Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Interview - Art Versus Industry

This interview is week 9 of Sean Claes' 52 Weeks of Austin Music Interviews.

An Experimental Movement in Music
Austin’s Art Versus Industry

By Sean Claes
About a year ago, I happened to be downtown during Free Week (January 7, 2011) and was invited to catch a electronica/Rock band by the name of Art Versus Industry at Stubb’s. When I wandered in, I was taken aback by the light show, mostly because in my experience when the smog and lights hit the stage at a smaller venue it’s meant to cover up substandard music.

I was pleasantly surprised. Nick Munos (drums), Avi Ghosh (vocals/keys) and Matt Gruber (guitars), the men who make up Art Versus Industry not only provide a wall of sound that is much larger than expected from three musicians, they also make some amazingly wonderful and complex keyboard driven rock music. The lights add to the experience, they are not there to cover anything up, at all.

So, when I heard they released their Movement I EP, were about to complete a full-length album, and they were playing at several venues in March, I thought it was time to get up to speed with the guys.

Sean Claes: What is the story behind the name?
Nick Munos: The band's name is actually an acronym for Avi's name. When the band first came together, Avi was still writing and releasing music under his own name, but wanted to start a new project with a new sound, mindset, and members. We came up with Art Versus Industry as a way to tie the two projects together and to describe the attitude behind the current project.

Avi Ghosh: At the end of the day, despite the reference to my first name- the name embodies the rebellious spirit behind what we're doing. We aren't part of a molded market-machine, especially in respect to current trends though the material isn't necessarily hard to digest by a general consensus (or so we think), It's about reading between the lines to find the truth behind what we're saying without necessarily giving it away.

Claes: Avi, you moved to Austin on a whim with no band. What spurred the move?
Ghosh: I was at a point in my life that I really needed a change of pace and location. I moved to Austin with zero expectations aside from wanting to completely remove myself from where I was at the time. I met someone very special who inspired me to take a leap of faith and relocate with some recording equipment, a subset of my clothing, and an eagerness to discover something “new.” Needless to say- Austin was the breath of fresh air I yearned for and has become what I consider home.

Claes: Matt, you moved across the country to play music with Avi just after you graduated college. What’s the story there?
Matt Gruber: Well, I started listening to Avi's music under the name dEFY, shortly after he released his second full length record The Twelve Degrees Of Loneliness. I was impressed with the sound and sincerity of the music and it struck a chord with me. We became online acquaintances and then after a while, online friends.

I was in my fourth year, finishing up my degree in Math when Avi asked me to contribute to his album All That's Left of Us. After a little conversation, he asked me to be a part of his new live band and I picked myself up and moved down here to be a part of music I truly believed in.

Claes: Nick, a Craigslist ad marked your entry into the band… what were the steps that led up to that ad?
Munos: Actually I went to High school in Plano, Texas and was in an awesomely horrible garage band there. Then I moved to Austin for College and was in several different musical projects that never gained momentum. After college, I sold everything I owned and moved to Brooklyn, New York to try my hand at studio work and start a band there. Soon after, I moved back to Austin and wrote the verbose Craigslist ad that got Avi's attention.

Ghosh: I remember him hitting all the key points in that ad but the rest is just a haze (laughs).

Claes: How does the music writing process go with Art Versus Industry? Is it collaborative or do they come from the mind of a single person?

Ghosh: Usually the songs originate in my bedroom as simplistic ideas. Loops of noises, guitar riffs, synthetic drones with underlying melodies. I like having something substantial to work off of for the rest of the band to add to, take away, or entirely restructure.

Munos: Avi definitely fleshes out the foundation of songs. He will come up with the structure, sound and feel. Then he'll usually give that to me and say, “go nuts.” That's when Matt starts working on the song and will put in his two cents. Then we just build from there.

Claes: You released Movement I in February of 2011. Do you have a favorite track?

Ghosh: My favorite hands down is “Lapse.” I feel like that song truly represents what we all set out to do with Art Versus Industry; both conceptually and musically.

Munos: My favorite song is “Let's Kill.” It's high energy, lots fun to play live, and sums up where the band was mentally “at” during Movement I's writing process.

Gruber: Mine's definitely “Play God.”

Claes: The album is available on your bandcamp for “name your price” meaning free. What has been the reception to the album thus far?

Munos: The reception has been great. It's an amazing feeling going to shows and seeing people singing the songs back to you. It has definitely helped grow our fan-base and allowed for notoriety on a national scale.

