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Photo Credit: Crystal Garcia | Daily Texan Staff

For Charlie Brand, the frontman of Brooklyn indie rock/pop band Miniature Tigers, music is an escape. There was never a backup plan — it was the only thing he felt he could do. This year, Miniature Tigers will perform for the second time at Austin City Limits Music Festival.

Since being voted one of the 25 best bands on MySpace by Rolling Stone in 2006, Miniature Tigers has produced six albums — their latest titled Cruel Runnings. 

The band consists of Brand on lead vocals and guitar, Rick Schaier on vocals and keyboard, Brandon Lee on bass and Algernon Quashie on guitar. Brand grew up in a suburb outside of Phoenix, Arizona. The intense heat kept him inside growing up, which he said helped shape his creativity, imagination and songwriting skills. 

“After high school, I locked myself in my room for two years, and I would just write all day and all night,” Brand said.

Brand said that as a young adult, he never felt college was the place for him. He dropped out of high school, got his GED and moved to L.A., where Schaier lived. They had been fans of each other’s home recordings on MySpace.

“I wanted to be with people who were also pursuing their art in a major way,” Brand said.

Brand heard his voice on the radio for the first time on iHeart Austin, a station that now frequently plays “Swimming Pool Blues” from Miniature Tigers’ newest album. Gaining popularity is exciting for the band, Brand said, but it also reminds them they are in a competitive industry. 

“Even though we’re getting played on the radio — which is so cool now, you’re being played on the radio — but there’s other bands being played on the radio that are doing a lot better,” Brand said. “Even if we were in Billboard Top 10, there’s other bands doing better there.” 

As close friends, the band has learned how to balance their professional and personal lives while maintaining their music as the core focus. On tour, they usually share close quarters and rehearse together for long hours. 

“We have all learned and grown throughout the years to travel and work with each other in a very positive way, with little to no drama,” Schaier said. “It’s key to a band’s survival to enjoy one another and to also let them be them.” 

The group recorded Cruel Runnings in Jamaica. Lee said the band wanted to get away from the big-city recording scene, so they set out for a more laid-back environment. 

“It was amazing to spend mornings swimming in the ocean before heading up to the studio to record,” Lee said. “It definitely set the tone for a productive but relaxed recording
experience.” 

Catch some of Miniature Tigers’ pop melodies at ACL both Sundays on the Austin Ventures Stage. 

(From left to right) Blair Robbins, Sam Jordan, Miles Kelley, and Dan LeVine are members of local band Milezo. Their music’s mixed-genre rock sounds reflect the band’s quirky and laid back character.  

Photo Credit: Maria Arrellaga | Daily Texan Staff

Back on the campus he called home for several years as an American studies student, Miles Kelley’s frizzy hair, tastefully careless slouch and crossed arms give every indication of someone who has put aside his UT degree to pursue a career in music. Plan II and studio art junior Blair Robbins, her Dr. Martens laced tightly around her ankles, joins him outside the Flawn Academic Center. 

Together, the current and former UT students make up half of Milezo, a mixed-genre band from the intricate web of Austin musicians. 

What began as a name to ascribe his Myspace uploads to, Milezo has turned into a full time project for Kelley. 

“Milezo has been my alias for music since I was like 16 or so, and that’s why the name’s so silly,” Kelley said. “I never thought it would actually be a thing so I guess I’ll just go with it.”

The group’s current member lineup has been solid for almost a year now, and it released its first album last October under the name Milezo & the Noise.  

Kelley’s vocals are somewhat reminiscent of what Daniel Johnston might sound like if he were happier and had grown up listening to Beach House or Real Estate. The album plays it safe, but for someone who admits he can’t read music, the songs are all well written and well executed.

“I did orchestra in middle school but I got a referral for, like, surfing on my [instrument] case and it left a big mark on the ground, I was just like a class clown,” Kelley said. “I took classical guitar for a year at McCallum High, but it was more an excuse to play music and hang out with my friends.”

Some remnants of Kelley’s class clown-worthy humor still remain, but he seems to be more serious about his music than he was in the midst of his middle school orchestra days.

