Friday, March 15, 2013

Say Hello To The Angels Interview

Staying Awake with Say Hello to the Angels 

By Sean Claes
In the late 1990s, there was a underground movement brought to light in the Austin music scene that brought forth some amazing punk/metal bands. It was a true scene, with bands working together to make amazing music and provide a safe and open place for kids of all ages to dance, mosh, express themselves, and most of all, get infected by the music.

Although I wasn’t here then, as I didn’t get to the area until 2006, I’ve come to know quite a few of the folks who were dynamic parts of that scene just by being interested in and seeking out Austin music. One of these is the former frontman for Riddlin’ Kids Dustin Stroud, who formed Say Hello To The Angels (SHTTA).

SHTTA is Stroud (vocals), Ben Benitez (drums) and Raymond Benitez (rhythm guitar) who were in Rubberhed, and TJ Smyrson (bass) who joined from ska/punk band The Buzzkillers.

I had a chance to ask Stroud a few questions on the day Stay Awake, SHTTA’s third full-length album on Altercation Records, was released amidst the craziness of the “week of music” in Austin, Texas.

If you’re in Austin this week make your way over to the Altercation Punk Rock BBQ on Saturday. Here’s the invite: link

Sean Claes: Tell me about your name? From where did Say Hello To The Angels come?
Dustin Stroud: We were looking for something positive… and to tell you the truth all of the good names were taken. When we started the band 20% of all money we made went to charity.

Our first EP sold for $5.00 and $1.00 from each CD wend to Any Baby Can, a local Texas charity that supports Newborns and their parents. I was our desire to make an impact musically as well as socially.

We still strive to do that. It gets complicated when you are on a record label (Altercation Records). We still do charity work, and we are always looking for ways to make a difference.

Claes: All of you have experience in a band that has elevated above the local scene in the past. What makes this round with SHTTA different? 
Stroud: I think that previously our prospective bands have been part of a specific scene, and were a byproduct of influences that were growing organically out of the music community. Bands like Dynamite Boy, Shaft, Rubberhed, Riddlin’ Kids, Born To Lose, Cruiserweight, Fire Kills and all the other bands that came up in that scene, we all influenced each other and pushed each other; it was like an “arms race” of punk rock and rock and roll. That was maybe the most productive time for music in the Austin scene, debatably of course, I can only speak from experience.

SHTTA doesn’t have an angle, and we are not part of a cohesive scene. The scene is fragmented now and although there is still great music happening out there. The wagons don’t seem to be as circled as they used to be, and attention spans from the consumer audiences have never been shorter. The positive of this is that anything is possible and it’s anyone’s game.

Musically I think we mine deeper wells than we previously have. We have reconnected with some of our earlier influences, and reconciled them what really turns us on about modern music today.
SHTTA circa 2009

Claes: Tell me more about the Austin music back in the time of Dynamite Boy, Rubberhed, and Riddlin’ Kids.
Stroud: It was definitely a “golden era,” and the media at large at the time looked at it as a “golden error.” It killed them to have to write about a sold out show at the Back Room. I always wondered why all those bands getting signed and touring nationally were not a big deal. I think Austin sometimes has an inferiority complex and only feels validated when people come to pillage twice a year for SXSW and ACL. I hope if the Austin youth culture ever gets its stuff together again, and makes a go of it, that there can be cohesion from the media, commentators and critics.

That being said, radio was behind all of us at the time, and that was really something that put it all over the top. Funny huh? You put something on the radio locally and it’s good for everybody… one big happy community and healthy growing music scene… Hmmm, maybe that’s just a coincidence… I do want to thank all those responsible in the media and radio, they know who they are, INsite included, that have helped to foster and cultivate music as a culture and community.

Claes: What do you feel you took from your previous bands to add to the SHTTA sound?
Stroud: I think we are a good sum of our collective parts. We also take a great work ethic with us. All three bands we came from worked and played hard. We feel super lucky to have gotten to do all the cool stuff we did in our old bands, we feel privileged to still get to continue playing and making music.

Claes: Your debut EP came out in 2008, Modern Fire came out in January 2011, Break Your Sword in 2012 and Stay Awake released on 3/12/13. How do you feel you’ve progressed as a band in the last few years?
Stroud: I think we have matured musically and personally, quite a bit in the last couple of years. Benjie and I have went and gotten ourselves married. As we get older instead of fading out, music has gotten more urgent for us. We definitely take it more seriously and appreciate it much more. I couldn’t imagine not playing and writing music with my friends.

