SXSW 2016 | 2015
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As a card-carrying member of Frank Turner‘s large and loyal fan base, I was intrigued last month when we at TGTF posted about the release of his new book ‘The Road Beneath My Feet’, along with the news that he would be appearing as a panelist at the SXSW 2015 Music Conference. Of course, given Turner’s relentless work ethic, it shouldn’t have surprised me that he would be playing a handful of live shows around SXSW as well, including the live set I reviewed at FLOODfest on the Wednesday afternoon and an appearance at the BBC barbecue that Mary covered on Thursday.
Between Turner’s Thursday night shows and his scheduled Friday afternoon speaking engagement at Austin Convention Center, where he appeared with rapper and producer Chuck D of Public Enemy on the ‘Books Are the New Vinyl’ panel discussion, I was very fortunate indeed to schedule a last minute interview with Turner on Friday morning. He graciously agreed to meet with me in downtown Austin just before my own prior engagement at BD Riley’s Irish Pub, and while he may not have been at his best so early in the day, he spoke very candidly with me about his new book, which he hesitates to call a “memoir”, and his new album, which is expected for release later this summer.
At his live shows around Austin during the week, Turner had played several new songs from the upcoming album, including its defiant lead single ‘Get Better’. In fact, the lyric video for ‘Get Better’ was unveiled on the internet on the very morning of our interview, which was an exciting bit of news to hear in the course of the conversation. Turner also explained the interesting but divergent inspirations behind two other new album tracks, Space Shuttle Challenger tribute ‘Silent Key’ and tennis-themed tune ‘Love Forty Down’.
Frank Turner has just finished a book tour in support of ‘The Road Beneath My Feet’ and will soon head to the southern hemisphere for an April tour of Australia and New Zealand before returning to America in May. Keep an eye on TGTF for coverage of Turner’s upcoming album release and live shows, including scheduled summer appearances at Reading and Leeds in August. For past TGTF coverage on Turner, go here.
Thanks especially to John and Cahir for their help arranging this interview.
Thursday night at SXSW 2015 took me to a venue I hadn’t visited before, the Victorian Room at the historic Driskill Hotel, where I saw singer/songwriter Josh Savage after editor Mary’s enthusiastic recommendation from seeing him at a Sofar Sounds Manchester show in April 2014. Once again, Mary’s instinct was spot on, as Savage’s subtle and intricate songwriting style was perfectly suited both to my musical taste and to the delicate, intimate space of the room he played that evening.
After Savage captivated the small but attentive audience inside the Victorian Room with his understated songs and charismatically modest stage demeanour, he and I stepped outside for a very brief interview, which you can find streaming below. We chatted about his current EP ‘Spaces’, in particular the enchanting track ‘Lost In Paris’ that has quickly become a favourite of mine. During the show Savage had further charmed me by deftly persuading his listeners, who had been respectfully silent up to that point, to sing a lovely harmonisation of the song’s “ooh la la” chorus, demonstrating a level of skill and stage experience belied by his self-effacing manner.
Savage is currently honing that experience on his entirely self-reliant North American tour, which will include shows along the East Coast and in Canada through the first week in May. After his trip across the pond, Savage will play summer festivals in the UK before looking ahead to more potential live dates this autumn.
I was delighted to hear that Savage’s musical ties to French chanson and his thematic ties to French literature will continue later this year in the form of a French language EP titled ‘Quatre Épines’, which will feature songs inspired by the classic Antoine de Saint-Exupéry story ‘The Little Prince’. If you’re interested in a sneak preview, the exquisite title track from ‘Quatre Épines’ is streaming on Savage’s Soundcloud, along with all five tracks from ‘Spaces’. Previous TGTF coverage of Josh Savage is right this way.
On the Tuesday morning of SXSW 2015, Mary and I attended a lovely St. Patrick’s Day brunch on a boat, hosted by Generator NI and Invest Northern Ireland. The following Thursday morning, I made my way once again to the Hyatt Regency Austin boat dock to attend another riverboat brunch showcase, this one curated by none other than Oisin Leech and Mark McCausland, also known as TGTF favourites The Lost Brothers. The lineup for the Thursday morning show, hosted by Honeycomb Creative Works and Generator NI, included several of the artists we’d seen on Tuesday morning but also had a few surprise twists to match the curves and turns along our meandering path down the Colorado River.
After a brief introduction by Honeycomb Creative Works’ Fiona McElroy, The Lost Brothers played the morning’s opening set, including their own folk duets and some particularly well-considered covers, chosen to feature the guest musicians appearing on the brunch showcase. The first addition to the program was Irish violinist Colm Mac Con Iomaire, who added his lovely and expressive instrumental timbre to The Lost Brothers’ warm acoustic sound.
Leech then introduced another special guest, whose presence was designed to energise the easygoing brunch crowd gathered on the riverboat. Austin-based songwriter and producer Will Sexton, with whom Leech and McCausland had become acquainted on a previous trip to SXSW, joined the group for a delightfully improvisatory set of songs with a very definite blues vibe, including a cover of Townes Van Zandt’s ‘Ain’t Leavin’ Your Love’.
The mood on the boat then changed once again with a solo performance from Colm Mac Con Iomaire, who treated us to some of the exquisite violin melodies from his new album ‘And Now the Weather’, due out on the 17th of April. Mac Con Iomaire displayed his range and versatility in two contrasting pieces, the broad and soaring ‘Eimar’s Dream’ from his first album ‘The Hare’s Corner’ and the poignantly sad ‘Sappho’s Daughter’, inspired by Irish poet Theo Dorgan. I was able to catch Mac Con Iomaire for a quick chat on Friday during the Full Irish Breakfast at BD Riley’s; the audio for that interview will be posted here on TGTF in the coming days.
