After a quarter-century of showcasing the biggest up-and-coming bands, Austin's South by Southwest has built enough of a brand to warrant unofficial offshoots in far-flung places. Like, umm, Tempe, which is a convenient stop for Texas-bound bands from the West Coast.
Every year, the folks at Stateside Presents toss a bunch of these buzzing bands coming through town on the same bill. It's a lot to keep track of, we know, especially if you don't live and breathe indie rock, which is why we're running primers on both days of the annual event. Here's what you need to know about the first day. Check this space next week for info on the second, scheduled on Monday, March 21.
Gold Motel: The solo project of The Hush Sound pianist and singer Greta Salpeter, Gold Motel was born out of Salpeter's move to Los Angeles from Chicago. While The Hush Sound were on hiatus, Salpeter found inspiration in her new digs, lending a summery, upbeat sound to Gold Motel's indie pop. With an eponymous EP and debut album, Summer House, to her credit, Salpeter has spent her time off wisely.
The Delta Mirror: The Los Angeles-based trio was born of the relationship between Craig Gordon and David Bolt that began as a hip-hop project in the late '90s. The subsequent band released its debut album, Machines That Listen, in March of last year. Ambient, IDM, and shoegaze are all accurate depictions of what it is The Delta Mirror plays, while Machines is a concept album of sorts that follows the story of nine different rooms in the same hospital.
Or, The Whale: With a name derived from Herman Melville's classic Moby-Dick, San Francisco-based Or, The Whale plays Americana rock. The seven-member band features keyboards as well as steel guitar, the latter lending a necessary country element to the band's sound. Or, The Whale has two albums under its belt, not to mention a nifty appearance on Good Morning America — all a testament to its wide-ranging sound.
Floating Action: If there's anything Floating Actions's Seth Kauffman can't do, then he just hasn't tried it yet. His meticulous DIY style has racked up four albums to date, the last three on New Orleans-based label Park the Van. Floating Action has been described as folk, soul, Southern rock, and lo-fi — and all seem to fit Kauffman's multifarious musical identity perfectly.
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Stamps: The second band to form during The Hush Sound's hiatus, Stamps is the brainchild of singer/guitarist Bob Morris. He grew weary of the rigmarole of his previous experiences in bands, wanting more freedom to make the music he wants rather than the pressure of selling out concerts. The '60s influence is readily apparent on Stamps' debut EP, Tramps, yet Morris would rather you see his music as fun and effortless rather than pigeonholed in any one genre.
Family of the Year: Los Angeles-based, Welsh-born Family of the Year play just what you'd expect from two Welshmen living in Silverlake — indie folk/Americana. What's not to love about a band that cites the flippant, ornery Jonah Takalua — from Chris Lilley's brilliant Summer Heights High — as an influence?
The Horde and the Harem: The lone Pacific Northwest band on the docket, THATH play a brand of music that's come to be associated with their Seattle digs — jangly, layered indie rock. Yes, they have beards — save their female keyboardist — and may be known to wear flannel from time to time, but their energy translates into a live show that has garnered serious praise.
Olin & The Moon: Idaho-raised, Los Angeles-based Olin & The Moon are best described as roots rock, fluently assembling soft vocals, steel guitar, and jangly guitars. Their songs manage to strike a chord with the heartbroken as well as the eternally hopeful and have been featured in episodes of American Idol, One Tree Hill, and MTV's The Real World.