Songwriting wise I think we have just hit our stride. It has taken a long time to figure out what we sound like. It’s one of those the journey is more important than the destination things. I’m really excited to hear how the next record will sound.

Claes: This is your third record on Altercation Records. How is it working out with the label?
Stroud: It’s great working with Altercation. They are actually half Texan now. Several years ago, one of the partners from Altercation moved down here from Kingston, NY. The other Partner is still up in NY, so they cover a lot of ground, have great distribution, and really believe in our band. It’s one of the great things about being on a boutique label, you get a lot of face time and attention from the label, and it gives your band adequate time to be developed.

Claes: While listening to Stay Awake, I couldn’t help but think, “Hey, these guys are kind of the Dropkick Murphys of Austin” since I hear that Irish folk-punk sound in your music, but you certainly have the Austin feel. How would you describe your sound?
Stroud: Hey, Thanks! I don’t know how we would describe ourselves… Whatever the kids are calling it these days. We think of ourselves as Post punk… you can check [] OTHER on the list I guess. There are definitely a lot of influences in the wood pile. We love the pure punk stuff, but we are metal heads at heart.

I guess we should get that one straight, it’s really important to know who and what you are. We have always placed more importance on songwriting and songs, than the general vibe or sound of a thing. I think it’s just lucky that we sound good together.

Claes: What are some of your favorite tracks off of Stay Awake?
Stroud: My favorites are “Oh Gloria” and “Genevieve,” just at the moment, because they were the most fun to record.

Claes: The video for your new track, “Oh Gloria,” was released on BlankTV’s YouTube Channel and has gotten over 3,700 views in 2 weeks. Awesome. Tell me about the making of the video.
Stroud: Oh man, we had fun recording that video! Actually we recorded three videos at the same time. “Oh Gloria,” “Never Walk Alone,” and “Forsaken.” Incidentally, “Forsaken” has over 18,000 views on Blank TV.

Our label owner, Travis Meyer, invited us up to NYC and the tri-state area to play a string of shows and record as many videos as we could get done in a day. Travis had the best work ethic I have ever seen, and he cracked the whip on us and got those videos done.

The director and film crew was awesome, and they have recorded many videos for our other label mates, and people should go on Blank TV and check all of those out! We filmed the videos at Snapper McGee’s and the surrounding streets in Torrington, CT. So the day we did it we filmed three of our videos, and Lost in Society, our label mates, recorded two. How is that for Punk Rock Ethic?

Claes: Looks like all of Austin has gone crazy with music to celebrate the release of Stay Awake this week. Where are you playing and when?
Stroud: Awesome! Thank you Austin, you are so selfless with your $20 parking and your hordes of uninterested industry types! Kidding. Thanks for eating all of our chips and salsa boys and girls, tip the petty cabers, and please put your trash in the proper receptacles.

On Tuesday we played an Altercation Records Showcase at the new “Metal and Lace” (formerly Headhunters). We are also playing Saturday the 16th at the Vortex on Manor Rd. This is the now famous Punk Rock BBQ. There are some awesome Altercation bands playing that day, also Teenage Bottle Rocket and Off With Their Heads is playing (two fat records bands). It starts about 12:00 noon and goes to about 5:30. There will be snacks and libations.

Claes: In 2012 you played the San Antonio, Dallas and Houston dates of the Warped Tour. How was that experience?
Stroud: That was Awesome! We played on Brian Marquis’ Acoustic Basement Stage, and it was in support of our acoustic record Break Your Sword. So many great performers, Chris Roe from the Ataris, Anthony from Bayside, and Vinnie from I Am Avalanche, just to name a few.

Our acoustic performances were very well received; it’s a totally different experience from our electric shows. Warped Tour is a great opportunity to connect with a really wide demographic of fans. It’s amazing how relevant Warped tour remains today. As all other full touring festivals have cut back to a few day events, Warped is still going strong. It’s like an awesome Punk Rock Summer Camp!

Claes: What was your favorite show to play as SHTTA to date?
Stroud: So far it’s got to be the Duke Nukem Forever video game release party we played in Dallas for Gearbox. It is awesome to have done the theme song for that game, and to get to play the musical score to some of the game-play levels. The show was epic, and we got to meet the guy that does the voice for Duke… “Hail to the king baby!” Duke Nukem Rules!