Even though the album is available for free, our only request is that if share the love and spread it to your friends. At this point in our careers; we just want as many people possible to hear the result of so much time and effort.

Claes: Is it meant to be listened to front to back or are the songs individual pieces?

Ghosh: It's definitely meant to be heard in one cohesive setting, even being an EP. We've always approached this material as a focused, collective work that builds upon each other, similar to what the next release will present. Even though the music may vary sonically- there is a unified theme and recurrence that only works if you listen from start to finish.

Munos: I personally feel that Movement I works either way. It's a short release and the songs flow together well, but the full-length scheduled to come out soon is definitely meant to be heard from front to back.

Claes: You’ve drawn comparisons to Nine Inch Nails because of the electronic-meets-hard-rock aspect of your music. Would you say they are valid?
Munos: That is a tough question. Just like Nine Inch Nails we make loud, hard hitting electronic music, but I think that is about where the similarities end. It is a huge compliment to be compared to a band of that caliber, but we definitely have our own sound.

Gruber: I believe it's valid only since there are a lot of bands in this genre that mainstream audiences are unaware of. I feel we draw more comparisons with some of the lesser-known acts than we actually do to NIN. It is very flattering though.

Claes: You mentioned a full-length album is in the works.
Munos: Absolutely, the new full length is nearly finished and we have some exciting surprises in store for listeners. We can't be any more specific than that, but I'm excited for people to experience it.

Ghosh: I've never taken so much time, effort, and care to put out a body of work and I don't think I've ever felt more proud of art that I've been involved in. It'll be a challenge for some listeners; but I think it's bound to be a gratifying listen for everyone who's been anticipating the release.

Claes: You’ve got a good collection of unreleased material I’ve seen live and via YouTube. What is your favorite Art Versus Industry song to play live?

Munos: I have a couple. A song called “I Don't Know” a new opener. A song called “Even if it Hurts,” which is an uptempo danceable song and then our slow jam “Dissipate.” All three are officially unreleased and set to come out on our new album.

Gruber: Hmmm, it changes. Especially since we still are playing a decent amount of dEFY/Avi Ghosh material live. So I'll answer for each: dEFY - “This Means Goodbye.” Avi Ghosh - “Eat Me Whole.” Art Versus Industry - “Even if It Hurts.”

Ghosh: Mine's a tie between “I Don't Know,” “Dissipate,” and “This Means Goodbye.” I'd been playing “This Means Goodbye” for years and only with Nick and Matt did that song ever truly come to life.

Claes: Do you have room in your live set for a cover song or two, and if so which ones do you like to jam?
Gruber: We've done NIN's “Big Man With a Gun” in the past to poke fun at some NIN comparisons.

Munos: There is always room for a cover song! We have been toying with this lately and working on taking an unexpected top 40 pop song and making it our own. I don't want to give too much away, but we've got something dirty in the works.

Ghosh: Covers are tricky ground because you're meddling with people's past experiences and to just to re-represent a song the way it already is goes against our musical goals. We're taking the approach of recreating some well-known songs from the ground up- something we're hoping to share later this year.

Claes: What is your opinion of the state of the art of music in Austin these days?
Munos: I think Austin is saturated with amazing musicians but has a much smaller number of bands that are doing something new and original. I feel that Austin, like a lot of the music industry in general, needs a swift kick.

Ghosh: It's a little worrisome, not so much regarding the talent level of the city because that's always in abundance- but moreso the infrastructure for live music. With Emo's leaving Red River and the future of the “Waller Creek” revamp- I feel like the downtown identity for live music is departing.

Throw in the fact you have to pay for parking now and an already struggling economy- I can't help but be skeptical on how these changes are supposed to help our vibrant arts and music community.

While the resurgence on the east-side leaves me hopeful- the sound and vibe of Red River was unlike anything else I've seen anywhere in the US. It was special and to see it being torn apart is a tad heartbreaking. I'm hoping that the newly formed entertainment districts will keep our live music tradition alive and stay true to the necessary production standards previously offered.

Claes: Where are some of the places you like playing in town?

Munos: We always feel at home at Stubb's. They have an amazing staff and we always seem to have our best shows there. We also love The Parish and miss Emo's indoors/Outdoors.
Gruber: Stubb's & Elysium are always fun.

