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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.
By Mary Chang
on Thursday, 2nd April 2015 at 2:00 pm
Saturday in Austin for SXSW 2015 was another strangely miserable day weather wise. With rain intermittent for most of the day until the evening hours, at least it wasn’t chucking it down like it was on Friday. Still, with a grey sky, I wondered if the bad weather would keep crowds away on the last day of the big dance. When nighttime came, it was became clear from the long queues outside many of the venues – including Latitude 30, where your humble editor found herself stuck in the wristband queue for over 2 hours, including some time spent chatting with Kate Tempest and her band in said queue – that the droves had come out for one last hurrah.
Representing in my very red England jacket, my Saturday began seemingly inauspiciously. Stood in a queue, holding a brolly and trying in vain to look cool while waiting for doors to a venue to open isn’t really my idea of a great time. But this was all to get into the Brooklyn Vegan day party, as the New York culture Web site had a full line-up for both the indoor and outdoor stages at Red 7, including the third and final appearance of Mew. I wasn’t there for the Danes, however.
After the cancellation of an entire electronic showcase at Container Bar due to safety concerns about possible electrocution of the bands during the height of Friday afternoon’s rainstorms, I made it to East India Youth‘s (Will Doyle) last performance in Austin. This performance was certainly different than Huw Stephen’s curated night Tuesday at Latitude 30 for Cerdd Cymru : Music Wales; for one, my guess was the audience had never heard of him, though I was pleased to see his performance quickly won them over. It may have been only noon on a Saturday, but just like Tuesday night at 9 PM, Doyle gave it his all, throwing his whole body into the performance and he alternated between synth, sequencers, Macbook and last but not least, bass guitar. ‘Hinterland’, from his 2014 Mercury Prize-nominated debut album on Stolen Recordings ‘Total Strife Forever’, went down particularly well, punters’ heads bopping and nodding in approval of the huge beats and the sweaty, vigorous way they were delivered to us.
‘Turn Away’, the second cut to be revealed in February from ‘Culture of Volume’, was recently described by BBC 6music presenter Stuart Maconie as sounding like “an electronic madrigal”, and I fully agree. It’s a very emotional piece that I’ll discuss more in my album review coming soon on TGTF, so I’ll just say for now that the track is solid evidence to silence the naysayers that say electronica is cold and devoid of feeling. It’s also nice to see Doyle comfortable as a singer, nearly front and centre if you forget the table being there, as he emotes on a song like ‘Looking for Someone’, written back in the day when he was more known for being that guy in a suit behind the table being held up by apple juice cartons and gaffa tape.
From East India Youth, I went in search for another Youth – Lust for Youth, the project of Swede Hannes Norrvide, now based in Denmark. The lack of decent lighting in an otherwise very red Mohawk indoor stage made for a impossible photography situation to begin with. Then there was the stifling crowd situation: from what I understand having talked to some punters down the front, people had arrived early and were staking out spots for hardcore Pittsburgh act Code Orange, who would not be on stage for another 3 hours. Lust for Youth is an electropop band, so as can probably imagine, hardcore fans on the whole aren’t exactly their core audience. Couple that with overbearing bass in the mix obscuring Norrvide’s vocals – or at least making his voice sound more robotic than I recalled from their Sacred Bones Records album ‘International’ released last year – led to a less than compelling set. Maybe I just picked the wrong venue to see them at.
Sound was much better, as it always is, when I returned to Latitude 30 for the final British Music Embassy afternoon showcase of SXSW 2015, opened by Welsh hopefuls and now buzzed about band The People the Poet. Frontman Leon Stanford was never showing any sign of anxiety about playing for an international crowd on Tuesday night, but now he was entirely in his element, talking to us from the stage like we were old friends, speaking about his band’s experiences in Austin with fondness as if a seasoned SXSW veteran. Having done a live session with Dermot O’Leary for his Radio 2 programme earlier in the week, one hopes that their music will spread far and wide off the back of their two exemplary performances at the British Music Embassy.
Up next and back to back were two Scottish bands, United Fruit and Holy Esque Unfortunately, I couldn’t stay inside Latitude 30 for United Fruit, as I nipped outside for my interview with Tyla Campbell and Pete Mills of The People The Poet that had been delayed for days. Of what I did hear of them, it was loud and the band were lively. When I returned for Holy Esque, they were in the midst of laying down their bombastic, synth laden guitar rock. Oddly, I liked them better on the recordings I’d heard previously than live. It seemed louder and muddier in person. I wondered, since it was Saturday, if the staff at Latitude 30 had just cranked up all the knobs to 11? Would have made sense if it were true.
After Latitude 30 and running around town to conduct two interviews (one with Ryan of Rival Consoles, the other with Niall of Only Real), I treated myself to a taxi ride to take me to the last show I would cover at SXSW 2015. Melbourne’s Demi Louise, who I had become friendly with on Instagram, was playing her last gig in Austin for the week, an acoustic one, at the atrium stage of the Hyatt Regency south of the river. This was a special treat for me, as I have always loved the hotel shows I’ve managed to find and cover during SXSW, and this one was no exception.
Wearing a large-brimmed Stetson, she appeared onstage certainly dressed the part for Texas. Although her set was much too short, she played a nice smattering of tunes that showcased her songwriting ability, from describing the emotional pain of heartbreak that all of us, young and old, experience, to the more personal journey she’s gone on watching both of her grandfathers suffer from dementia in the song ‘Ruins’.
It was lovely to finally see her perform and also chat with her after her set, as it brought everything round full circle to what I feel is the most important part of TGTF’s work at a festival like SXSW: to help spread the music of artists we have come to know and love, especially for those who are just starting out and/or who aren’t well known. Yet. As long as I’ve got the passion within me, I’ll continue doing this for years to come, and I thank you for joining me for the ride, whether it takes us to Austin, Brighton, Sydney, and anywhere in between. SXSW 2015, that’s a wrap!
By Mary Chang
on Thursday, 2nd April 2015 at 1:00 pm
There are some things about the music business that I still struggle with in my mind. Consider, for instance, the circumstances surrounding my last interviewee during the crazy week in Austin that was SXSW 2015. Twenty-something Demi Louise is a singer/songwriter from Melbourne, Australia who has gone and already showcased at one of the most important emerging music festivals to TGTF, Liverpool Sound City in 2014. Yet despite all the travel and performances she has already clocked up at such a tender age, this talented young lady is still not signed yet. What, why, how is that even possible?
Demi had a packed week of performances in Austin, with her last two taking place in front of a packed house at B.D. Riley’s as part of Sounds Australia’s Saturday daytime acoustic showcase called Sound Gallery. Due to a schedule conflict, I was unable to make that earlier show but thankfully, Demi was scheduled to perform one last acoustic set at the Hyatt Regency Austin just south of the river, the same hotel with a dock from where Carrie and I got on the St. Patrick’s Day Brunch on a Boat with the folks from Creative Belfast and Invest Northern Ireland on Tuesday morning. New fans of hers from several different countries came to see her play this last show, including the very young daughters of some festival-goers, who Demi talked to after her set by kneeling down next to and taking photos with them. Awww. She’s a real woman of the people.
In my interview with Demi, she tells me her hometown of Melbourne and how sad she is that it’s the end of her SXSW adventure, as it’s one of many music showcasing events she’s done in the last year and a half. We also chat about her song ‘Ruins’, which was inspired by medical diagnoses within her own family, and her winning a major pop songwriting award back in Oz. (Again, how is this woman not signed yet???) Listen to the whole interview below.
Read all our past coverage on Demi Louise on TGTF here.