Claes: What does 2013 have in store for you?
Stroud: We are going to get started writing for our next record, do some more videos in New York, and play as many shows as we can.

Claes: Who are some of the bands folks around Austin should check out the other 51 weeks of the year?
Stroud: In no particular order: Devils and Dust, Thieves, Stampede, Mike Truth and the Replacement Killers, The Riot Scene, Threes Away (new videogame mobile app for iPhone and android), Nowhere Bound, Brady Black, The Buzzkillers.

We are super blessed to have so many awesome bands in this town, go check them out and if you find something new and cool, please tell me about it!

Claes: Anything to add?
Thank you for always supporting us, please check out our TUMBLR, FACEBOOK, TWITTER, and our music on ITUNES.

Altercation Punk Rock BBQ - 3/16/13

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Free Shows To Consider (3/14-3/16)

A Small Sampling of Free

Image from

By Sean Claes
INsite asked folks to let us know about the free shows their acts are playing this week for free. Here are a few options for those who aren’t displaying a badge or wristband from Thursday – Saturday. Enjoy.

Thursday, March 14th

Blue Sky Riders (Nashville, TN and Santa Barbara, CA)
Venue: John Lennon Educational Tour Bus @ Aussie's Grill (306 Barton Springs) @ 1 PM
Blue Sky Riders (Kenny Loggins, Georgia Middleman, Gary Burr) will be playing several shows at SXSW this year. They recently  released their first full-length album, "Finally Home."

Chali 2na (Chicago, IL)
Venue: Sonos Studio @ (606 East 3rd Street) @ 5:00pm
Bearing an identifiably deep baritone voice, Chali became the unofficial point man for West Coast underground favorite Jurassic 5. Chali emerged as J5's most popular member and solo foray began in 2004 with his Fish Market mixtapes.

Corb Lund (Alberta, Canada)
Venue: St. Vincent De Paul Parking Lot, 1327 S. Congress
"A revelation" (Washington Post), Corb Lund is the descendent of four generations of Albertan ranchers and former punk/metal player. In the Nashville Scene's 13th Annual Country Music Critics' Poll, Corb Lund is the #10 male vocalist and 'Cabin Fever' is the #20 best album of 2012. 'Cabin Fever' is out now on New West Records.

Robert DeLong (Echo Park, CA)
Venue: Sonos Studio @ (606 East 3rd Street) @ 4:00pm
Robert DeLong is a one-man futuristic dance party with beats as cerebral as Orbital and club-ready as Calvin Harris, DeLong is also a profoundly gifted singer/songwriter who raises questions about identity and spirituality. Those two elements join together on his debut album Just Movement, a dazzling collection of dance beats, pop hooks and thought-provoking queries that could very well be the soundtrack for 2013.

Thomas Dybdahl (Norway)
Venue: Sonos Studio @ (606 East 3rd Street) @ 3:00pm
One of Norway's most popular and acclaimed singer/songwriters, Thomas Dybdahl has gained a growing international following for his elegant and expressive songs of love and loss, which have earned him comparisons to Nick Drake and Jeff Buckley. 

Mission South (Washington, D.C.)
Venue: Amped, 11pm
The roots/rock trio from Washington D.C. known as Mission South will release their sophomore 6-track EP 'Migration Vol. 2' on April 9th, 2013. With a sound reminiscent of Dr. Dogand Ben Harper, Mission South goes beyond their blues-rock roots by adding a mixture of pop, folk, and modern tones while maintaining the soulful edge that makes their music so impactful. They have shared the stage with Keller Williams, Holy Ghost Tent Revival and played the famed 9:30 Club in D.C., The Howlin' Wolf in New Orleans, and will hit The Fox Theatre in Denver this Spring as part of a 50-date national tour in support of the new EP.

Poolside (Los Angeles, CA)
Venue: Sonos Studio @ (606 East 3rd Street) @ 6:00pm
Poolside are Los Angeles based duo Filip Nikolic and Jeffrey Paradise-their sound is described as "Daytime Disco." Their popular indie Stereolablike record became a quick Bay favorite, securing a full touring schedule for these mop-headed, bespectacled and perennially nineteen-year-old boys from back on the farm.

Keaton Simons (Los Angeles, CA)
Venue: BlackBerry House (78, 80 & 82 Rainey St.) @ 4-6 PM
Keaton Simons, a singer/songwriter/musician, is at
SXSW for the ninth time this year! You will hear music at his Austin shows
from his upcoming album, "Beautiful Pain," which is set to be released on
April 30, 2013.