Claes: The widely believed thought is, Elysium is the place for Electronica/Goth music. Have you found other venues accepting of your style of music, or had it been difficult to move into bigger / atypical venues?
Ghosh: I think it was always surprising to me that our most receptive shows, especially early on, were at venues completely independent of Elysium. With that being said, the Elysium is a phenomenal venue that's professionally run and our city's little haven for the darker spectrum of music.

John (Whickham, the owner) has really done an amazing job in integrating us into his venue and never fails to make it feel like home every time we play there. We're fortunate- there really hasn't been a stage in town that hasn't been welcoming and accepting of what we do. It's one of the many reasons we're proud to be based out of Austin.

Gruber: I feel that we've been accepted greatly at other venues, such as Stubb's for instance. We usually have a great time there and people are always very appreciative of what we bring whenever we play there.

Claes: Your live show rivals that of major productions with lights and smoke effects. How important is that visual aspect to your show?
Ghosh: When you come to a show, it's of utmost importance that you feel removed from everything else and are part of a unique experience. We're all about utilizing technology and setting to present a show that will entertain you both visually and sonically.

Munos: People go to shows to be entertained. It is our job to make sure they feel like they got their monies worth, especially when wallets are tight. We spend a lot of time planning how our overall production should look, how the lights should be programmed, and positioned.

We have played several “punk rock shows” and are confident that our energy and song writing will be show enough. However, we feel our production value adds a dimension to our shows that you can't get anywhere else and have allowed us to make a name for ourselves.

Gruber: I've always been a fan of bands that put on large productions. Not just over the top, ornamental productions, but productions that enable the audience to take part and experience a whole different side of the music that they may not understand if seen in a typical rock-show set-up.

It's a necessary addition to create a specific meaning and purpose to our songs. I've also always kept this in mind: if I was a fan of Art Vs. Industry, what would I want to see when I came out to a show?

Claes: You’ve got several shows coming up this month, including a Texas Rockfest date on March 16th. Tell me a little about Rockfest and how you ended up playing.
Ghosh: The Heart of Texas Rockfest is the premiere rock n' roll festival to attend during SXSW music week. It's a culmination of talent all over the world that comes together for three days a year with an annual attendance of 200,000. Adam (Brewer), the guy who runs the event, truly loves live music and supports it because he actually cares about it.

It's quite a selfless endeavor that he undertakes every year- putting together some of the strongest regional and national talent for a FREE out-door event during the most insane week of the year in Austin. When he invited us to be on-board this year, it was a no-brainer. This is our first time and we're putting together our most brutal set to date for the event.

Claes: You’re also playing a March 10th show for Vivogig. For those who don’t know, what is Vivogig?
Ghosh: Vivogig is an incredible ATX-based live music photography platform that lets fans capture and share pictures from live performances. It's a company run by two extremely talented people (Daniel Senyard and Tanner Moehle) who “get” Austin's live music culture and are all about transcending the live experience for audiences.

It's been exciting for me to see Vivogig become what it has over the past year, starting with great podcasts into this fully integrated content generation platform.

Be sure to check it out at and get the iPhone app in time for our show this week! We're beyond excited to be a part of their party at Swan Dive and have a specific set designed for the event. Knowing the professionalism behind the Vivogig team, everyone in attendance is bound to be a part of something very special.

Claes: Any other gigs coming up?
Ghosh: I'm extremely excited about playing Eye In The Sky's “Future Of Music” Showcase at Shiner's Saloon on March 17th. That's another very professionally run organization and Anthony (Erickson), the mastermind behind it all, has quite the reputation for throwing memorable events and parties.

We couldn't have dreamt up a more exciting way to conclude music week. People should check out their new site which highlights the upcoming show and offers some ear candy:

Munos: We're playing the Naked and Famous after party at Stubb's on March 23rd which we are excited about. It'll be free entry and our first “headlining” show since January's free week.

Claes: Anything else to add?

Ghosh: Just a thank you to everyone that's been part of this two and a half year journey. It's an honor to consider Austin, Texas our home and be a part of a magazine that supports our incredible music community.

You've got several opportunities to see Art Versus Industry this month. And they all happen to be free shows, so you can spend your money on a t-shirt or perhaps an EP. The shows are: March 10 at Swan Dive (Free with RSVP on Do512), March 16 at 11:30p at Texas Rockfest Outdoor stage (7th and Neches), March 17 at Shiner's Saloon, and the Naked and Famous after party at 11:00p at Stubb's on March 23.

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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