SXSW Music Discoveries

Torches

Torches in Trees perform at Waterloo Cycles

Can you believe I’m still talking about SXSW? It was nary a month ago and I still find myself with so much to say about those magical few days in Austin. I saw shows in parking lots and fields, bars and backyards and it all flowed together into a party that I didn’t want to end.  There were so many fantastic bands and musicians at the event (in fact, over 6,000 of them by one estimate, counting official and unofficial shows, though I’ve also hear over 2,000… anyway, a lot!), but the best thing about South by for me was  not running around trying to see the latest hype darlings, but stumbling upon bands that took me by surprise. In New York I rarely have the time to seek out new music, so shows that I do catch are carefully planned. It was nice to be in a place where the music came to me by virtue of being in the right place at the right time.

Torches!

Torches in Trees!

Torches in Trees are my big South by discovery. A three-piece psychedelic band from Los Angeles made up of three dedicated kids who drove from LA to Austin straight (that’s about 24 hours, maybe more). Their music shimmers, shines and pulled me in, making me dream of California nights, even though I watched them perform in a dusty Texas parking lot.  

River City Tanlines Fronted by the talented Alicja Trout, River City Tanlines is dirty, garagy American rock’n’roll from Memphis that goes straight for the jugular. Alicja and bassist Terrence each had three amps, if that gives you any idea.

Dead Ships @GayBiGayGay

Dead Ships performing at Gay Bi Gay Gay

Dead Ships are a two-piece garage rock band from LA that tore up the stage at the Gay Bi Gay Gay festival on the last day of South by with a lot of swagger and a little jangle. It takes more than you think to rock a field of queers in the middle of the afternoon after days of partying, but the Dead Ships pulled it off.

Break It Up are a Philly trio of two ladies and a nice guy with great post-punk guitar melodies and jagged crunch, as well as catch bass lines and punchy, blended vocals.

James Arthur’s Manhunt was one of a slew of boozy, crazy garage rock bands we saw on Saturday night at Trailer Space records. Guitars were flung, 7″ records were tossed like frisbees, amps and drums were broken, pedals were stomped on, everyone had a great time, and somehow, no one called the cops.

Bands Only, Queen!

Sign at Gay Bi Gay Gay

Christeene is not a band, per se, but Austin’s premiere drag performer, complete with bearish backup dancers in panda masks. Everyone I talked to, both Austinite and visitor, asked me, “Have you seen Christeene?” and thankfully, on my last day in Austin at Gay Bi Gay Gay I did.  Aggressive beats, limit pushing choreography and lewd lyrics that get lodged in your brain. Seeing Christeen perform really made my weekend. I am dreaming of a Christeene meets Cheryl performance someday. That would make all of my party/performance art dreams come true.

There’s more photos of bands, and Austin during SXSW in general, in a set on Flickr.

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South by Southwest Takeaways

These bikes were having fun watching us

Corita performing at Waterloo Cycles during SXSW

Today I have a guest post up on my friend Alejandra O’Leary’s blog about what my big lessons from SXSW. Coming from the perspective of a nonprofit arts administrator and a DIY musician, I wasn’t sure if the SXSW conference would really resonate with me, but it did, and I think I took away some valuable ideas that I hope will be helpful to musicians and all types of creatives. Please check out the entry here and let me know what you think! Also, if you’d like to listen to the insights and ideas shared in the panel I spoke on, Beethoven + Social Media = Crowd Funding Patronage, you can listen to that here!  If you’ve been to South by I’d love to know your big takeaways and if not, I’d love to know what you are working on to take your creative project to the next level!

Corita at Cherrywood Coffee House

Corita performing at Cherrywood Coffee House for the Austin Girls Rock Camp party during SXSW

Corita at SXSW!