Sir Sly (Los Angeles, CA)
Venue: Sonos Studio @ (606 East 3rd Street) @ 7:00pm
Sir Sly is a mystery band based in Los Angeles, California.

Friday, March 15th

Ólafur Arnalds (Iceland)
Venue: Sonos Studio @ (606 East 3rd Street) @  6:00pm
At only 21 years of age, Ólafur Arnalds is Iceland's latest export. Having already sold out The Barbican Hall in London, toured major European festivals and having opened for Sigur Rós on their most recent European tour, the future seems bright for this young, extraordinary talent.

Blue Sky Riders (Nashville, TN and Santa Barbara, CA)           
Venue: Whole Foods Market Austin 525 N Lamar Blvd. @ 3:30 PM

Dance for the Dying (Washington, D.C.)
Venue: DC v Austin Showcase, The Sidebar (602 E 7th St.) @ 12:20pm
On the heels of their CMJ success, the D.C. based synth-driven dance-rock quartet Dance for the Dying will be heading down south to play in Austin. With a sound reminiscent of Blondie, The Cure and Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Dance for the Dying brings a new-age appeal to 80's and 90's post-punk and New Wave rock. The band effortlessly fuses the joyful with the melancholy to craft infectiously danceable and catchy tunes, complete with hand claps, soaring synths and explosive choruses.

The Robert Glasper Experiment (Houston, TX)
Venue: Sonos Studio @ (606 East 3rd Street) @ 7:00pm
The Robert Glasper Experiment is a quartet comprised of jazz pianist Robert Glasper, bassist Derrick Hodge, drummer Chris Dave (from the pianist's acoustic trio), and Casey Benjamin on saxes and vocoder. Debuting on one half of Glasper's two-disc Double Booked for Blue Note in 2009, the first half featured Glasper's acoustic trio, the Experiment contrasted on the other, incorporating elements of neo-soul, hip-hop, and jazz-funk into its sound.

Kitten (Los Angeles, CA)
Venue: Sonos Studio @ (606 East 3rd Street) @ 3:00pm
With mature vocals, dynamic melodies and strong lyrics, Kitten's EP "Sunday School" has exquisite soul.Though together for less than a year, the Los Angeles natives have already performed at South by Southwest, nabbed a tour with Young The Giant, aired their video on MTV and been recognized as one of the most promising young bands by

John Murry (San Francisco)
Venue: Hole in the Wall @ 2:45pm
The "Masterful" (Baeble Music) John Murry – the southern literature-inspired songwriter, William Faulkner's second cousin, and darling of UK music scene – has been named a Next artist by NPR's World Café, which praises his music as music "alluring, emotional and infectious." 'The Graceless Age' comes out April 2 on Evangelina Recording Co. 

Keaton Simons (Los Angeles, CA)
Venue: Bayou Lounge (500 6th St.) @ 4:40 PM

Venue: Sonos Studio @ (606 East 3rd Street) @ 5:00pm
The pop concoctions of lead singers, Jesse Taylor and Michael Wilson and drummer, Jesse Carmichael fall squarely onto the plate of today's now-fashionable indie R&B - lush melodies, falsetto vocals, arching harmonies, all done produced with admirable restraint. There's nothing minimalist about the emotional uplift of their two singles.

Winslow (Cleveland, OH)
Venue: Cleveland Rocks Showcase - Tiniest Bar in Texas @ 5:30pm
Winslow is a soul/rock band from Cleveland about to release their sophomore album, Left of the Right Direction, due out March 26th via Little Fish Records & RCR Recording Studios. The 6-piece has opened for Incubus, Earth Wind & Fire, OAR, Robert Randolph, Keane, Lupe Fiasco, Rusted Root, and many more.
Yellow Red Sparks (Yellow Pine, ID)
Venue: Sonos Studio @ (606 East 3rd Street) @ 4:00pm
Songwriter, Joshua Hanson compels us to look within ourselves for the truth, guiding us as we navigate through our own deepest personal relationships while allowing us to relate to the complexity of where he's coming from. With the addition of Goldy (drums and vocals) and Sara Lynn (upright bass, piano, vocals and banjo), Yellow Red Sparks create music with a timeless feel and continues the tradition of providing an open and honest perspective to raw universal emotions that come with the everyday trials of life.

