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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
The HRDCR of DSGNS



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?
Hrabal:
GUITAR HERO

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 love.lies.bleed.ing 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?
Sanchez:
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?
Hernandez:
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?
Raines:
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?
Hrabal:
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?
Raines:
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.
Raines:
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?
Hernandez:
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?
Hernandez:
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?
Raines:
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?
Stephen:
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?
Sanchez:
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?
All:
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?
Hernandez:
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 dsgns.bandcamp.com/.

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 - http://www.seanclaes.com/.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Monday, February 20, 2012

Interview: Jeremy Steding

This interview is week 7 of Sean Claes' 52 Weeks of Austin Music Interviews.

Living and Learning with
Jeremy Steding



Jeremy Steding plays that dance hall style Country music that thankfully has survived the progression of Country music. His style seems to equally pull from the likes of Robert Earl Keen and Johnny Cash and, like any songwriter worth his salt, he is able to take you places with his lyrics.

When he moved from Florida to Austin in 2007, he brought with him a songwriters talent and a love for the Texas-style Americana country... and over the last six years, he's worn it well.

I just recently discovered him when I was invited to a recording of the Backroom Bootleg Sessions at the Gibson Guitar Showroom. When I saw him perform his song "Arkansas Rain," I knew I had to get to know him a little better... and I needed to let others know about this talent.

Sadly, he's not sticking around Austin very long. He's making the jump to Nashville to hone his songwriting skills, but before he goes you should make it a point to see him live at least once.


Sean Claes: You made the trek from Florida to Austin in 2007 with an unreleased album in your hands. Tell me about your relocation, and why you chose Austin?

Jeremy Steding: It felt right. I had never been, but I just kept hearing about it. I wanted to pursue original music, professionally. I wanted to perform my own brand of country music in a place I believed it would be well received. I wanted to grow as an artist.



Claes: Were you familiar with the “Texas Music” brand of country?
Steding: In college, I heard of Cory Morrow and Robert Earl Keen. I dug into Texas Music and fell in love. If I could pinpoint it, I would say that the REK song, “Feelin’ Good Again,” was the reason I moved to Austin, having never before been to Texas. Moving to Austin was the best decision I have ever made.

Claes: Growing up in Florida, how did you end up playing and singing country/Americana?
Steding: I grew up listening to good music. My dad plays and sings. “Paradise,” by John Prine, “Folsom Prison Blues”, by Johnny Cash, and folk classics, like “Where Have all the Flowers Gone?” were features in his nightly, family room concert series.


Claes: Your first album, 2008’s Whiskey Songs and Prison Songs, got some attention on the Texas Music Charts for the single “Auburn.” How did it feel to get that first charted single?
Steding: It was an amazing feeling! I take the most pride in the fact that I promoted it entirely myself. I did not spend the usual $3,500 on a Texas Radio promoter because I didn’t have it. Honestly, at that time, I don’t think I had $350. I just did the best I could, being persistent and polite. I am very grateful for the independent minded stations that helped. This is still a cult hit in a lot of college crowds.

Claes: You also released A Damn Good Ride in 2009 and hit the charts with “Let The Boys Drink Whiskey.”
Steding: I believe this is one of the two best produced songs I have ever done and still one of my favorites. Tim Crouch plays the fiddle and mandolin and Doug DeForest produced. I feel the song came out beautifully. ”Life’s a Song” from Whiskey Songs and Prison Songs, is my other favorite.

Claes: Do you feel you advanced as a musician and performer between the two?
Steding: Between the two albums, I grew immensely. I progressed quite a bit as a player, musician and singer. I could play with a metronome by this point.

Most importantly, I learned about the music business and entered it. I recorded WSPS in 2005, (though it wasn’t “released” until 2008) so, by the time I made A Damn Good Ride I had not been in the studio in almost four years.


Claes: Back in June you released your third record I Keep On Livin’, but I Don’t Learn. How has the reaction been thus far?
Steding: Very, very good overall. We have had a ton of support from bloggers and radio stations internationally. This album was written about at least 4 times as much as the previous two combined.

