In the music world, you don’t hear of much emigration from Brooklyn. For the past decade, it’s been a hotbed for musicians, but count Keegan DeWitt out. The Oregon native found himself in Brooklyn trying to balance both his job and music against the high cost of living. “I found myself putting 50% effort into both that job and my music,” he told American Songwriter, so he packed up and headed for another music Mecca: Nashville.
There, he was able to make music his full-time job. DeWitt started out by scoring films, earning buzz from the SXSW Film Festival and the New York Times, and composing allowed him expand his musical scope. But the songwriting bug soon bit after meeting several multi-instrumentalists in Nashville. After performing around the country under his own name for a few years, DeWitt decided to form Wild Cub in 2012 with his Nashville friends. Last year, the quintet self-released their debut, titled Youth. Indie label Mom + Pop decided to give the record a wider push after lead single “Thunder Clatter” started charting in Britain.
Wild Cub recently stopped by KUTX’s Studio 1A for a live session, and they did not dial anything back. First-hand experience: “Thunder Clatter” sounds fantastic in the live setting, and luckily, the band returns to Austin for SXSW 2014.
Catch Wild Cub at SXSW 2014:
Monday, Mar 10: The Mohawk, 7pm
Wednesday, Mar 12: The Swan Dive
Friday, Mar 14: Stubb’s, 8:00-8:40pm (official showcase)
Austin’s Walker Lukens is a big fan of folk music, but with the recent success of bands like Mumford & Sons and the Lumineers, he felt like the sound had become over-saturated. So he decided to experiment with the form: Lukens bought a looping pedal and started created his songs from the ground up, sampling his voice and guitar in interesting ways while keeping the inherent melody intact. He also hired a band (the Side Arms) to flesh out these experimentations in the live setting. These two directions–folk and electronic, acoustic and rock-and-roll–came together on Lukens’s 2013 breakout, Devoted. There’s a reason why he’s capturing attention not just in Austin but nationwide, from NPR to American Songwriter and Billboard.
Lukens is definitely one to watch for SXSW 2014, and he recently stopped by KUTX’s Studio 1A for a live session. He left the Side Arms at home and instead bared down on his looping pedal, showing how he can transform a simple song like “Lover” into a towering ballad.
Catch Walker Lukens at SXSW 2014:
Tuesday, Mar 11: Empire Control Room, 3pm
Tuesday, Mar 11: Empire Control Room, 9:00-9:40pm (official showcase)
Christian Peslak and Steve Marion are perfectly complementary. The two New Jersey natives have been making music together since high school, and nowadays they find themselves fronting the buzzed-about Saint Rich and touring with Dr. Dog. In the live setting, Peslak takes on the Mick Jagger role, strutting around the stage and bending his body to hit the high notes, while Marion serenely conjures up lead guitar licks that are both melodic and swaggering. Offstage, Marion turns into the showman while Peslak takes it all in; you’d think the two are brothers with the way they complete each other’s thoughts.
While still in their mid-twenties, the pair are practically music veterans. In 2011, Peslak and Marion released an album under the name Delicate Steve via David Byrne’s own record label. The record–all instrumental, with hints of tropicalia and African rhythms–received glowing praise from the New York Times and fellow bands like Dirty Projectors and tUnE-yArDs. A few years later, the two jammed on some new, more classic-rock inclined songs when other Delicate Steve members couldn’t make it to practice. Saint Rich was born, and last fall, they released their debut album, Beyond The Drone, via Merge Records.
Peslak and Marion make the musical switch seem easy. Saint Rich’s songs are just as intricate as Delicate Steve’s freeform jams, but there’s also a simple, power pop-influenced immediacy. The band recently stopped by KUTX’s Studio 1A to show off the new sound, and “Officer” was one of the highlights. Peslak directly taps back into his teenage years, wondering why the local police officer keeps hassling him for the (mostly) innocuous adventures he and his friends get into. It’s a big, wide grin of a song, funny and charming and hook-filled.
Catch Saint Rich at SXSW 2014:
Thursday, Mar 13: Parish, 8:45-9:25pm (official showcase)
Friday, Mar 14: Hotel Vegas, 7:50-8:20pm (official showcase)
Saturday, Mar 15: Homeslice Pizza, 3:30pm
Saturday, Mar 15: Spiderhouse Ballroom
Last year, Valerie June stunned the music world with her fourth album, Pushin’ Against A Stone. The record–produced in part by Dan Auerbach of the Black Keys–doesn’t fit neatly into any category: it’s blues, it’s country, it’s folk, and soul, and gospel, too. As June told NPR, the synthesis came from growing up around singers in her church and hearing the various ways the human voice could convey emotion, with or without instruments. She also says she was drawn to voices that were “perfectly imperfect,” which (perfectly) describes June’s own way of sounding both sweet and world-weary.
The Tennessee native spent years working any job that would have her, from barista to caretaking. But now that she’s doing music full-time, the work is anything but easy. June recently told KUTX’s Jay Trachtenberg that nowadays the road is her home, and she stopped by our Studio 1A in the midst of a tour with Sharon Jones & the Dap-Kings. Her hard work makes her performance of “Workin’ Woman Blues” that much more powerful. On record, the song gallops, but in our Studio 1A, June transforms it into a stripped-down tour-de-force.
Controversy has followed the Black Lips throughout their fifteen-year career. The Atlanta-bred “flower punks” are notorious for their stage antics, which have included fireworks, nudity, and a bunch of other stuff we probably can’t print here. But underneath the provocation, there’s a genuine willingness to simply have a good time and spread music far and wide. In 2012, the Black Lips ventured to the Middle East, becoming one of the first Western bands to play Egypt, Iraq, Lebanon, Cyprus, and the United Arab Emirates (the tour is chronicled in the documentary Kids Like You And Me). The group also planned to be the first to play Antarctica, but a little band by the name of Metallica beat them to it.
The Black Lips’ globetrotting is about to kick off 0nce again with the release of Underneath The Rainbow, out March 18. For their seventh album, the Lips recorded around the country and worked with a number of producers, including Tommy Brenneck (Cee Lo Green, Sharon Jones & the Dap-Kings, Charles Bradley) and Black Keys drummer Patrick Carney. The result is a beefed-up sound without sacrificing the Lips’ anarchic atmosphere. They even reveal a swampy, countryfied side on first single “Boys In The Wood,” proving that the Black Lips still have a few tricks up their sleeves. And if you want a wild show, catch them live at SXSW 2014.