From the bluesy drone of the harmonica in its hit single Trouble Tracks to frontman Jesse Plemons’ lonesome voice and melancholy lyrics, the sound and energy of indie folk band Cowboy & Indian is as warm as a swallow of old whiskey and as fulfilling as a night’s sleep.
Composed of Plemon, also known for his role in Friday Night Lights, Jazz Mills, Daniel James (of Leopold and his Fiction), Peder Gilham, Dorian Colber and Stephanie Hunt, the Austin based band is playing for the first time at the Austin City Limits Festival on Saturday. They are also kicking off the festival with a performance Friday night at midnight in Momo’s Club.
The Daily Texan interviewed Cowboy & Indian during Basement Tapes about their preparation for the festival, living in different cities, and about their excitement to see fellow local bands play.
The Daily Texan: What has preparation for ACL been like for the band?
Daniel James: This is our first band practice. [Laughter]
Jesse Plemons: Binge eating. [Laughter]
Jazz Mills: We’re not all in Austin all the time, and so we’ve kind of have to work our schedules around where everyone’s been. We’ve had like two rehearsals.
Plemons: We’ve been having a lot of pep talks.
Dorian Colbert: We’ve been hot. We’ve been getting really hot. [Laughter]
DT: Are you stocking up on sunblock? Planning on not wearing clothes on stage?
James: No clothes. That’s how we write our songs. [Laughter] Our practices have actually been us just all being in the same room and playing. That’s been our biggest preparation for ACL. We just got off of a tour that was months and months. Actually, our biggest preparation is taking time off to recoup so we weren’t completely haggard. And here we are, completely haggard. [Laughter]
DT: What do you mean by not everyone is in Austin?
Mills: We don’t all live here full time, so Daniel and Jesse got set-up residency here in Austin. Jesse and Stephanie are in LA half of the time. Peter is here, back and forth from Colorado. Dorian is here, but for the past 15 months, we’ve been on the road. We haven’t been in any town for long. Just working around everyone’s schedule, we’re all rarely in Austin practicing. That’s been our biggest preparation, just resting and just going ‘when can we all be here at the same time to get ready?’
DT: Is it hard to be in a band when not everyone is in the same city?
Mills: We’ve made it work.
James: I think it’s been amazing.
Colbert: It’s probably better.
James: Bands need a lot of rest, a lot of space from one another. Not in a bad way. If we’re together for a few months, we need a month to chill and regroup.
Mills: We all talk all the time, so even if we’re in another city — like we’ve had enough time to rehearse and prepare because we’ve been playing on the road, but we’re always on the phone and in contact with each other.
DT: So how was the tour?
Mills: Tours are always the best and the worst. They’re hard and they take a lot of hard work and you’re always around each other like in this small space in a concentrated amount of time, but we had really good shows and we toured the West Coast all the way to the East Coast and back. It was almost nine weeks; it’s our longest tour so far. We’ve been touring consistently for the past year and a half.
DT: Are there any habits one person does that gets on everyone’s nerves?
James: I drink a lot. [Laughter]
Colbert: I know bands who play radio games a lot, where you have to guess the band’s name before anyone else. I get Peder angry a lot.
Mills: Dorian’s really good at it. But it’s also really hard to find a time when everyone wants to play that game. It can be a really fun game when there’s nothing going on. So me, I’m a static Nazi, that cannot stand static like on the radio and whoever is in charge seems to constantly forget they’re stuck on a static station. It drives me out of my mind. But I can go on and on and on about all the things that bothers me.
DT: So let’s go back to the beginning to when you all first got together.
Plemons: I first met Stephanie, she and Jazz are best buds, and they played in T-Birds and the Breaks and they are an awesome, awesome band. And so I met Jazz and at the time, I’ve been playing guitar for about four, five years and been writing but I’d never play in a band or anything. Jazz and I ended up writing a song and we just kind of hung out and played music all the time and then ended up meeting Daniel at South By Southwest two years ago. I did, not Jazz. Met him, it’s a long story. But yeah, loved what Daniel was doing with his other band, Leopold and His Fiction and we had this tour that somehow miraculously got booked. We don’t know how, what we were going to do, because we were so new and didn’t have a lot of material. So Daniel hopped on board and then slowly, kind of evolved from there. Pete hopped on board and then Dorian.