I feel my fan base is really expanding with this. At the same time, I have further separated from the Texas Country mainstream. I feel like I am really coming into my own. Of course, now, I am totally inspired and can't wait to record again!

The reaction, in Europe, has been amazing and that is where I have been focusing my attention. We debuted at #17 on the Euro-Americana Charts, and Euro Radio airplay is growing wildly.

Claes: How do you feel you’ve progressed as a songwriter on the new album?
Steding: This is the first album I could hand to Guy Clark and say, “Hey man, I’d be grateful for a listen.” I feel the songwriting on this album is more “intelligent” than the ones before. I have had kind mentions and gained respect from some of the songwriters I truly admire. The production is simple and true to the live show of the time.

Sean Claes: The album was produced by Walt Wilkins. How was it to work with him?
Steding: Walt seems like the coolest guy in the world, but he is actually much cooler than he seems! It was a ball.



Claes: I caught you performing “Arkansas Rain” (video above) from the current album as part of the “Bootleg Series” at the Gibson Guitar Showroom. It’s really a beautiful track that seems to be a classic hurtin’ song. Tell me about the song.
Steding: I wrote the song while in a very unhealthy relationship, and it was a forethought into what the future might be if I didn’t get out of it. I thought about the millions of people who live, daily, with heartache and regret.

I’m very glad I wrote the song instead of becoming one of them. Struggle often creates absolutely beautiful art.

Claes: You cover Johnny Cash’s “Don’t Take Your Guns To Town” on the new release.
Steding: Cash is my favorite artist and this is one of Walt’s favorite songs. It was just right!


Claes: What is your favorite track on I Keep On Livin’, but I Don’t Learn?
Steding: I struggle with this. My favorite song is “Arkansas Rain,” but I think “Five Aprils” sounds the best. I love the fiddle.

I kept this album completely organic, in the style the live band played at the time, and in retrospect I would have brought in more fiddle/mandolin.

Claes: You also used Kickstarter.com to raise the money to record this and you were able to raise over $11k and had 82 individuals back you. That’s pretty amazing.
Steding: Grateful would be a huge understatement. I am overwhelmed with gratitude for the friends/fans and family that helped us reach our goal! Thank you, Gracias, Merci, Danke Schon!!! I can not possibly thank y’all enough.

Claes: You currently have all three of your releases available for free download (or for a contribution of any amount). Why did you choose to do this?
Steding: Embarrassingly enough, I was turned onto some of my favorite artists, like Robert Earl Keen, through free (illegal) downloads. Since then, I have spent a lot of money on concert tickets, hard copy CDs and I have mentioned many of these artists in conversations I’ve had.

If it were not for “free” music, I would not have discovered Texas Music. Though many would argue, I believe this is the way of the future.
Upcoming bands must be heard. Exposure is the only way people can pass judgment and mainstream media is not an option for all music.

I have found that the more people hear the music, the more people will come to shows. If a song touches someone, they tend to buy a CD, or a shirt.




Claes: Who are some of your favorite musicians in town?
Steding: Off the top of my head: The Trishas, Heybale, Dale Watson, Roger Wallace, Mike Ethan Messick, Walt Wilkins and the Mystiqueros, Mike and the Moonpies, John Evans, Bracken Hale, Tessy Lou Williams, Hayes Carll...

I could go on and on and on, they just came to mind at first thought... I know I need to see White Ghost Shivers, I have been assured, by trustworthy sources that I will think they are fantastic. Please, go listen to Bracken Hale.


Claes: You’re playing tonight (2/21) at Legends Sports Bar in Austin. What’s the cover and are you playing with anyone?
Steding: This is a free, solo-acoustic show. This is actually a very cool hang, a lot of times other musicians show up and play some...

Claes: This Friday (2/24) you’ll play the Old Coupland Inn and Dancehall. Is it a different feel when you play legendary places like this?

Steding: Totally. This is our first time back since it reopened. Coupland Dance Hall is legendary. It just feels good to be there. Coupland is the real deal. Please, please, please, if you have never made the 40 minute trek out there, do it. It is worth it. This is living Texas History, you step back in time 100 years when you walk through the door.