Corita rock guitar moves at SXSW

I am still in a bit of a time warp and there’s so much to stay about my first time at South by Southwest (or SXSW). The days passed like blurs and I tried to absorb as much as I could of the frenetic atmosphere around me. I’ve garnered enough material for several blog posts, but first and foremost I wanted to share these photos taken by A.’s friend JC of Corita’s shows. It was our first time playing out of New York State (in fact our first time playing outside of Manhattan or Brooklyn), our first time playing out of doors, and my first time playing with sunglasses (it’s bright when you play outside in the afternoon). South by was magical because people who did not know us, who actually cared about seeing music, saw and liked our band and told us so. Does that ever happen in New York? Rarely. Thank you again to Austin Girls Rock Camp and Waterloo Cycles for hosting us. It was refreshing to play like minded-venues with like-mined bands and we loved being outside with the wind in our hair!

Corita rocks the bike shop

With three singers and two mics you make do

This is my new favorite picture of myself, or at least my rock persona

Corita pulled out the stops and busted out the rock (moves)

There’s a set on Flickr and more blog entries about all my reflections and musical discoveries coming soon.

Corita's Waterloo Cycles Setlist (with typo)

Corita Press Photos by Stefano Giovannini

Corita: Eleanor (Guitar and Vocals), Nick (Drums), Marisha (Guitar and Vocals), Aileen (Bass and Vocals). Photo by Stefano Giovannini stefpix.com 2012

One of my favorite part of being in a band is the opportunity to collaborate with other creative people. I’m here at South by South West (full report to be published soon) and one thing I’m learning is that while bands need to increasingly take care of the business aspect of being a band, they also cannot possibly do everything single thing themselves. Those of us who have been in and around the punk scene have known this for years, but it’s nice to see a dialogue about collaboration and supporting each other creatively happening at the highest levels of the music industry.

Corita. Photo by Stefano Giovannini stefpix.com 2012

Getting really good photos was one area where we as a band knew we need to reach out and collaborate with another artist. To get ready for SXSW, and to have the first of what we hope are many great press photos taken by photographers we love, my band Corita worked with Stefano Giovannini, who has shot for bands like Sonic Youth and Cat Power, as well as documented daily life around New York City. He shoots on location and authentically captures expression, mood and the relationships between people.

Corita. Photo by Stefano Giovannini stefpix.com 2012

We chose bold colors and simple props from Party City for our shoot (most of which we didn’t end up using). We were a little bit nervous before we met Stefano – what would he be like? Would he understand our vision? Would he help us shape it? Would he be good to work with? When we met him we immediately felt at ease. He is a genuine, hard working artist who gently directs you so that he can get the best photos possible. So I am proud to share with you Corita’s four “official” press photos and one very special “out take.” Enjoy!

Corita. Photo by Stefano Giovannini stefpix.com 2012

And I can help but think that this one was subtly influenced by the ending of my very favorite CHERYL video.

CHERYL: 7-ELEVEN from CHERYL on Vimeo.

And one more special out take just for you:

Corita. Photo by Stefano Giovannini stefpix.com 2012

I think that taken together these pictures speak volumes about what, exactly, I love about my band and the music that we create together.

Corita is Going to SXSW!

Contrary to popular belief, this is not Corita's press photo

So there’s this little film/media/technology/music festival in Austin, Texas every spring called South by Southwest, or SXSW, or just “South by.”  You’ve probably heard of it. I generally hate things that cause a lot of media hype and draw a lot of crowds, but I decided that for once in my life I’d like to join half of Brooklyn in heading down to Austin for South by and it looks like this is the year!

#SXSW @CoritaNYC set preview

SXSW Setlist sneak preview

I’m really excited because I’m speaking on a panel about crowdfunding for musicians on the morning of Wednesday the 14th with awesome folks from RocketHub, CD Baby, Zero Management and Ariel Publicity. I hope you can join me if you’ll be doing the conference thing! I’d also like to invite you to very casual, “unofficial” artists networking breakfast I’m organizing at Cherrywood Coffeehouse on Thursday the 15th from 10 to 12 noon. Let me know if you want to drop by and have a breakfast taco with me!