We took a collective intermission after Mac Con Iomaire’s set, and I headed to the boat’s upper deck to take in the scenery. When I came back down, I found the audience already regrouped for Northern Irish pop quartet GO WOLF and alt-rockers-turned-acoustic-crooners More Than Conquerors. I caught their performances from a slightly different angle than I had on Tuesday morning, while the casual Thursday brunch crowd in the main cabin enjoyed hearing the bands in this unusually quaint setting.
As the riverboat headed back to the Hyatt Regency dock, The Lost Brothers took the stage area once more, this time accompanied by a new acquaintance, Austin’s own Will Webster, better known locally as Ragtime Willie. Webster had the opportunity to regale us with his skills on both banjo and fiddle during this final spontaneous set of tunes with Leech, McCausland and Mac Con Iomaire.
Ever the gracious hosts, The Lost Brothers finished out the morning by accepting a request for an encore performance of their charming version of ‘Moon River’. Those of you reading along in the UK might have a chance to hear this lovely cover yourselves, as The Lost Brothers are set to begin a run of April tour dates supporting fellow TGTF friends Stornoway on select dates.
Early in the SXSW 2015 week, I had a chance to meet up with two members of The Twilight Sad, frontman James Graham and guitarist Andy MacFarlane, as we all bustled between our afternoon engagements and the first official evening showcases of the festival. The timing of the interview seemed a little bit random, as I didn’t get to hear the band play until a couple of days later, but the interview streaming below was a nice preview of what to expect from their Thursday afternoon set at the British Music Embassy, as well as catching me up on the flurry of activity surrounding The Twilight Sad’s current album ‘Nobody Wants to Be Here and Nobody Wants to Leave’, released back in October 2014 on FatCat Records.
One of the recurring themes in my conversations with bands and artists at SXSW was that successful bands are often very busy bands; in the music industry hard work begets more hard work. Such is the case for The Twilight Sad, who came to Austin for SXSW at the end of their recent headline tour of America. I couldn’t help but smile as I listened to James and Andy describe the tour (in their charming Scottish accents, of course!) as an overwhelmingly positive experience for the band. After 9 years together, four album releases, and a staggering 15 tours, The Twilight Sad are beginning to reap the rewards of their hard work, both with the album and increased demand for live shows.
Immediately following their brief stop in Austin, The Twilight Sad headed back across the pond for live dates in Scandinavia and continental Europe. Their upcoming tour plans include more live dates in the UK later this month, festivals in the UK and Europe over the summer, and more North American dates on the horizon for this autumn.
Special thanks to Chris for helping us arrange this interview.
On the Thursday evening of SXSW 2015, before the evening showcases began, I caught up with three members of Skinny Lister, whom I had seen play an infectiously energetic set at FLOODfest the previous afternoon. In keeping with their high-energy reputation, Skinny Lister played a total of six shows at SXSW and as I might have expected from a band with such a vivacious stage presence, siblings Lorna and Max Thomas and “drummist” Thom Mills were in high spirits during the interview streaming below.
I chatted with the lively trio about Skinny Lister’s appearance on the FLOODfest docket with their Xtra Mile labelmate Frank Turner, whose brand of folk rock has a similar vibe to Skinny Lister’s sound. The band were quick to credit some of their recent success to Xtra Mile’s creation of a “scene” around the folk-punk ethos of acts like Turner, Skinny Lister, To Kill a King, and Beans on Toast, as well as their performing opportunities on the Vans Warped Tour and on festival lineups in America and the UK.
The festival circuit where Skinny Lister cut their figurative teeth as a band figures prominently in their near future as well. Around the upcoming release of their new album, ‘Down On Deptford Broadway’, Skinny Lister have scheduled a run of UK headline dates for April and May ahead of tentatively planned summer festival appearances and a potential autumn trip back to America.
‘Down On Deptford Broadway’ is due for release on the 20th of April via Xtra Mile. We here at TGTF have already featured videos for three of its tracks, ‘Cathy’, ‘This Is War’ and ‘Trouble On Oxford Street’. If those features have whet your appetite for more Skinny Lister tunes, keep your eyes here for a review of the full album ahead of its scheduled release.
On the Wednesday evening of SXSW 2015, I attended the Dine Alone Records 10th anniversary showcase at the Bungalow on Rainey Street, where I was able to catch San Francisco alt-rock duo The Dodos for a quick interview before their set. Finding a truly quiet place for an interview at the Bungalow while their fellow Dine Alone artists Yukon Blonde were soundchecking for their set turned out to be a bit of a lost cause, as you’ll hear in the interview stream below, but band members Meric Long and Logan Kroeber still managed to share their plans for SXSW and their upcoming tour plans in Europe and the UK, as well as some insight on how their 10 years together as a band have shaped both their live performances and their studio recordings.
Of special interest for our readers on the UK side of the pond will be news of The Dodos’ planned one-off show at the Village Underground on Tuesday the 28th of April. Long and Kroeber will appear there with Berlin’s “renegade new-classical ensemble” Stargaze to perform full orchestral arrangements of songs from The Dodos’ five-album back catalogue, as well as material from their new sixth record ‘Individ’. As part of the same show, the Stargaze ensemble will also perform specially commissioned chamber arrangements of songs by American alt-pop act Deerhoof, composed by the band’s drummer and co-songwriter Greg Saunier. Ticket information for this unique show, along with other live dates on The Dodos’ European tour, can be found on The Dodos’ official Web site. Below the interview stream, you can find an amazing live video from The Dodos’ autumn 2014 collaboration with Stargaze, which included a performance of ‘Transformer’ from their fifth studio album ‘Carrier’.
Thanks especially to Brendan for his help with this interview.