Colbert: I was at their house when they were having a party.
Mills: Yeah, and then we all realized he’s talented.
Plemons: And we’re like ‘dang it, Dorian’s really good. He’s needs to be in the band.
James: If he can play tambourine like that, imagine what he can do with one more drum.
Mills: But the cool thing about the band is, every body that is a part of it is apart of it because we are friends and because they are super talented. They adds something that we weren’t even necessarily looking for. Me and Jesse weren’t even trying to start a band. We just wanted to hang out. I actually didn’t want to be in a band, but then I was tricked.
DT: So what can people expect for your next album?
Colbert: Expect the unexpected.
Mills: Every song on our album doesn’t sound like the song before it.
James: What’s pretty awesome is that it was recorded everywhere — every where we were, whether we were on tour or, I lived in San Francisco for a long time so we recorded songs there. We recorded in Los Angeles. Boston. Literally the very second date of our last tour, we recorded a few parts in Phoenix randomly in hotels. Literally, it all sounds different, because we were literally in different situations, recorded in different parts of time. Knowing that consciously you could maybe pick up on that. It’s all very cohesive as well as to what we all bring to the table. But as far as release dates, we’re just releasing singles for now.
DT: So this is your first time playing at ACL?<
James: I’ve never even been before.
DT: What’s your thought on the opportunity?
Stephanie Hunt: Super excited, because I’ve lived in Austin my whole life and now with friends that I love so much, to me it’s really exciting.
DT: What are some acts you’re really excited to see?
Hunt: Steve Wonder!
Colbert: Stevie, Stevie.
Mills: I’m actually most excited to see Gary Clark Jr. and Ruby James. I’m excited to see acts on stage that we know that are local. Because I just think it’s going to be exciting that we know and be proud of them. I’m excited to see Stevie Wonder too but I just think it’s cool to sit back and watch Gary play for all these people and same with Ruby, to be like ‘yay, that’s our buddy.’
DT: So it’s ACL. Are you guys going to pull some craziness?
Mills: We’re going to ride horses onto the stage.
Daniel: Dropped in by helicopters
Mills: We’re actually going to just be dropped from the helicopter on a horse.
Colbert: So, if you call that crazy shenanigans then, yes.
Suited in matching marching band uniforms — complete with sequins, feathers and fingerless gloves— electronic rock duo BK & Mr. E’s sound and energy is as loud, funky and classic as their attire.
It is no-brainer that from the look and sound of Jason Blanchette and Brandon Hegar, BK & Mr. E respecitively, the pair are influenced from their days of marching band. It is also only appropriate that the best friends met in high school band.
Even with premade synthetic beats playing from their laptops, the pair’s training in classical and jazz repetoires from high school and college (Blanchette at UT and Hegar at Baylor) is front and center. Driven by percussion, harmony and hooks, BK & Mr. E is the perfect fusion of the old and new.
BK & Mr. E will be playing at Frank’s tonight and on Thursday, Sept. 15; the duo is taking the stage at the Parish for the venue’s Free ACL Kickoff Party.
The Daily Texan interviewed Jason Blanchette and Brandon Hegar during Basement Tapes about their marching band days, name and costume.
The Daily Texan: Let’s start with the beginning. You guys met in band in high school?
Jason Blanchette: Yep. The short of it is we were both in band together.
Brandon Hegar: Both played trombone and then graduated, kind of went our separate ways, went to college and stuff, then came back and worked at a recording studio together. Then a music store together and then just started doing music from there.
DT: So back when you were in both high school, did you guys compete with each other? Like battling out for first chair?
JB: Well, he’s a couple of years older than I am. Even though I have all the grey hair, he’s a couple years older. We did when [he was] still there, I’ll say.
BH: I think it was more of a big brother thing.
JB: Mainly it was a friendly competition, but he always had his place and the whole seniority thing. I wasn’t going to subplant him by any means.
DT: Do you guys share any crazy band stories? I know you have at least one to share. Those bus rides...
JB: The bus rides, yeah, definitely.
BH: Hand checks.
JB: Yeah, [the directors] did hand checks. It is exactly what it sounds like.
BH: Where they turn the lights on the bus...
