Photo by Gabriel C. Pérez/KUTX
NPR LIVE SESSIONS – PRODUCED BY JULIA REIHS/KUTX
In the midst of the recent social justice movement spurred by the murder of George Floyd, Austin musicians have urged their city to examine racism embedded in the music scene itself. KUTX Multi-Media Producer Julia Reihs connected with Mélat, native Austininte and former KUTX Artist of the Month (February 2018).
“First off we got the name ‘Live Music Capital of the World’ because we had more live music venues per capita than anywhere else. So it really had nothing to do with the music, it was really just about the space. And what ended up happening is the space did not go to everybody – it went to the white guys with the guitar.”
“When I finally did start making music, I never saw myself represented in things like ACL and SXSW. I figured I had to go to L.A. or New York or someplace where I saw myself reflected. People don’t expect R&B to come from here. They don’t really see Black people coming out of Austin like that in general.”
Lucky for Austin, Mélat stayed and carved out a new space for R&B in the Austin music scene that did not exist before. She has played ACL Fest, SXSW and was named “Break out Artist of the Year” in 2018’s Austin Music Awards. But she still witnesses the covert racism that affects artists of color and skews tastes away from hip-hop, rap and R&B genres.
“Racism in Austin isn’t quite over. It’s systemic. You don’t realize that what you’re saying and what you’re doing is actually continuing to push people out and not allowing for space. I cannot tell you how many times I’ve been called a hip-hop artist. It’s like – this is not my space to take – especially people who do hip-hop and rap – it’s hard for them to even get these venues because there’s a preconceived notion about what type of crowds they bring in. It’s all based on preconceived notions, stereotypes.”
“Being quiet about it – it isn’t going to work anymore. I have to find a way to incorporate my activism into my everyday life, into my art, into my existence, into all of it. Hopefully in just doing what I’m doing and saying where I’m from and telling my story, it shifts perspective for another little girl or a little boy or person who doesn’t necessarily see themselves reflected in our city.”
Produced by: Julia Reihs
Additional footage by: Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon and Spectrum News
Featured songs by Mélat: “Happy Hour” and “After All”
Mélat in KUTX Studio 1A 2.9.18
Photo by Hollie Fernando/courtesy of the artist
Lianne La Havas may not be a household name yet, but the uber-talented British singer/songwriter’s new album should change that.
Her self-titled third release – her first in five years – is a beautiful revelation. Sure she’s been nominated for prestigious awards (from a Grammy to a Mercury prize and beyond), but she has truly come into her own in 2020. A defining work, and the first of her albums that she’s self-produced with her own band accompanying, Lianne La Havas shows off her amazing vocal tone and phrasing, inventive guitar work and collaborative songwriting chops. Expect the unexpected from LaHavas – whether it’s being accompanied by the BBC Orchestra (as she was in a performance in London this past February) or covering Radiohead’s “Weird Fishes” (as she does on this new collection) and expect to be amazed. – Jody Denberg, KUTX host
Lianne La Havas is out now on Nonesuch Records
Cactus Cafe operates as a non-profit venue. Please consider making a gift to the Cactus Cafe to support the historic listening room.
On Valentines Day in 1979 at the Student Union on University of Texas Campus, the Cactus Cafe opened in the former lunch room known as the Chuck Wagon. Since then, the intimate 150-seat venue has lent it’s stage to legendary artists such as Towns Van Zandt, Lucinda Williams, Taj Mahal, and Steve Earle.
According to a June survey conducted by the University of Houston’s Hobby School of Public Affairs 90% of Austin’s Music Venues are predicted to be closed by Halloween. Out of 54 designated music venues in Austin, that forecast would leave just about six.
It’s not the first time Cactus Cafe faced financial fears. In May 2010, KUT took over programming of the Cactus Cafe after the university nearly closed the venue due to budget concerns. When KUTX launched in 2013 it became a natural promotional partner for the Cactus. Unfortunately, the way operations were negotiated in the 2010 set-up, bar sales from all shows go to the university – which is largely how most music venues are able to break even or make a modest profit.
Ask any singer/songwriter in Austin their favorite place to present their craft and likely they will say the Cactus Cafe. Known for attentive audiences that are there for the artists, the Cactus has always been a place to nurture new talent – Alison Krauss, Brandi Carlile, The Chicks (formerly The Dixie Chicks in case you’re behind) – have all graced the Cactus stage in their early years and the (pre-pandemic) Monday night open-mic night hosted for years by Kacey Crowley is popular for it’s supportive environment.