Big bowl of @CoritaNYC buttons!

Bowl of Corita buttons!

My band Corita will also be joining the fray and will play an unofficial showcase at Waterloo Cycles on Saturday the 17th. We’ll be playing around 2pm, the show is free and there will be free beer too! Playing SXSW will be our first time playing outside of New York City! As we thought about how we would present ourselves to our audience in Austin we quickly realized we had nothing to represent us as a band: no press photos, no physical copies of our EP Memento Mori, no badges, no flyers, no business cards, not even a bio describing the band that we had all agreed on!

Corita CDs and buttons! Cover art by @wunderfemme

Corita CDs with artwork by Eve Badia, aka Wunderfemme

About a month ago we got down to work. We took press photos as a secret location with Stefano Giovannini (I can’t wait to post them when he’s done working on them), and scheduled two Sunday afternoon “Merch Atelier” sessions. We enlisted the help of our very supportive friends and spent two Sunday afternoons drinking mimosas, eating Peter Pan doughnuts, and cranking out badges, CDs, writing our bio, and getting ourselves set up on all the social networking sites we could handle.

Photoshoot aftermath (glitter/confetti explosion)

Photo shoot glitterbomb aftermath - real photos coming soon

Thanks to our efforts we not only have beautiful CDs and badges to give away, but you can hear Corita on Soundcloud, Reverbnation, and follow us on Twitter! You can also “like” us on Facebook, but we already had that, in addition to our bandcamp, myspace and last.fm pages, at least.

Crafting artwork for Corita badges

Crafting Corita badge artwork. 10 points if you can find the reference to the art of the "real" Corita Kent.

What was so fantastic about the merch atelier sessions, besides the camaraderie and the awesome Corita swag they produced, is that it really helped us think differently about ourselves as a band. We all have “day jobs,” and that fact isn’t going to change. We are in the band because we love playing music and being creative as a group. However, previously, we were really blasé about it. We didn’t make an effort for people to remember our names or build a fan base beyond our friends. However, in talking together and getting excited about sharing our music with new friends in Austin we realized we have collective goals for our band and we can work towards them and have the ability to make them happen.

Corita badge #2 in process

Making another Corita badge

This year Corita will stop playing schlocky New York clubs and focus on playing more art spaces and DIY venues that attract more of the type of people we connect with and feel at home with; we will play out-of-town shows in Philadelphia, Boston and Portland, ME and other northeastern cities where we have like-minded friends in bands; and we will put more of an effort into representing ourselves as a band and taking pride in who we are and what we make. I also decided that I need to stop treating the band as something that will inevitably loose money and ask that we get paid for shows. It doesn’t have to be much, enough to cover the car service to get our equipment there, but if bands don’t start standing up for themselves no one else will.

So, will we see you in Austin? If you’ve been to SXSW before, any tips you want to share with a first timer? And if you come to our show (or my panel discussion) I’d love to give you a Corita badge and CD! Also, if you have a band and want to play a show with us – let me know. We’d love to do a “show swap” between our two cities!

@CoritaNYC badges by @byglam

Corita's merch atelier was international - Stephanie Byglam contributed some typography to us!

And for good measure, here is Corita’s official bio:

Brooklyn-based Corita delivers the shimmery guitars of UK shoegaze, the jangly melodies of C86, creeping angular post-punk rhythms, and overdriven choruses that hark back to 1990s indie rock overlaid with three-girl vocal harmonies. On the 2011 EP Memento Mori, Corita explores the hazards of late capitalism, cinematic European daydreams, animal friends, and human enemies. Named for the visual artist, and former nun, Sister Corita Kent, the band has been an active participant in Brooklyn’s vibrant independent rock scene for the past three years. The songs are a vision shared by four experienced musicians. Guitarist and vocalist Marisha Chinsky found her sound as the leader of the cult-favorite indie-pop group The Consultants, while drummer Nick Cearlock honed his skills in the Pacific Northwest punk scene of the 1990s. Bassist and vocalist Aileen Brophy delivers an encyclopedic knowledge of post-punk sounds, and guitarist and vocalist Eleanor Whitney brings a love of angular melodies and syncopated rhythms from her training as a jazz musician. As a band Corita is the shared vision of four close friends who imagine music as a conduit to a more fulfilling everyday reality.