Also, get the ribs or something “Chicken Fried”


Claes: You’ve also been tapped to play the ‘Rockin’ A Outdoor Stage” at the Star of Texas Fair & Rodeo in March.
Steding: I love the rodeo. This is our third year playing there. It started because my buddy, Scott Boyd was dating Christy Bowen, who booked the bands in 2010. She wanted a young, more traditional country band for a show. Then, I have just followed up, yearly. We always love playing at the Rodeo.

We are playing outdoors and on the 100x Stage on Monday, March 12.

Claes: Where are some of your favorite places to play?
Steding: I have really been loving hosting the pickers’ circle, in Luckenbach. Also, I love Saxon Pub - sound is perfect, Threadgill’s, NXNW Brewery is always fun - we play most of their special events. I love going to Lubbock and playing The Blue Light.

My living room is also rad, great acoustics!
I’d like to try out the Rattle Inn and the White Horse. Those seem like cool new spots.

I have also recently started an Irish Folk Music Side Project. We will be playing the St. Patricks’ Day Celebrations at Fado Irish Pub and NXNW. I’m really excited. I absolutely love Irish/Scottish folk music, and I believe I do a pretty decent job at it.



Claes: I saw that you’re taking a trip in June to Europe to tour overseas this year.
Steding: I love experience and travel. When I saw how well the album was being received, in Europe, I knew now was the time. I am planning on staying most of the summer.

Fifteen shows have been booked, ranging from house concerts to dance hall stuff. I have had some great friends, here, and in Europe, and here, helping. I’m truly grateful.


Big thanks to April Orr, Rob in Scotland, Mandrin in Switzerland, Max in Italy, Dolf and Frank in The Netherlands. Also, huge thanks to the Euro-Americana Chart and all those involved.


Claes: Is this your first tour overseas?

Steding: I backpacked Europe when I graduated college and have had the pleasure of visiting a number of times, but I have never performed there. My parents, Dan and Jeanne, lived in Erlangen, Germany for three years (2003-06) so I’ve spent a good amount of time there.

Claes: I hear you’re planning on making the move to Nashville this year.
Steding: I’m going to Nashville in October. I want to continue developing my craft and grow as a musician/songwriter. I know I can be a better musician/singer/songwriter than I am now.

I think a change of scene and an immersion in another culture will help. I want to pursue the top level of professional songwriting/performing.
I’ll continue touring and spending a great deal of time in Texas, I love Texas and traveling around, sharing our music. I just feel like its the right time.

I will be pursuing publishing, I feel like Zac Brown could have his first ballad hit with “Arkansas Rain.”

I love Nashville. I used to buy into the whole TX vs. Nashville thing, but in my opinion, its not true, at least not anymore.

Claes: The band you play with is called the “Band of Bastards.” How’d that name come about?
Steding: Ehhhhhhh, it was a quick idea and it stuck. I try to avoid the term anymore but people seem to love it. They’re actually really nice guys, haha.



Claes: Is there anything you’d like to add?
Steding: I can’t even begin to express how grateful I am for our friends/fans/supporters. Thank y’all so much for everything. I consider myself truly blessed to perform and travel.

I hope to have a beer with you soon! Come see the Country Band or the new, Irish side-project, soon. First 10 people to mention this article, in a post on my Facebook band page get a free CD and your first drink is on me at the show of your choice (expires after 3/17/2012)

For more information on Jeremy, find him online at http://www.jeremysteding.com or on Facebook or Twitter. His entire catalog of music is available for free (you're welcome to donate if you like) via his Music Page.

He plays tonight in Austin at Legends Sports Bar (
8901 Business Park Drive) He'll play the Old Coupland Inn and Dancehall (101 Hoxie St, Coupland, Texas) this Friday. Sunday you can find him Under The Trees at Luckenbach, Texas.


