Austin is a hotbed for independent music in the States. Not only is the massive and sheer bewildering South By South West housed there, but Austin City Limits has also become an institution of sorts, both live and on TV. Furthermore, many bands until recently only known in town have burgeoned outwards, scooping up record deals, global press and MySpace hits. Okkervil River and What Made Milwaukee Famous are two such examples, and more keep popping up. Maybe this is because Austin is the least Texan town in Texas. It trades backwards conservatism for forthcoming liberalism, houses an expansive University and heaps of moderates disenfranchised with the state of their state. Musically, bands are taking their city’s ethos and imprinting it in their music. Austin is far from a Texan pariah, but it is different, very different, much like its music scene in relation to its neighbours.
I’m not a morose person, but I sometimes find the most inspiration in things that are a bit more tragic
Another band that has high jumped from local to international acclaim as of late is Tacks The Boy Disaster. Yes, their name is a bit ridiculous, but their music is divine. Lush, shoegaze tinged melodies peer through buoyant pop, creating a sound encompassing a bevy of influences from folk to country, rock and ethereality. “Austin has a strong music community, but the town really isn’t that big, so no one can afford to stay too isolated,” explains guitarist Nathan Stein. “There’s a lot of blending, like jazz and avant-garde players working with folk and indie musician and a independent/DIY spirit. People are happy to record at home and release their own records, make their own t-shirts and videos and put on shows in unusual venues, for example.” That is how Tacks started. The quartet put out an EP independently this year entitled, ‘O Beatrice’. The EP was quickly scooped up by London based Ark recordings, prompting a record deal in Europe and some dates in November. Still, the band goes at it alone, feeling that doing it oneself in true Austin spirit is more beneficial at home than abroad.
‘O Beatrice’ is an impressively produced and arranged debut for a band virtually unheard of last year. A delicate sensitivity adorns each song, creates spacious but haunting melodies that poke at themes of loss, scorn and denial. Yet, this is no downtrodden listen. Tacks has written some beautiful pop songs here, but layered them with thick, endearing intonations. Pop music for intelligent folk this is, something that should succeed as much here as it has there. “I’m drawn to art that sort of bridges the gap between celebration and mourning,” explains lyricist and lead vocalist Evan Jacobs. “I think instinctively and I write lyrics that have elements of both. I’m not a morose person, but I sometimes find the most inspiration in things that are a bit more tragic, but it sort of seems trivial without some contrast.” Austin’s export is our gain once again. Tacks The Boy Disaster will be UK-bound in November.
There’s a lot of blending, like jazz and avant-garde players working with folk and indie musician and a independent/DIY spirit