MiLK & Fruit Juice in NYC!

Photo by Anne Bourgeon

It started with a tweet, “When I am I going to see Corita play?” It seemed like a simple enough question, except that the author of the tweet was Michel, of the indie band MiLK & Fruit Juice and he lives in France. Unfortunately Corita did not have (and still does not have) any plans to play a show in France. Or anywhere else outside of New York. So I wrote back, “I don’t know, when are you coming to New York? I’ll set up a show.” Then I got a better idea, “Why don’t you play a solo show with us?”  When Michel told me he was coming to NYC in September I wasted no time in booking a venue. However, I knew the other members of MiLK & Fruit Juice could not come to NYC and that being on stage alone in a new city is intimidating, and so I volunteered to be the backing band.

Photo by Anne Bourgeon

First of all, let me explain why I love MiLK & Fruit Juice: Michel writes catchy, dreamy songs that are full of heart. Some of them sound a bit twee, with with accents of toy instruments and excellent backing vocals from Marjorie and Sabine, but there’s also a twist of sadness, irony and realism. I am delighted to have met someone all the way across the Atlantic that shares so many of the same musical interests and passions as me. While that may seem like a small thing in this Internet age, when you meet in person, it still seems pretty magical.

Photo by Anne Bourgeon

On a rainy night in September at Spike Hill in Williamsburg the Pale Lights, MiLK & Fruit Juice and Corita shared the stage. Michel and I had one practice together under our belt and I was playing drums and singing back up on five of his songs. The day of the show I listened to the songs from his well-crafted album I’m Cold Handed Because I Have No Heart to Pump The Blood Through My Fingers  on repeat.  That night Michel  debuted a beautiful, vintage Silvertone guitar he had found at Rivington guitars.  I got to break out of my usual role as a guitar player and play drums, with drum sticks that Lisa Goldstein of the Pale Lights loaned to me for Michel’s set.  Apparently I kept the fact that I play drums secret from my friends, but I actually took drum lessons for several years in middle school! I never really graduated beyond a 4/4 rock beat though. In any event, it was really fun (and a little nerve wracking) to be on stage playing drums supporting a friend whose music I love and who lives so far away. Anne, who co-runs the label MonsterK7 in Montreal and Paris, took these beautiful photos and video, and Sabine was kind enough to share with me. Enjoy and if you like Michel’s music perhaps you will set up a show for him in your town! Or at least buy his record.

Photo by Anne Bourgeon

Photo by Anne Bourgeon

Photo by Anne Bourgeon

Photo by Anne Bourgeon

Video for Corita’s Song “Remember That You Will Die”

When I asked my dear friend Leila Bourgougnoux if she would be interested in making a video for my band Corita I didn’t honestly believe she would say yes. Making a video is a lot of work, after all, and it’s not like Corita can pay our artist friends the big bucks. But she did say yes and I sent her a bunch of songs to choose from. She chose our shoegazy take on metal and Buddhist philosophy “Remember That You Will Die” and, after getting kicked out of filming in a Parisian laundromat, shot this beautiful Super 8 footage in the south of France. When the other members of Corita and I saw the results we were absolutely thrilled by how perfectly she interpreted our song. I hope you will be too.

The Rubin Museum of Art also wrote about the video and their song on their Education blog. It was my work on the Rubin exhibition of the same name that inspired the song, so this is a nice full circle!