Tuesday, August 15, 2017

10 Questions with Dongle

By Sean Claes
In the Austin scene, you have the chance to see all types of acts playing their style of original music. Dongle has been a mainstay in the ATX for the last 8 years playing such venues as Texas Mist, Hanovers, The Sidewinder and The Parish. Thier brand of punk-meets-metal has been described as “Porn Punk” since their lyrical content is often NSFW (Not suitable for work). This, my friends, is a fun band to catch live.

Members Rob Howard, Rick Ciampi, Derek Davis and Victor DeLeon are currently tracking songs for their second release, Danger Noodle which is to see the light of day in October of this year. Apart from recording, Dongle has a big show coming up this Friday at Hanovers in Pflugerville with fellow locals Gun Hill, Chasing After Alice and Dharma Kings. They’re also tapped to be on local legend Dave Prewitt’s DaveTV on August 26.

In the midst of all of this we caught up with drummer Derek Davis and asked him 10 questions.

Sean Claes: Dongle has been around since 2011. How has your sound evolved in the last 6 years?
Derek Davis: When we started, we were going for a punk/rockabilly sound. Once we added a lead guitarist, we moved more towards hard rock.

Claes: Being around computers for a second, I always giggled at the word “Dongle” (It’s a small device that acts as an adapter for a computer.)… never thought it could be the name of a band, but it fits. How’d you arrive at the name?  
Davis: When we started, we called ourselves Nix Sslips and The Skids to go along with our pink/rockabilly sound. Once the sound changed, we came up with a full list of possible names.  Since most of us were in some sort of tech field, Dongle was the most logical choice.

Claes: The members are an eclectic bunch all with different music style coming into the fold. If I had to but a “they sound like” label on y’all.. I’d say you’ve got an M.O.D. meets Alice In Chains hanging out with early Metallica groove going on. What would you describe as the “Dongle Sound?”  
Davis: We were once called porn-punk due to our off color lyrics. I think we have a sound from Offspring to Metallica and AC/DC to Dead Kennedy’s.

Claes: How does the writing process go? How do you birth a new Dongle song?  
Davis: Usually one of us comes to the group with a hook, idea or sometimes even full sets of lyrics and then we work on developing a rhythm and go from there.  Most of our lyrics are personal feelings and experiences.

Claes: A couple of your founding members left the band last year. How did y’all handle the change and what have the new members brought to the band?
Davis: We understand why the members left, but it was definitely tough to accept the changes. We had played with Rick, the lead guitarist who replaced Cameron, in another band. Rick brings a classic rock vibe and a HUGE personality to our stage show.  With Blake being a founding member, he was a little tougher to replace.   We met Victor through another musician.  He brings a unique approach to bass lines that throw back to his guitar roots.

Claes: Dongle had been around for a few years before releasing your first EP, In Your Ear Hole in 2015. Why so long before a release?
Davis: When the band started, Rob and our first bassist, Blake, would get together to hang out noodling around and learning a few covers.  It was more of an escape then.  When Derek joined, we finally had a drummer and started working towards playing shows.  We didn’t start actively writing until mid 2013 and it was a slow process then.

Claes: You’ve just been in the studio finalizing your new release. When is it going to see the light of day? Do you have a title?  
Davis: The new CD titled Danger Noodle will be released this fall, likely on October.

Claes: What is your favorite track to play? Is there a “fan favorite?”
Davis: Right now, our favorite track to play is probably “Go Away”.  As for a fan favorite, everyone loves “Mid Day Hand Job”.

Claes: The line-up this at your next gig, Hanover’s in Pflugerville this Friday, August 18, includes Gun Hill, Chasing After Alice and Dharma Kings. It’s being dubbed the “Hot For Teacher” show. Tell me a little about the bands who will be joining you.
Davis: Well, Gun Hill is a great hard rock band out of Dallas that definitely bring the party.  Chasing After Alice brings the metal to the stage with driving beats and a female lead vocalist that will leave you wanting more.  Dharma Kings brings rock to the stage with great music and the vocals of David Komie really rounds out the sound.

Claes: What are your thoughts on the current state of the Austin music scene?
Davis: There seems to be plenty of great music in the scene, just not enough interest in supporting and attending the shows.  Some of this has to do with promotion by bands, venues and local media.  For $5 - $10 you can go see bands that have the talent and passion of any “big name” band.  The scene is coming back, and will be huge again if we all work together.  That’s why we are a part of Ear Splitting Media.