Saturday, March 16

Blue Sky Riders (Nashville, TN and Santa Barbara, CA)           
Venue: Rachael Ray's party at Stubb's 801 Red River St @ 3 PM

New Day Dawn
Venue: The Warhorse (209B W. 5th) @ 10p
“Singer/songwriter Dawn Botti returns with this spot-on tuneful and dynamic five song EP CD. Botti’s strong and supple voice once again soars to the heavens with characteristic verve and graceful agility. Moreover, the songwriting cuts to the heart of the matter with bracing directness. The skillful playing on the tight arrangements serves as the delicious cherry on an already quite tasty sonic cake: The guitars cut and slash with galvanizing precision, the drums lay down a potent stomping beat, and the bass provides a gutty undertow. Best of all, there’s a smart and reflective mature sensibility at work that gives this beautifully melodic music extra substance and resonance. An absolute gem.” – Jersey Beat

Tako Lako (Copenhagen, Denmark)
Venue: Pedernales Lofts, 2401 E. 6th Street, Austin 78702 at 4:00 pm
With their visionary mix of trashy world beats and psychedelic gypsy tunes, the critically acclaimed Danish/Serbian band Tako Lako has swept away European audiences. They have been named one of the "biggest upcoming acts" by MTV, and have already achieved cult status in Scandinavia and the UK.

Hedda Layne (Austin, TX)
Venue:  Central Market (N. Lamar) @ 5:30 p.m.
Experience the New World Diva - Hedda Layne and band bring modern electro-lounge to rapt audiences. Hedda is a woman of many moods, talents and looks and entertains listeners with her unique voice and vision.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Five Free Festivities March 11-16, 2013

By Sean Claes
It's that week again. Arguably the best week of music in Austin Texas each year. This year LL Cool J peddles Doritos, grumpy cat makes people happy, and everyone wants to see what Rachael Ray will be cooking up during her day party.

It's also the week where badges seem to think they rule the streets.

Here's a hint Austinites have known for years... you don't need a badge to see great music this week. Heck, if you keep your ear to the ground, you'll probably get to see the act a badge waited in line for 3 hours to get to the back of the room in a sweaty club... for free with 100 or less people.

We thought we'd help you out a little. Here are five of our favorite multiple-day shows that happen this week. Oh.. and they are ALL FREE.

Heart of Texas Rockfest

The 2013 Texas Rockfest blasts into downtown Austin on Wednesday, March 13 through Saturday, March 16 featuring some of the best talent rising from the burgeoning indie rock scene.
The line-up includes Austin natives Broken Teeth, Dirty Wormz, D-A-D, Street Light Suzie, Vallejo, South Austin Moonlighters and more.

There are two outdoor stages smack dab in the middle of downtown (7th & Neches) that provide non-stop music, and Austin venues Shiners Saloon, War Horse and Blue Moon are also Rockfest venues. The fest is free, open to the public and benefits Caritas of Austin. No badges or wristbands are needed. Info:

Locations:TRF Outdoor 1 and 2 - (7th & Neches) Schedule
Shiners Saloon (422 Congress Avenue) Schedule
War Horse (209B W 5th) Schedule
Blue Moon (2200 S IH 35) Schedule

Red Gorilla Music Fest

The Blind Pig (317 E. 6th St.)

Thirsty Nickel (325 E. 6th Street)

Bourbon Girl (212 E. 6th St.)
Chuggin’ Monkey (219 E. 6th St.)

The Dizzy Rooster (306 E. 6th Street)

Amped  (300 E. 6th St.)

HandleBar (121 E. 5th St.)

Red Gorilla Music Fest has been a mainstay for the last decade on 6th Street during the week of music in Austin. Their mission is to "promote up-and-coming independent music in all genres and help independent artists further their careers." They give the stage to between 300 - 550 bands each year.

A few bands we reccomend that are playing Red Gorilla: Starma, The Statesboro Revue, Last One Out, and Gobi.