JB: Turn on the lights and they need to see everyone’s hands. Cause those bus rides are dark and take a couple of hours sometimes and you know [laughs].
BH: Everybody thinks the football players and stuff are the people that...
DT: Nope, it’s the band kids.
JB: Band. Choir people too. Glee. That’s where your really crazy people are.
DT: Jason, for you, how was UT marching band?
JB: It was good. It was a lot of fun. When you talk about crazy, that was crazy. [It was] a lot of fun getting to go travel to all the different places...like Nebraska or go to St. Louis or go to the NCAA basketball tournament. You get to know a lot of the athletes and a lot of the band guys are really intense when they’re playing music on the fields, but are hanging out and having a good time when they aren’t. I got to tell you this, those freaking uniforms that have been around for like 40 years are the hottest thang. You think what we are wearing now are hot, those are like eight-ply polyester, flame retardent suits. And I know they look awesome with the fringe swaying back and forth, but I’ll be happy if I never had to wear anything like that again.
DT: So how did the both of you go from being classically trained to playing modern music?
BH: So like I said before, we worked in a music store together. The people that ran the company said we’re going to start carrying this kind of equipment where you can record it and keyboards and all sort of stuff. So Jason and I had the responsibility of learning all the equipments. We didn’t really know anything, so the best thing to do was just to write songs. We had all these influences from outside of classical music, so one day I said ‘Hey, let’s write a song that sounds like the Cars.’ And Jason is a big Prince fan, so I would say ‘Let’s write a song like Prince or the Police’ or whoever we liked. And that’s really how we started writing a lot of tunes that weren’t classical. I don’t think either of us really wanted to do classical music as a career. I certainly didn’t.
DT: Do you get a lot of questions about your outfits?
BH: I think what’s really cool, and Jason made a comment about this a couple of days ago, is that wearing the band uniforms has made us a lot more approachable to a lot of people.
JB: After our show, people come up to us and is like ‘Hey, I was in band too and I play this and you guys were awesome.’
BH: It’s like an affirmation for them, for a lot of people who were in band. They see two guys wearing band uniforms and they’re like ‘Oh, these guys really get it, because they must get it, because they were in band.’ In Texas, band is huge, it’s just like football.
JB: I think that’s kind of why we decided to do it. It’s the juxtaposition. Classical music, performance majors and choir are so serious, but no, not really. We like to joke around and have fun just like everybody else.
DT: How did you guys come up with the name?
BH: So Jason, when we worked in the recording studio, not the music store, we would have some very long hours and I guess I would complain a lot [laughs], so Jason would call me BK, which stands for bitch kitty. [laughs] And it’s a silly name that just stucked. And then when we started recording at the music store, I think one of our first songs was like a hip-hop tune and it was bad.
JB: And I don’t rap and I rapped in this song.
BH: We both rapped. It was like a bad Ice T. So we kind of came up with BK and Mr. E, because it had a certain cadence to it and it just fit with one of the songs, cause the song was called ‘BK & Mr. E Hardcore For The Twentyfirst Century.’ [laughs]
WHAT: I Art Congress
WHERE: Capital building to South Congress
WHEN: Today at 6 p.m.
HOW MUCH: Free
Museums and stores in the popular shopping district have joined together for monthly themed, open houses.
WHAT: Burleson County Kolache Festival
WHERE: Caldwell, TX, Town Square
WHEN: Saturday at 9 a.m.
HOW MUCH: Free
This celebration of Czech sweets includes arts, crafts and Polka dancing.
WHAT: Rolling Roadshow — “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off”
WHERE: 500 block of San Jacinto, between Fifth and Sixth streets
WHEN: Sunday at 7:30 p.m.
HOW MUCH: $5 suggested donation
Screened on a 40-foot inflatable screen, the premier slacker film will be presented to benefit the 6ixth Street Austin Association, a nonprofit dedicated to the preservation and enhancement of the Historic Sixth Street Entertainment District.
WHAT: Tom Lenk in Nerdgasm
WHERE: The Highball
WHEN: Sunday at 4 p.m.
HOW MUCH: Free for Austin Gay and Lesbian International Film Festival badge holders
With a career made from playing nerds in film, TV and Broadway, Tom Lenk is an expert in telling geeky stories using musical comedy, complete with upbeat songs and embarrassing personal stories.