As much as we like to perform shows and write music, our favorite things are meeting people, supporting the scene, and hanging out with our fans and fellow musicians.  If you are reading this, go out and support local music, see a show, buy some merch and rock out with some local talent.

Catch Dongle this Friday at Hanover’s in Pflugerville or on DaveTV on August 26. Be sure to find them online at, on  Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Also, be on the lookout for their next release, Danger Noodle in October.

Sean Claes is the owner of Austin's INsite Magazine and has been a freelance entertainment writer since 1996. This is week 32 in his "52 Weeks of Austin Musician Interview" series. See the others here: 52 Week Project

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

10 Questions with Sunni Soper

“You’re only as strong 
as your weakest thought."
- Sunni Soper

By Sean Claes
Performance-based poetry, or Spoken Word is an amazing thing and Austin has a wealth of performers who keep the genre alive. I became aware of the Austin scene through Sunni Soper, who came onto the scene about five years ago and has been a joy to follow on Facebook and watch via YouTube recordings of her performances. 

I hadn't heard a produced track until I heard her "Prison Industrial Complex" set to music on the fantastic Black Mics Matter (download) compilation that was released last year. 

INsite asked Soper "10 Questions" as she readied herself to head to Denver, CO for the National Poetry Slam competition this week.  

Sean Claes: Tell me about your entrance into the poetry world and how you made the jump from the page to the microphone.
Sunni Soper: I wrote my first poem in October 2010. People had been telling me for a while that my speaking was poetic and I should write it down.

I tried to make it to the one monthly slams that was happening in RI at the time to give it a shot, but it was an hour away from me on a Wednesday night, so it never happened.

I moved back to Austin and a friend took me to an R&B show and two poets (Shae Harris and Kelene Blake) opened up for that artist and it was the most moving thing I had seen.

They said there was an open mic for poetry every Tuesday at NeoSoul Poetry Lounge, so I went back the next week and read a poem!
Claes: You performed your first poem in 2013. Tell me about that first time up on the mic.
Soper: I was TERRIFIED. I wrote a poem specifically for my first time reading a poem out loud.

The paper shook, my curly hair shook, my voice shook, but I made it through. It was powerful to feel so afraid of doing something, but doing it anyway.

I watch the video sometimes and it makes me laugh now. I’ve grown so much. I will forever be thankful for that leap, my poetry family has been crucial to my growth as a poet and a person!

Claes: In 2014 you released your debut album, a collection of 15 poems, entitled For Public Consumption. How did that come about?
Soper: I was reading a poem at NeoSoul and an audience member, who became a friend, and has since passed (RIP Crystal) asked me where she could buy more. I was taken aback.

Once I got over the idea that someone wanted to listen to me when I wasn’t there, I was more comfortable with the idea. I was having a casual conversation with long-time friends Terrany Johnson (aka Tee Double) and Trent Spears (aka DJ Supreme) about that moment and Trent reminded me he has an entire studio set-up in his home. We decided that night we would put out an album.

My spoken word to his production and we went from idea to release in under 6 months!!

Claes: Most people know nothing about performance-based poetry or poetry slam other than what they saw Eminem do in 8 Mile. Paint me a picture.
Soper: A lot of people think Poetry Slam is a genre. It’s really just a competition of performance-based poetry, or spoken word, which is the actual genre (there’s even a Spoken Word Grammy category).

Poetry slam has become my favorite sport! Scores, suspense, cheering and booing, amazing writers, emotions spilling all over the stage and flowing into the crowd. It’s a unique environment and one I think everyone should experience at some point in their lives, whether they’re “into poetry,” or not.

Claes: Your poetry seems to be heart-on-the-table for all to see - Heartache, Activism, Healing and Love. What are your passions and how do you plug that into your poetry?
Soper: My favorite topic to write about is love. From interpersonal relationships to community health, I think there are many definitions of love to explore.

I tend to be a little over-the-top passionate in my life in general, so I don’t think I could avoid plugging that into my poetry if I tried. It is not easy feeling so exposed when you share so much of yourself. I have to say the attention and sometimes the feedback caught me off guard.

I never considered sharing my rambling musings would touch people so much.

Claes: You have a track, “Prison Industrial Complex” on the 2016 release Black Mics Matter that Terrany Johnson executive produced. It was released in the wake of the Black Lives Matter movement. How was that experience?
Soper: I was honored when Terrany Johnson asked me to be part of Black Mics Matter as an ally. It was amazing to be included on a project with so many talented people! This compilation made it all the way to the consideration phase for a Best Rap Album Grammy!