To see the full schedule, visit -

The Outlaw Roadshow
rsvp here
Location: Rusty's (405 East 7th)

This RSVP on DO512 show features 19 bands and, if last year was any indication, some of the best free swag available in Austin this week. It starts at noon on Saturday and has three stages going, so there's never a lull in the music.   This show is produced by Adam Duritz (Counting Crows) and Ryan Spaulding (   Callout bands include Nakia, Daniel & the Lion, and Field Report
Listen to and download some of the bands playing here - link

Waterloo Records - Outdoor Stage

Yeah.. it's appropriate that, in a list of Free shows, I put a Macklemore & Ryan Lewis day show here. Who hasn't had "Thrift Shop" stuck in their heads in the last few weeks? If not... here... you're welcome. Anyhow... this is on the "you'll be in a huge crowd and it may not be totally worth it but HEY... where else are you going to see The Mavricks and Emmylou Haiirs for free" list.

Besides... Waterloo Records deserves some support. They are a RECORD STORE IN 2013. And, as far as I can tell, they're actually making it work.

The biggest drawback to these shows is parking. If you find a space...covet it... and as long as you're there, you may as well wander down to The Tiniest Bar In Texas a block away for  their day shows... (see the next on the list).

Here's a link to some free music from bands playing the day party:

See the full line-up here: link

Best Lil' Big Fest in Texas

Location: Tiniest Bar in Texas (817 W. 5th Street)

You could truly spend the entire day in between Waterloo Records and The Tiniest Bar in Texas (especially considering you've got Whole Foods and Amy's Ice Cream right there for snacks).
  Looking at this year's line-up we'd HIGHLY reccomend Wednesday's Austin Independent Radio Day Party (Whisky Shivers, Mike & the Moonpies & The Sour Notes), as well as catching sets by Paper Lions, Henry + the Invisibles and Indofin.  

See the entire line-up here - link  

Free with RSVP:
Day 1 -
Day 2 -
Day 3 -
Day 4 -  

So... all you folks who will invade downtown Austin this week....

Go forth and be free.
Don't be mean to the badges... it's not their fault they don't understand the beauty of free.
Oh... and he who gets the best swag wins.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Deserts of Mars Interview

Catching up with Stoner Metal Power Trio Deserts of Mars

By Sean Claes
If you like your metal with the sludgy vibe of stoner rock, you should discover Austin’s Desert of Mars. This power trio has been around for a few years, but they’ve got some interesting tricks up their sleeves for 2013.

Tony Salvaggio (bass/vocals) and Billy Garretsen (drums) formed the band around 2006 and once they added guitarist Bob Hoff, they honed their “Mars Metal” sound and set their sites on Austin’s Red River District, a perfect place for their brand of rock and roll during that time period.

Over the years they played a lot of shows with a lot of fellow Austin metal bands, recorded an album in 2011 called Transmission and collected a steady set of fans, called Martian Maniacs.

Last year Garretsen decided to step down from the band and the guys were blessed to find the talented Erik Kinservik to step in. Because of the change in this three-man power trio, they’ve been keeping a low profile as of late, but are planning to come back with a new passion and new tracks.

INsite owner Sean Claes had a chance to chat with the band recently.

Sean Claes: I kind of get that old-school Iron Maiden rock sound from you guys. How would you describe your sound?
Tony Salvaggio: We usually get Sabbath meets Motorhead with a dose of Monster Magnet and I think that is fair.

I am a huge stoner rock/metal fan and I think that a lot of our riffs (esp. on the first album) come from that. All of the members of the band have really varied tastes in music, so sometimes it can be hard to pin it down.

To me, it’s riff based driving rock/metal that is heavy but polished and fairly accessible. It’s why we started calling it Mars Metal. It doesn’t fit into straight up stoner rock and it has influences from all over the place.

Claes: What’s in a name? Why Deserts of Mars (DoM)?
Salvaggio: I wanted a name that has many connotations, is catchy, and hearkened back to the Desert Rock/Stoner Rock influences.

I also liked that it can evoke different imagery depending on the person. It’s an interesting planet that we actively explore, it’s the God of War, its been in Sci-Fi and in our heads for years... Billy took that and ran with it on our flyers, so now we have a kind of space rock thing going on as well.

Claes: Your fans are known as Martian Maniacs. How’d that come about?
Salvaggio: Ha! I just thought it sounded cool at the time. I haven’t asked anyone if they actually dig being called Martian Maniacs, but it seemed to work. Like how Voivod has the Iron Gang, and metal bands all had cool names for their fan clubs. Maybe I just read too many Metal Maniac mags back in the day.

Claes: Your debut release Transmission came out in March 2011. Does it still stand up to who Deserts of Mars is as a band?
Salvaggio: I think so. We took a bit more time than I wanted to when Billy (Garretsen, the original drummer) left, but we really wanted to make sure we have a tight band of friends with similar goals rather than just moving on to new drummer X.