Since we aren’t able to enjoy intimate moments in the Cactus Cafe this summer – KUTX and Cactus Cafe brings you eight pop-up sessions from the front yards, backyards and studios of some of the Austin artists who make the Cactus Cafe such a special place.
Cactus Cafe at Home Artists: Carson McHone, Israel Nash, Aaron Behrens, Carrie Rodriguez, Western Youth, Greyhounds, David Ramirez, Star Parks
All videos produced by Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon with audio mixed by Jake Perlman.
Carson McHone: guitar, vocals – Shot in South Austin, May 2020
Carson McHone – “How ‘Bout It”
“Growing up in Austin – some of my earliest memories are from the Cactus Cafe. I remember one time I went as a kid with my folks and we saw Ed Miller and Rich Brotherton playing. Ed got his daughter Maggie up to sing with them and it just always felt like a family affair, even when I began to play there myself. It’s always been a very, very special spot.” – Carson McHone
“How ‘Bout It” from Carousel (Nine Mile Records – October 26, 2018)
Israel Nash: guitar, vocals – Shot at Plum Creek Sound in Dripping Springs, May 2020
Israel Nash – “Canyonheart”
“Cactus Cafe is a magical place that really represents the fabric of the Austin music scene, both past and present. You can smell those beer soaked floors, you can hear stories and old songs in the walls.” – Israel Nash
“Canyonheart” from Topaz (Desert Folklore Music – April 17, 2020)
Aaron Behrens: guitar, vocals, Melany Behrens: assistant
Aaron Behrens – “Junkie”
“With Ghostland Observatory I get to run around and do all the lasers and all the big crazy shows. But the Cactus is a place I get to go play my acoustic guitar, which I originally had in my hand. And it’s every musician songwriter’s dream to sit there and have the audience actually listen and not talk. And that’s what I always loved about the Cactus, was because it was the place where the musician got to truly just be the artist. When you play at the Cactus, you feel appreciated as artists.” – Aaron Behrens
“Junkie” from forthcoming album
Carrie Rodriguez: vocals, fiddle; guitar, Luke Jacobs: guitar; Cruz Jacobs-Rodriguez: clapper – Shot in South Austin, May 2020
Carrie Rodriguez – “Absence”
“Cactus Cafe, truly, is my favorite listening room to play in the country. People are so reverent and so into the music. But when the song is over, everyone in the room feels completely free to do whatever they want. They can stand up and hoot and holler. They can do great bows from the audience. They can get up and dance. So it’s got this beautiful combination of reverence and wildness that I think is unique to Austin and our music community and our music loving community.” – Carrie Rodriguez
Taylor Williams: vocals, guitar; Graham Weber: vocals, guitar – Shot in North Loop Austin, May 2020
Western Youth – “Knocked Out”
“The Cactus Cafe was the first place I ever went when I moved to Austin. I played there on my third day in town and I ran the open mike for a few years after that. It’s been such a pivotal place for me and for our band. I mean, yeah, we played a little too loud in there a few times, and it’s been nice when we played acoustic in there. And just the knowledge of the shows that preceded that, you know, I mean, Townes Van Zandt – being able to stand on the stage that he was playing – this is a very special place.” – Taylor Williams and Graham Weber, Western Youth
“Knocked Out” from a forthcoming album
Anthony Ferrell: vocals, keys; Andrew Troupe: guitar – Shot at Bud’s Recording Station in East Austin, June 2020
Greyhounds – “Long Goodbye”
“Long Goodbye” from Primates (Nine Mile Records – July 10, 2020)
David Ramirez: vocals, guitar – Shot in University Hills Austin, June 2020
David Ramirez – “Hallelujah, Love is Real!”
“Cactus Cafe is one of my favorite rooms to play in the country and as many stages and as many people I’ve been in front of over the years, nothing makes me more nervous or anxious than getting up on that small stage in that intimate room. Personally, it’s just how attentive and focused everyone is. They’re there to be a part of something. So all my love and all my thanks to Cactus Cafe for always having me back. And I hope once this all passes, I’ll be there as soon as possible. “ – David Ramirez
“Hallelujah, Love Is Real!” from My Love Is A Hurricane (Sweetworld Music, July 17, 2020)
Andy Bianculli: vocals, guitar, harmonica; Sam Howden: vibraphone – Shot in East Austin, July 2020
Star Parks – “Landlady”
“I moved to Texas about ten years ago and the first time I played the Cactus Cafe we opened up for Mike and the Moonpies. It was their record release show. I don’t think we really had any business playing there and they put us on the bill. It was the first time we played a stripped down set to a crowd that was listening – so it’s very nerve wracking – and it was one of the things that you like, you knew it was kind of a big deal so you had to kind of bring it. It’s a great room. Great sound. And I hope we can play there again.” – Andy Bianculli, Star Parks
“Landlady” from The New Sounds of Late Capitalism (Modern Outsider – February 14, 2020)
Watch all eight videos in the player below. Enjoy even more KUTX social distancing pop-ups here.