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 - http://www.seanclaes.com/.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

BANDS: Free Music Options for March 2012

Two Ways To Get Your Music Out
FREE
in March 2012


If your band is going to be in Austin for that mystical 3rd Week in March, INsite has been made aware of a couple of really cool deals that may help you get your music out.

One is a compilation album that Austin record label Defeat The Squares is collecting songs for, and the other is a studio that Converse (the tennis shoe makers) are going to be offering during SXSW.

The catch? You have to contact them and sign up.... and spaces are limited. The cost? Completely free. Just be sure and thank INsite on your liner notes of your next album... and send us one.



Defeat The Squares Compilation
Austin-based record label Defeat The Squares announced recently that they are putting together a compilation CD to be passed out in Austin during March.

Here's the skinny: The CD will be a mixture of rock music with a comedy track in between each song. 1,000 physical copies will be pressed-up and passed out for free. They will also release the album as a digital download via http://defeatthesquares.com.

There is no cost to be included on the compilation, and the deadline to submit your track is February 24, 2012. Follow this link to their Contact Page and indicate interest in the compilation. They will get back to you with details. FYI
INsite is on board as a media sponsor for this compilation.

Contact: http://defeatthesquares.com/fr_contact.cfm



Converse Rubber Tracks
Converse, the athletic shoe company, recently opened a recording studio in Brooklyn, New York that offers free studio time for emerging artists on their state-of-the-art equipment.

They have decided to bring their studio to Austin from March 13 - 17, 2012. They wish to fill up all of the time slots with Texas-based artists. So, if you're a band in Texas, take the carrot and record a song or two. They are genre non-specific and you own all of the rights to the music you record. They will also have a sound engineer on hand to handle that aspect. All you have to do is apply. Seems simple enough.

The catch? They are limiting the sign-up to five bands, so apply NOW.

Information:
www.converse.com/rubbertracks




Tuesday, February 14, 2012

TRES Interview

This interview is week 6 of Sean Claes' 52 Weeks of Austin Music Interviews.

Setting The Mood With TRES
Bringing Latin Jazz to Austin for a Decade


By Sean Claes
Over a decade ago, guitarist Kurt David Phillips and bassist Mike Rosch got together in Austin, Texas and decided they would make beautiful music together. They combined their passion for Latin music and decided to perform their brand of Latin Jazz fusion together with a percussionist and bill themselves as TRES.

In 2005 they released their debut album, a self-titled instrumental offering that is both great and timeless. Most of the gigs they play seem to be as background music at restaurants, so if you’ve eaten at places like Z Tejas (they play the 6th Street location this Sunday 2/19/12), there’s a chance that the background music was performed by these amazing musicians.

First, some background on these individuals.
Rosch plays in six other bands in town (Blind Date, Sonido Sol, Carousel, with Britini Hoover, the Richard Jessee Project, and with Omar Lopez) . he also owns Mary Tubble, LLC which does composition and recording of music beds and sound effects for commercials, indie films, internet videos and more.


Phillips has been playing music well over 20 years and is the owner of the Lone Star School of Music, a local music school that offers individual lessons as well as rock camps, mommy and me, and more.

In 2005, the band parted ways with their percussionist, Shango Dely, when he had to leave the country, and Noah Mosgofian joined the group. Mosgofian has just settled to Austin after touring with the amazing dance troupe STOMP for six years. Like Rosch, he plays with several outfits.

I thought the week of Valentine’s Day would be a good time to touch base and talk with the members of TRES. After all…Latin infused jazz IS sheet-dancing music… isn’t it?


Sean Claes: TRES seems to fit the band for two reasons, the fact that there are three in the band plus the Latin jazz music you play. How did the band end up choosing this genre of music?
Mike Rosch: Haha, yeah the name was decided based on those two things and at the time, none of the three of us felt like the name was as important as the music. Plenty of bands have weird or silly names. It does make it difficult for us to add a sax player or do duet gigs, however.