With Erik in the band now, of course he brings a different take (if you come to a show with him bringing the thunder you’ll hear some new takes on the old material), but we’ve really gelled as rhythm section and the new stuff is really moving in a direction we dig.

A lot of the music still comes from bass riffs as a starting point. So, it may be different, but it will always be straight from the heart and DoM through and through.

Bob Hoff: I agree. I am really proud of that body of work. I think the songs are still interesting and, at least for me, still a lot of fun to play.

Erik Kinservik: I would say that it does, but we are maturing as a band and progressing to a harder, more syncopated style that is focused on a tight rhythm section with groove, impact, and energy.

Claes: Who did the artwork for the CD? It’s pretty fantastic.
Hoff: It was a collaborative effort. If I recall, the concept really took form at a post-gig Kirby Lane session. The initial photography and digital effects were done by John Sommer. Then Billy took those images and kicked them up to 11 with additional digital compositing.

Salvaggio: We wanted to keep the space rock vibe going and I think it was captured well.

As a band we’re lucky that Billy is an awesome artist and he’s still pretty jazzed to do posters and such for us a well when he has the time. People remember the poster art of DoM even if they haven’t seen a show.

Claes: For your CD release party in 2011, you donated all of your profits to the relief effort in Japan, citing you have a lot of friends there. We seem to forget things when the next news cycle hits… so… It’s 2 years later. How are the friends doing now?
Salvaggio: Luckily my friends were in Tokyo and were fine for the most part. Their families are also doing well. It was a rough time though since they had children who were obviously scared with all the blackouts and craziness.

I ended up sending care packages of snacks, batteries, and flashlights and such as well. I think things are pretty good for everyone I knew who was affected. However, there are a lot of places still recovering and that is heartbreaking and sobering. All in all, it was just the right thing to do.

Claes: Have you written/recorded any new material since Transmission?
Kinservik: Not yet, but soon. I’m looking forward to it!

Hoff: Yeah we’re working on that right now. Our tentative plan is to have some material put together and hopefully at least have an EP available this summer.

Claes: Tell me about a track or two.
Salvaggio: The first one we reworked it a heavy wall of sound kind of anthem called “Pyramids.” I wanted the kind of vibe that The Sword has on some of their heavier more raw tracks and Erik has really started beefing that up.

In our new jams, there is some straight up groove stuff, a song that I want to mix in my love of classic doom metal like St. Vitus and Cathedral, and there’s a few riffs that I’m not sure where they will go. It’s all Mars Metal to us.

Claes: In late 2012 you brought on Erik Kinservik to replace Billy Garretsen on drums, citing Billy’s need to “train his newborn daughter to fight Rocktopi on Mars and beyond.” How is the new trio gelling?
Salvaggio: Really, really well. Like I said before, it took us a bit longer than I wanted to get back to playing live (but still shorter than our previous guitarist change which took around a year), but it has been awesome.

Erik’s drive and time spent behind the drums has really added an extra bit of oomph to the sound. Billy’s raw power and of course his friendship are missed. He’s still a really good friend and he wants to do more artwork and be a part of the band outside of drums, which is awesome.

However, Erik is an awesome musician, great friend, and really cool guy. I can’t stress how important finding the right combo of attitude/drive/understanding of what we want to do is in a band. So, it was all well worth the wait!

Hoff: Surprisingly well! Finding a new member wasn’t something we were looking forward to at all. But after meeting and jamming with Erik, it was clear that he was the right person to bring in. It has been an absolute blast getting to know him. He also brings with him a great deal of industry experience (and great road stories). Oh yeah, he’s an amazing drummer too!

Kinservik: For me it’s going Awesome! I like bringing some fresh ideas to the mix and it’s been cool so far.

Claes: Can each member tell me about your favorite original song to perform live and why?
Salvaggio: Even though we’ve played it a million times, I still dig “Send More Gasoline” because it seems to be a crowd favorite.

I also really dig the doomy parts to “Strike,” and “Cities on Fire” is always fun.

Kinservik: “Pyramids.” I love the dynamicisim, simplicity, and groove of this new track.

Hoff: My favorite would probably be “1000 Suns.” It is a heavy song and the lyrics are very personal. Two things that I like in my music!