Photo by Pavel Mezihorak/KUTX
Austin’s Holy Wave have been a staple in the Austin scene for over a decade. To that, the group performed at the illustrious Desert Daze festival in 2017, sharing a festival bill with Ty Segall, Iggy Pop, Ariel Pink, and John Cale. Their 2018 album Adult Fear is a paragon of the garage-psych sound that reverberate(d) through the venues of Red River and East 6th, but their fourth album Interloper finds the band taking on a lot of new textures, sounds, and creative leases, giving their sound a new, profound depth that sometimes waxes deeply psychedelic and other times beautifully ambient.
The album is also the band’s most collaborative effort and listening to members Kyle Hager and Ryan Fuson talk about the supportive and egoless nature of writing this album is admittedly refreshing. The tone of that process comes through on every track of Interloper. The album is truly a journey: an active river of garage-psych with new currents recalling Pink Floyd and the Beatles’ Magical Mystery Tour. I say with no reservation that Interloper is one of the best Austin albums of 2020.
I got to sit down with Hagar and Fuson to talk about the album’s conception, the Interloper tour that – due to the COVID-19 pandemic – was cut short after only two dates, stories from tours past (remember tours?), and their Levitation Sessions livestream this Saturday via Mosaic Sound Collective.
Holy Wave’s fourth album Interloper is out now on Reverberation Appreciation Society.
Produced by Deidre Gott
Full interview with Ryan Fuson and Kyle Hagar of Austin’s Holy Wave
photo by Jake Rabin
KUTX Artist of the Month, Jake Lloyd
Born in Austin and raised in Round Rock (Stoney Point class of ’07), Jake Lloyd has been honing his craft for over a decade now. His latest, the Lloyd Pack EP has influences of rock, R&B, Gospel, Country, and a little bit of everything in between. You’ve probably heard the single – “Crossroading,” in heavy rotation on KUTX.
As an essential worker in a warehouse distribution center, Lloyd has been going into work since the pandemic began, but he says it’s had a positive on his music career, “I think I have done more recording with other artists around town in the first seven months of 2020 than I have my whole career. I have been getting releases ready, working the day job, and entertaining my kids at home so I have more than enough to keep me busy…Trying to be responsible and safe has been a heavy load, but I’m thankful.”
Watch Jake Lloyd and guitarist Don Denham perform “Crossroading” and “Daily Interlude” for our Social Distancing Pop-Up series.
Jake Lloyd – Captured from a safe distance by Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon/KUTX, July 2020
“Crossroading” – Jake Lloyd
“‘Crossroading’ had originally been intended for the  MoonLit Mornings record. At the last minute, after careful deliberation, we decided the song would be better received on a different project. It’s funny, Danny [Saldivar – longtime bandmate and producer] really wasn’t happy about taking it off, but with the great response the Lloyd Pack EP has gotten I think he sees we made the right decision. The song was an accident really; the first verse is a complete freestyle with the improvised yell at the end in my best Prince Rogers Nelson impression. Dan was like “keep it!” So we did. I love movies – westerns in particular – so it was important to recreate some of those same sounds, feelings, and stories that always stuck with me when I’d watch the classics.” – Jake Lloyd
Jake Lloyd and Don Denham – Captured from a safe distance by Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon/KUTX, July 2020
“Daily Interlude” – Jake Lloyd
“The running theme behind “Daily Interlude” is pressure. Pressure to prove I could write a pop song, pressure to get up for work when I’d rather be making music, pressure to be a good Dad etc. Danny [Saldivar – longtime bandmate and producer] and I had just developed a little recording routine right around the time the song was made. He was living off Braker Ln. so we’d go to our favorite brewery in that area, partake, and go back to the studio. That particular evening a lot had been going on with life, so I jokingly said, “Dan, we need to make a cynical anthem.” He laughed, as he usually does to all my ideas, and said, “if anyone can do it, you can.” We wrote, produced, and recorded the whole song that night! It went on to be the first single from MoonLit Mornings and a personal favorite of mine.” – Jake Lloyd
“Crossroading” from Lloyd Pack (Kicks and Khords 2020)
“Daily Interlude” From MoonLit Mornings (Keyz Street 2019)
Musicians: Jake Lloyd: vocals; Don Denham: guitar
Cameras and Edit: Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon
Audio Mix: Jake Perlman