The style of music was the reason we got together, really. I was recruited into my college’s salsa band and realized in a hurry that this was my absolute favorite style of music I had heard. When I decided to get back into playing, I wanted to play “salsa” but in a smaller format – or at least as close to real “salsa” as three guys with no horns could sound. Kurt had wanted to do a Latin trio from the get go too, so between my salsa knowledge and his collection of guitar based Latin music, our sound was born, I suppose.

Claes: How have you and Kurt kept it together as a band for a decade?
Rosch: It’s no easy feat. But then, sometimes it’s totally effortless. I guess it’s not that different from a good marriage. You realize your partner has quirks, just as everyone does, and you can either deal with them, or not. It always makes me sad when a band can’t get along, so I’m fortunate and very happy to say that the three of us do.

Kurt and I have been like minded enough to keep this going for 10 years, as you mention, and with the addition of Noah a few years back, I think we found a 3rd guy who thinks like we do. And don’t get me wrong, all 3 of us have quirks and occasionally get our feathers ruffled, but we are close enough with each other to realize that at the end of the day it’s about the music first, and we can fight later. Usually later never comes.


Claes: You released your self-titled debut in 2005 containing 13 original songs. The cool thing about your music style is, it’s instantly classic and timeless at the same moment. Do you have plans for a follow up CD?
Rosch: That is a very nice compliment, thank you. I’m always glad to know that the current CD is resonating with people.

There are definitely plans for a new one. We’ve done quite a bit of scratch tracking for it already and so far it’s just been a question of scheduling to actually get it done. The new disc will be our own versions of really old Cuban songs, really more of the idea I mentioned earlier about arranging “salsa” into a 3 piece band.

We’ve added vocals since the first CD, and might even add some horns and such to the new one. It’ll be hot, if we can ever get it done.

Claes: When you release a new recording, are you going to release is via a CD or as a digital download?
Rosch: It is my opinion that in a world of iPods, mp3 players, and digital downloads that people still do listen to CDs and like to have them in their hands. Since we primarily sell our music at shows, it’s a whole lot cooler to have a physical disc than a card with an iTunes url.

It will be available in both formats, of course... I’m just saying, CDs are not dead.



Claes: On the CD, you’ve got a track entitled "The Last Picture Show (a Theme from an Imaginary Western)" That really has that Desperado feel to it. Was that in your mind when writing it?
Kurt David Phillips: The inspiration for “The Last Picture Show” goes a little further back, all the way to The Good, the Bad and the Ugly. Ennio Morricone, who wrote the soundtrack, has always been one of my favorite composers and has been copied by almost everyone, including myself.

The Desperado influence is on the right track, just envision Clint Eastwood instead of Antonio Banderas strolling into town.

Claes: When you play live, do you tend to favor originals over covers?
Rosch: Absolutely not. We still play plenty of our own stuff, but we have way too much fun playing our favorite songs from other composers.

That said, when you come to a TRES show, you don’t have to know some obscure Benny Moré song to enjoy the show, nor do you even have to be familiar with our CD. That’s what I love about this music – it’s just pleasing to hear and fun to dance to, even if you’ve never before heard one note of what we are playing.

Claes: You’re playing Sunday February 19th at Z Tejas on 6th Street. What can the crowd expect?
Rosch: Great drinks, half price appetizers, and lots of pretty people. Haha. Z Tejas is a restaurant gig that we currently do once a month.

As a Latin jazz trio we actually do more restaurants than anything else, and in these cases we are just trying to provide an exciting added bonus to an otherwise already enjoyable dining experience, without making it too much about us.

We do play in the “annex” at Z which is more of a bar but still serves the full menu, so I highly recommend to anyone looking for a fun night and a great Austin experience to come on out. And again, we are there once a month playing all varieties of Latin music.

Claes: When playing a restaurant gig like Z Tejas, what is the #1 requested song that people ask you to play?
Rosch: In TRES, we have a joke... We take requests as long as it’s a Latin jazz song that we know. The thing is, people love what they hear, but they don’t really know the music.

So rather than specific requests, we typically get requests for a particular artist that they might have thought of while listening to us. “Do you guys know any Santana,” for example. Santana’s music isn’t really what we do, but we learned one of his just for this kind of occasion.

Other than Santana, we get Gypsy Kings and Buena Vista Social Club requests, and once in a while a patron who just doesn’t get it will request “Sexual Healing” or “Smells Like Teen Spirit.” True story.


Claes: Do you have a favorite gig that you’ve played in the last 10 years?
Rosch: It’s really hard to think of just one in the last 10 years, but for me I’d say it was our CD release party. We held it at an amazing place called Tambaleo which is closed now, and had just an amazing turnout.

This was before we had even met Noah, and the percussionist who recorded the CD had to go back to his home in Columbia and couldn’t do the event with us. It was of course bad timing and a real bummer, but we turned lemons into lemonade and hired BOTH of our favorite substitute percussionists, one on congas, the other on drumset. It was big and loud and full and tight and I just soaked it up.

Oh, and we sold a ton of CDs which is always nice.

There was also a road show - an event in San Angelo, TX that turned out to be a great gig with an amazing after party. But what happens in San Angelo, stays in San Angelo. Haha.

Claes: You are all very competent and amazing musicians, and this style is not an easy one to emulate. Do you feel the genre gets the respect it deserves in Austin?
Noah Mosgofian: Jazz in general doesn't get much respect in Austin. There's only one dedicated Jazz room, and it's often empty. I think people appreciate it, they just don't go out to pay to see it.

Rosch: I don’t want to step on any toes in this town, but he’s not wrong. In general, all the jazzers in town are competing to play at the same 5 restaurants. I’m exaggerating a little, but it’s unfortunate that more places don’t want it. Or the ones that do, don’t have the budget.

So I guess in general the answer is no. But I would take the time to thank Elephant Room and BBA Management and Booking. Elephant for sticking to their jazz club guns, and BBA for keeping the jazzers in this town working.


Claes: Mike, you did a bass-only recording of Steve Vai’s “The Attitude Song” that actually garnered a response from Vai himself. How’d he end up hearing it, and what did he say?
Rosch: That’s a silly story. I recorded that totally on a whim and later added it to a demo of mine. I don’t know why I thought anyone would want to hear an all bass version of a “shred” guitar tune, least of all the man himself who wrote and tracked the original, but I somehow got it in his hands and he liked it.

This would have been before MySpace, Facebook, or any of that, so I must have just found somebody’s email address on his website and convinced them to put it on his desk. I got an email back from him a week later. He basically told me that he was very impressed, but equally amused, indicating that he laughed a lot while listening to it (I guess that’s a good thing?), and he praised me for the dedication it took to make it happen. It felt pretty good.

Now if I could just do one gig with Vai before I die, I’ll be complete.

Claes: You have been called “Jaco Reincarnated” by your peers. For those who aren’t familiar with Jaco Pastorius, can you explain?
Rosch: This is a tough question. On the one hand, it’s silly again for me to be compared to him, but there’s nothing silly about Jaco’s story. To the contrary, rather tragic.

Jaco was possibly the greatest bass player that ever lived. If he were still alive today, who knows what he’d be doing? He was so innovative. Unfortunately, he was very self-destructive and between drugs and a very real death wish, he ruined his life and burned a lot of bridges before being beaten to death by a club bouncer. He was likely bipolar but never officially diagnosed.

I think the parallel between he and I was drawn only due to the fact that I used to play fretless bass almost exclusively (as did Jaco) and have a tendency to play more “melodic” bass lines with harmonics and such, rather than just basic ones, centered around roots and 5ths – also very Jaco-ish.

Plus I recorded a version of one of his more famous works called “Portrait of Tracy.”

I encourage every living person, musician or not, to at least check out the wiki entry on Jaco. It’s an amazing story, albeit a sad one.



Claes: Noah, you did a 6-year tour playing percussion for STOMP. I saw Stomp when it came through Austin a handful of years ago and it blew me away. What was it like and why did you step away from it?
Mosgofian: So far STOMP has been the highlight of my musical career, and the backdrop for some of most memorable experiences of my life. Because we would tour non-stop, the show becomes your life. The cast and crew become your circle of friends, your surrogate family.

Musically and creatively it was very satisfying. I can't imagine any other gig I'd be happy doing 6 shows per week for 6 years and still not be tired of it. That's partly due to the genius of Luke and Steve, (Stomp's creators) and partly due to intensity of the show itself. It's mentally and physically very demanding.

Although it kept me very fit, I sustained injuries that began to get worse and worse as time went on. Spinal injury in my upper back/neck is what eventually made it necessary for me to leave the show. I actually lasted the longest out of the six others who were hired with me.

Claes: Who else are you playing with on a regular basis?
Mosgofian: I play Cuban/Colombian/Latin American music with several bands and artists around town including Angel Ibañez, Felipe "Tiburon" Borrero, Kiko Villamizar, O+ Positivo, Ritmo 3, and Paul Matthews.

I play drumset with Atash when their main guy Jason is out on the road with Billy Joe Shaver, I’m the musical director and lead djembe player of Lannaya West African Dance company and I play djembe and dunun with Drum Cafe, an interactive team building event that's very popular worldwide. I also play caixa, repinique, tamborim, and timbal with the Austin Samba School, Academicos da Opera. I've also helped arrange, compose, and direct parts of their shows.


Claes: Kurt, you’ve got a degree in classical guitar from the Chicago College of Performing Arts. Previous to that you played jazz in Kansas City. How’d you end up landing in Austin a decade ago?
Phillips: I’m a native Texan and after I finished my degree in Chicago I wanted to put down roots somewhere. Austin was on my short list and after visiting and meeting some musicians in town it was a no-brainer. Austin has turned out great. It really feels like home.

Claes: You also own Lone Star School of Music. When and how did the idea of starting a music school in the “Live Music Capital of the World” happen?
Phillips: Lone Star School of music grew out of me teaching out of my house and at other music schools in town. I wanted to teach at a place that lived up to Austin’s reputation around the country and the world.

This city takes its music very seriously but also has a LOT of fun with it. That’s what we try to do at Lone Star. I take teaching to be a great responsibility but I love it and I can’t think of anything I’d rather be doing right now.

Claes: TRES’ music draws obvious comparisons to that of Gypsy Kings and Tito Puente. Who are some artists in Latin jazz that are less known that we should know about?
Mosgofian: Arsenio Rodriguez, one of the founding fathers of what eventually became known as "Salsa". Eddie Palmieri, just a great influential Nuyorican pianist. Cesar "
Pupy" Pedroso, a Cuban bandleader who has taken old Cuban traditions to the limit. Ibrahim Ferrer, a charismatic Cuban singer who stuck to the "Son" tradition when it wasn't popular, only to find fame and fortune in his 70's thanks to the "Buena Vista Social Club". Michel Camilo, Gonzalo Rubalcaba, Bamboleo, Willie Colon, Jesus Alemañy, and the list goes on...


Tres Questions.
What three local bands (any genre) do you think everyone should know?
Rosch: TRES, TRES, and TRES. Just kidding. People need to hear Karl Morgan, people need to see Roxy Roca, and people need to dance to Wino Vino.

Mosgofian: I’d like to throw a nod to the Austin Samba School.

What are your favorite three venues to play in town?
Rosch: I like Saxon Pub, the Parrish, and any place that will hire us.
Mosgofian: For sound: Venue 222. For funky vibe, Ruta Maya. For the crowd, Stubb's.

If you could have a dream-gig, which three bands would play on the bill with TRES?
Rosch: This is an impossible question. But I’ll try. How about the Beatles, Beethoven, and Motley Crue. No wait... Prince, Willie Nelson, and Celtic Woman. Maybe, Peter Gabriel, The Galactic Cowboys, and 311.

I can’t do this...

Mosgofian: They would have to play something other than Latin Jazz, so we could draw a decent crowd. Since it's a dream, how about a Police reunion tour with Mozart and Bob Marley?

For more information and to see where TRES plays next, visit http://www.treslatinjazz.com

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 - http://www.seanclaes.com/.