Claes: Looks like you were pretty busy last year during that “certain week in March” in Austin last year. What are your plans for this year?
Salvaggio: This year will be low key. Erik is actually going into surgery this week, so he will be recovering. I’ll still be out and about going to heavy shows.

It would be nice to be playing during that week, but it’s more important that we have a healthy Space Viking so that we can take over the universe this year!

A past show DoM Poster

Claes: You've all got really interesting and creative day jobs. Tell me a little bit about them.
Salvaggio: I work as a tech artist at Intific, company that does simulation and edutainment projects. I’ve been in the games industry since 1996 and Intific is run by people who have all been in the games industry.

On the side I also have written some comic books and I’m working on a few screenplay ideas (I plan on doing more of that this year as well).

Kinservik: I manage a team of great people at Bazaarvoice. I also own Pressurehead, a high-end Audio System design/build company.

Hoff: I work at a software company named GameSalad. We make a tool that allows people who don’t have traditional coding experience to make video games.

Claes: Tony, you have a side project that plays Japanese rock covers. Tell me about Pocari Shred.
Salvaggio: I met Pocari Shred’s guitarist Liao Hsien-Hsiu through a mutual friend and he had been trying to get the band together in a few incarnations. I’ve almost never played covers in a band, so I was kind of hesitant.

Once I started jamming with them it all just fell into place. It’s really fun music and I’ve been a fan of Japanese pop culture for a really long time so it fits. Lots of fun and some of the songs are really challenging so I get to stretch a bit which I can roll back into my technique when playing with DoM.

We play heavy tunes, some anime theme song covers and we’re learning some punk tunes for an upcoming Punk Vs. Rockabilly gig in March (Sunday, March 10 @ Flamingo Cantina). As far as I know, we’re the only J-Rock cover band in Austin… which is kind of a cool niche.

Claes: You seem to favor the Red River scene. Tell me a few of your favorite clubs to play in Austin?
Salvaggio: Red Eyed Fly has definitely given us a home from the beginning of the band, while we were still getting our sound together. That has been awesome.

Outside of that, I really, really dig playing Red 7 and would love to play the Mohawk as well. I’ve seen so many good shows at those venues. Playing the Grackle was fun last year and I’ve been to some cool shows at Dirty Dog, Holy Mountain, Frontier Bar and the 29th Street (Spiderhouse) Ballroom.

We’re down to play almost anywhere as long as we can play loud and heavy. We’ve been talking to lots of bands that we are friends with so hopefully we’ll be breaking out into ALL of our favorite venues soon.

Hoff: Red Eyed Fly has always treated us with respect. I enjoyed playing at Red 7 and the Parish too!

Salvaggio: Yeah, it would be cool if all venues had the lights and sound that the Parish has!

Claes: Who are some bands we should check out?
Salvaggio: Ok, I want to name a bunch, but I hope I don’t leave anyone out. If I skip anyone at all, I hope they don’t get offended if I forget because there are tons of great bands in Austin, and we’ve played with a lot of awesome people.

Some of my favorite bands to see are (in no particular order) Boars, The Unmothered, Wet Lungs, Communion, Mala Suerte, The Millipede, Awesome Death, Neon Cobra, Eagle Claw, Skycrawler, Destroyer of Light, Egypt(TX), and most recently Sky Acre.

One of my favorite non heavy bands is Danger*Cakes, they rock the nostalgia/rockabilly tunes like no one else.

Hoff: (Non-Locally) Animals As Leaders!!! Intervals, Periphery, Russian Circles....

Claes: Once Erick recovers, what is on the horizon for Deserts of Mars?
Salvaggio: First of all, we’re making plans for our second album, and we’re working on playing outside of Austin as much as possible. We’re also making plans to play with other friends of ours in heavy bands around town and possibly on tour in our never ending quest to rule the universe.

We’re also part of the Austin Sound Sampler compilation that will be passed around at various venues next week. You can get a preview and/or free download online through bandcamp
A poster from 7/10/07

Claes: Anything else to add?
Salvaggio: Just thanks for the interview and that we hope to see new and old Martian Maniacs all over Austin and the rest of the galaxy very soon. 

If anyone reads this and picks up the album or visits our sites, feel free to send us a message or email. We love talking to everyone about Mars Metal, music,games, movies and anything else cool and heavy. Check us out on Facebook, Bandcamp, Cdbaby and almost any other digital service, and let us know what you think about Mars Metal.


BONUS: Here's the making of one of Deserts of Mars' posters - a Valentine's Day work: