters so we are like brothers. And once he heard about DSGNS he offered his services as our graphic designer.

He just gets our style and what we want to convey visually. We love all of his work for us and for others, he has tons of talent. I can't say enough about Danny Boy.

Claes: What’s the story behind the “panty dropper” stickers?
I'm not entirely sure where the art came from but it's similar to an ink-blot. Some people will see it for what it is right away, and others may never be able to figure it out. It looks different to everyone and it's something that doesn't explain itself.

Claes: You released a 4 song EP on January 3, 2012. What went into the recording process?
We are lucky enough to have two recording engineers in the band, so we pretty much went in the studio and fired it out.

Keith: Well we had a bunch of songs written but we weren’t sure if they were all up to snuff with some of our newer material so we decided not to do a full-length just yet. We took a page out of Glassjaw's book and decided it would be better to release several EPs over the next few months rather than take a couple months to create an album. This way we can have fresh material out there sooner for people who are into it, and keep them interested.

We already had the follow-up EP tracked by the time WSTLND was officially released. Both Jake and I are audio engineers, so keeping busy in the studio is easy for us.

Raines: Many different things went into our recording process. Stephen and Keith tracked the drums and guitars in Keith's studio. Then we tracked vocals and bass in my studio. Keith and I split engineering duties during tracking and he got to work afterward, doing all of the mixing and mastering, and made everything sound perfect.

Claes: NO CONTROL on 101x has played “Thousand Yard Stare” from the EP. What was it like to hear your music over the airwaves for the first time?
I find it strange that someone in Austin, who has no idea who I am, is listening to my band over the radio. It's an awesome feeling but at the same time I think "I'm happy to be on the radio, now play that song five more times next week, please."

Hrabal: Feels Fucking awesome!!!

Claes: “Thousand Yard Stare” seems like it could be an anthem for the Zombie Apocalypse. Tell me a little about that track.
There are several different ideas behind this song.

The main idea is literally about being able to return from the dead. In the first line I’m posing a question that implies perhaps we would live our lives differently if we could.

Another idea involves self-awareness- knowing that you will die one day and trying not to live life wishing you could go back and do things differently.

The final idea deals with chaos. The world would be an even crazier place if we could return from the dead.

Claes: I really liked the line in “Champagne Man” that goes: “Hold on to creativity like a misfit badge of honor.” Tell me the story behind that track.

Raines: The inspiration behind that song stems from being around irresponsible people; people who can't seem to hone in on a purpose in life. In the line you've cited and the one following that, I'm referring to being unrealistic and desperate to be something more than you are.

And I'm also referring to feeling that although certain creativity may be misunderstood, people will use that to get as far in life as possible. It makes you a misfit, in a way, but creative people are connected in this sense.

Claes: What is your favorite song in your live set?
My personal favorite is a song called "Long in the Tooth". It has been our set-closer for the last few months. It will be the last song on our new EP. I just love how the 6/8 feel swings and the ending is epic as f**k.

Raines: I like playing "X it out". That is the only song where I'm not pointing out something about society or commenting on any subject matter; it's purely introspective. The melody and the lyrics fit together perfectly and it’s probably my favorite song.

Sanchez: I can’t single any one song out right now; they all get my blood boiling.

Hrabal: My favorite is still “Thousand Yard Stare;” it mixes strong and heavy with complexity perfectly.

Claes: What goes into the creation of a DSGNS song?
Jake writes the lyrics, and Stephen and I will read them and give our opinions. Maybe change a word here and there or revise a passage, etc.

As far as the music goes, it’s a team effort once we get in the rehearsal room, but Stephen and I have a James/Lars thing going on where we'll get together at my house or my studio and work on riffs and songs we have in our heads and try and get them ready for the rest of the band to learn, at which point we'll get their input and make any necessary changes to structure or arrangement.

Claes: You’re headlining a show at Austin’s Dirty Dog on Mach 1 for the Texas Metal Collective’s “Free Metal Thursdays.” For those who haven’t been, what is a DSGNS live show like?
They are insane. There is a ton of energy and people don't expect it once it happens. We have the kind of live show that people will write about one day.

Hernandez: Jake has this weird, manic preacher thing he does that’s really cool. Stephen and Jeremy aren’t afraid to go crazy and I am basically a pissed off gorilla that wants to fuck his drums.

Hrabal: Imagine we are possessed by the Metal Gods and just shotgunned a shit load of Red Bull.

Sanchez: It’s a 25 minute display of raw energy and intense emotion combusting before your eyes.

Claes: Are you playing anywhere during the March Music Madness week?
Yes, all we have lined up at the moment is the Metal Fest at Hoek’s Death Metal Pizza set up by Texas Metal Collective March 14th at 8pm, we’d love to play all week, but just didn’t get the calls. But anyone that is in need of a great live band give us a shout!

Claes: You had a chance to play one of the last shows at the “old” Emo’s on Red River. What are your thoughts about the closing of that location?
It has always been an honor to play at Emo’s, growing up in the Austin Area, I’ve seen tons of my favorite bands on the Emo’s stage, I’d be lying if I said I was not sad or upset Emo’s Red River is no longer.

Raines: I have lots of memories from that place and I'm sad to see it go. Emo's East is great, and it's definitely a step in the right direction. I'm happy to see an alternative venue that is on par with some of the best in the country.

But there was something special about pissing in a trough filled with ice, covered in sweat after watching your favorite band play.

Hrabal: I’ve been going there since I was in high school, so I’m bummed it is gone, I’ve seen a lot of great shows, and played some of my favorite ones there. Looking forward to playing at the new Emo’s in the future.

Hernandez: It’s really a huge bummer. That venue was the best sounding room in town.

Claes: Who are some of the local metal/hardcore bands we should check out?
The Brigade, Blurry Vision, Vile Aura, Helisphere, Ready the Messenger, Prey For Sleep, Killing in Apathy, Head Crusher, and Beyond Gods and Empires.

Claes: Anything to add?
Stay tuned for our new EP and come see us play!

Sanchez: Thanks to Sean, and thanks to anyone who is taking the time to read this. Go check out our Facebook, twitter, bandcamp, and reverbnation pages.

DSGNS will play next on March 1 at Austin’s Dirty Dog Bar. It’s a free show and they share the bill with No Hope In Texas, Memoirs of a Mercenary and The Revival Party. The show starts at 9p and DSGNS headlines at midnight.

Learn more about DSGNS at their Facebook, Website, and follow them on Twitter. You can listen to their WSTLND in it's entirety, then purchase it at

Sean Claes is the owner of Austin's INsite Magazine and has been a freelance entertainment writer since 1996. If you like what you read... please share. To visit Claes' homepage, go here -

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