Even if it hadn’t, I loved the message, the goal of the compilation and the way it showcased necessary songs and words in these tumultuous times from local Austin voices working tirelessly behind the scenes and on stages to get these messages out.

Claes: Where are the places one can catch performance-based poetry in Austin? What is the scene like?
Soper: There is a wealth of poetry here in Austin. Austin Poetry Slam is every Tuesday night 8p.m. at Spiderhouse Ballroom on Fruth St.

NeoSoul Poetry Lounge has been on hiatus for the summer, but we have monthly, free writing workshops and a slam competition September 9th at Apanas on South Congress.

Spoken n Heard is every Sunday night 7PM at Kickbutt Coffee Music & Booze on Airport Blvd.

Chicon Street Poets has been holding a monthly open mic and I believe I heard rumblings of a festival being put together.

All of these collectives have Facebook pages where you can find out more and keep up with future events.

Claes: You were diagnosed with Psoriatic Arthritis two years ago. How has this affected your performing, your writing?
Soper: It’s a very aggressive form of arthritis so it has taken me some time to adjust to some new limitations. My writing was pretty dark for a while as I processed this degenerative issue.

I moved behind the scenes quite a bit in the poetry scene because I definitely want to stay involved, but I wasn’t sure what I could physically handle as far as continuing to book my own features and performances.

I seem to be doing better as of late, even popping up for performances here and there, but I’m hesitant to jump back in full steam. It has definitely affected my performing more than my writing.

Claes: You’re on the Executive Board of the Austin Poetry Slam. Tell me a bit about that group.
Soper: Austin Poetry Slam is a weekly slam competition at Spiderhouse Ballroom in Austin with cash prizes for the top three winners. All the competitions culminate into a finals competition to send a team to the annual National Poetry Slam to compete with teams all around the country.

I’m also on the organizational team for NeoSoul Poetry Lounge. We have been holding monthly, free writing workshops at the African American Cultural and Heritage Facility on 11th Street and we will be producing slams to form our 2018 Nationals team.

Claes: You’ve been working with new local publishing house, 310 Brown Street. What is that all about?
Soper: 310 Brown Street was established November 2016 by poet, author and community advocate Christopher Michael.

I have been the editor and media director since its inception and it has been an honor to work with a publisher that’s focusing on spoken word artists in the slam community. Spoken word is a little different in that it doesn’t necessarily follow academic poetry guidelines so mainstream publishers often overlook this genre resulting in an underrepresented community and therefore an entire population of possible fans not being exposed to it.

Among the releases, we put out two anthologies, “NeoSoul Anthology” and “Texas Slamthology” used for fundraising purposes. The NeoSoul Anthology is used to raise money to send the Neo slam team to nationals. 

"The Texas Slamthology" has 7 Texas slam team’s contributions and is for sale in their home venues to raise money for their respective national slam teams, while online sales proceeds go to the youth poetry scene. You can find all of our releases on Amazon. 310 Brown Street has 5 publications under its belt so far, with a few in the works for release soon. I love the tagline: 310 Brown Street, Making Poets Immortal!

You can find Soper’s album For Public Consumption, on iTunes, Amazon, Spotify, Pandora, and
This week Soper travels to Denver, CO for the National Poetry Slam competition in a behind the scenes capacity. If you’re looking to see her perform, keep an eye out for Austin Poetry Slam and NeoSoul Poetry Lounge.

She had these parting words:
“Support artists,
get involved in your community,
stand up for those who cannot stand up for themselves,
and always remember:
You’re only as strong
as your weakest thought.”

Sean Claes is the owner of Austin's INsite Magazine and has been a freelance entertainment writer since 1996. This is week 31 in his "52 Weeks of Austin Musician Interview" series. See the others here: 52 Week Project

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

10 Questions with The Boleys

By Sean Claes
Even though only one member of the band is currently old enough buy a beer, the three siblings of The Boleys have been a mainstay on the Austin scene for the past 2 years. Ethan (21, guitar & vocals), Emma (18, drums) and Joe (17, bass) have been able to make a dent in Austin’s rock scene with their genre jumping psychedelic-inspired songs. They’ll play just about anywhere that will let them, and that dedication has garnered them a coveted spot on legendary local gigs like Austin's Bat Fest  and Texas Rockfest.

The band just came off a month-long summer tour with Nathan’s Stupid Drama and are gearing up to release their 4th album, on August 6 at Antone’s Record Shop. Despite this busy schedule, they took a quick breath and answered 10 questions for INsite.

Sean Claes: Three siblings in a rock band. That could go really well or really poorly. How did y’all decide to become a band?
Emma Boley: I think we all decided we wanted to be in a band around the same time. We had all the pieces and we could all jam together so we figured might as well.
Joe Boley: My brother actually taught me the fundamentals on bass, so I just kept going at it from there and around 2014 me and Ethan and Emma started writing songs together and Mike Boudreau booked us our first gig at Red Eyed Fly.

The Boleys at Texas Rockfest 2016

Claes: You’ve been on the scene for a few years and have garnered some pretty high-profile local gigs including Texas Rockfest and Bat Fest. What has been your favorite local gig/Venue?
Ethan Boley: All of the venues we’ve worked with have been awesome, and as far as Texas Rockfest and Bat Fest go, well they always kick ass haha, and we love Adam Brewer, who puts those together. Kick Butt Coffee has been super duper cool to us too.

Claes: How does the familial dynamic work in your songwriting?
Emma: Since we’ve grown up with each other, we all have the same background in musical influences, so it’s very easy to groove on stuff.
Joe: It’s easier to be honest with each other.

You seem to churn out recordings on a pretty regular basis. If my count is correct this self-titled album will be your 4th release in 2 years… and you have a pretty full live show schedule as well. How do you do it?
Ethan: Me and a couple friends of mine went to school for audio engineering and recording, so we’ve been trying to create an effective studio space for cheap for a while, and this new record will be the first we’ve recorded at “Far Out Studios” which we’ll all be working on getting up and running so we can record more peeps for super cheeps.

As far as the live stuff goes, we love to play, and we all actively work on keeping our schedule planned around band stuff. Plus learning the booking and promoting end of things is good practice to get better at it.

Claes: The title track to your August 6 release has has got a 60’s Beatles psychedelic punk rock feel to it, but then listening to a track like “Learning” you’ve got a White Stripes-esque groove and “Surfer Song” kind of has a Nirvana thing going on. Then you have “Birdie” that has awesome three-part harmony that has a stripped down Alice In Chains groove going on. How would you describe your music?
Ethan: Dude, I don’t think we even freaky-deakin know, we just jam it out.
Joe: Psychedelic grunge.

Claes: Do you have a favorite track on the new disc?
Joe: I like them all, but if I had to pick a favorite, it’d be “Terra Incognita.”
Emma: My favorite track on the new record is probably “Purple Skies.”  

Claes: Tonight you are on Loris Lowe’s show on KLBJ in Austin. Congrats on landing that spot.
Ethan: Thanks brochacho! We’re excited to go on the radio show with Loris Lowe.
Joe: I’m super excited because we grew up listening to her on that radio station.
Emma: Thanks man, I’m super excited, it’s going to be super fun.

Claes: You’re CD release party will this Sunday (8/6/17) at Antone’s Record Shop. Planning anything special for the fans?
Ethan: Free beer!
Joe: Free beer?
Emma: Free beer.

Claes: Y’all just got back from your High On The Fly Tour that took you from Texas to Colorado, New Mexico, Oklahoma and back with Nathan’s Stupid Drama in your tour van, “El Toro.”  Was that your first extended tour?
Ethan: Yeah, that was our first extended tour. It went dope as shit. It was a lot of fun. Shout out to Rodrigo Cortes and Jarod Hebert for helping us out along the way, those sexy ladies. LEGALIZE MARIJUANA
Emma: It was an amazing experience. We were very lucky to have Nathan along with us on tour. He gave us lots of advice that came in handy.

Claes: Any road trip stories to tell? Favorite venue along the way?
Ethan: We saw two fights, we visited our friends Dereck, Kayne and Mandy Todd in the mountains, we got to smoke a lot, you can’t buy beer in Kansas in Sunday.

Tune into KLBJ 93.7 in Austin tonight at 11p (or stream it at to hear The Boleys on Loris Lowe’s show. Then plan to be out at Antone’s Record Shop (2928 Guadalupe St. in Austin) on Sunday August 6 at 2p to meet the band, enjoy some free beer and jam to their new release - event link.

The Boleys online:
Reverb Nation:

Sean Claes is the owner of Austin's INsite Magazine and has been a freelance entertainment writer since 1996. This is week 30 in his "52 Weeks of Austin Musician Interview" series. See the others here: 52 Week Project