“The fact that you’re totally in control of the music is really cool, and the fact that it’s just creating something that’s never been there before is really cool,” Kelley said. 

Robbins, who plays keys for the group, took a more refined approach to music than Kelley. She took piano lessons throughout her childhood and has been teaching herself guitar on and off for the past few years.

Unlike Kelley, who has been recording music since the days of Old Myspace, recording is a relatively new concept to Robbins.

“I never really started fully appreciating recording until I met Miles, but now I’m realizing how awesome it is to have a record of yourself and finish something and be proud of it,” Robbins said. 

According to Kelley, the group is in the process of recording two more albums right now, one at a home studio, and another at Raw Paw Studios, where they recorded their first album. He said the goal for this year is to release two to three more albums and continue to grow the band’s presence and following in Austin.

“It was kind of off the radar until like about a year ago,” Kelley said. “But we have some really cool fans now who seem to be really into it.”

As for the next five years, Kelley has some pretty lofty goals.

“In like five years, we’ll be playing ACL and I’ll be the speaker at South By Southwest and I’ll give a speech about how you can do it, too,” Kelley said, “and I’ll be hanging out with Daniel from Spoon all the time.”

In the meantime, Milezo can be seen playing at house shows and local venues in Austin. 

Photo Credit: John Massingill | Daily Texan Staff

No matter how much he tries, Justin Timberlake will never be a bad boy. 

But he sure gave it his best try at the final Myspace Secret Show during South By Southwest on Saturday. Timberlake’s show featured two versions of himself: boy-next-door Justin, and sex symbol Timberlake.

The Mickey Mouse Club gave Timberlake a wholesome start to the entertainment industry, but unlike some of his fellow mousketeers, he has maintained a relatively good-guy persona. While Christina Aguilera became X-tina and performed her “Dirrty” music video in a bikini, Timberlake frosted his tips and joined a boy band. 

As the ramen-haired frontman of *NSYNC, Timberlake’s career skyrocketed. No Strings Attached, when released in 2000, became the fastest-selling album of all time, and — of course — he had America’s sweetheart on his denim-suited arm. 

His relationship with Britney Spears in the early 2000’s was caked in reassurances that they were not having sex and that they were good kids. When they broke up, Spears released the horrible In the Zone and then, well, ended up with Kevin Federline. Timberlake, meanwhile, released “Cry Me A River,” where he sort of seeks revenge, but mostly pouts. 

Sure, there was that Superbowl halftime fiasco in 2004 where Timberlake played a key role in revealing Janet Jackson’s breast to most of America. This is one of the only real claims Justin has to bad boy fame, but he denied having any prior knowledge of the event. In fact, while Jackson’s new album tanked, Timberlake was awarded two Grammys for his release of Justified. He issued an on-stage apology for his bad behavior, and won all of our mothers’ approval back. 

Since then, his solo career has done well, and our boy from Tennessee has held his own among the nation’s biggest popstars. Even when he took a six-year hiatus from music after bringing sexy back with FutureSex/LoveSounds in 2006, Timberlake remained on the stage of American popular culture with his “Saturday Night Live” appearances and movie roles in “Friends With Benefits” and “Model Behavior.” 

For Timberlake, the scandal is always under wraps. He hasn’t been caught driving with his child on his lap like Spears, and he hasn’t come out of the closet like fellow *NSYNC member Lance Bass. Yet, at Saturday’s show, Timberlake tried to seduce us with typical bad boy behaviors. 

As it is in his “SNL” skits with Andy Samberg, Timberlake’s bad-boy antics are always in jest. After referencing the drugs that he was presumably on at his Myspace show, Timberlake went on to say “I’m just ... serious,” with a wink back into the crowd. 

We could claim that Timberlake is just transitioning with the release of his new album The 20/20 Experience, and he really did have that option. After six years, Timberlake could have produced any album he wanted. He could have stretched into hip-hop, jazz or even river-dancing. But he didn’t. The 20/20 Experience falls in easily with all of his previous work. He played songs from every album at the show on Saturday, and while he rapped in the middle of “Cry Me A River,” the transitions were seamless.

At midnight, Timberlake stood backlit at the microphone. “Is it St. Patty’s Day yet?” he purred. The crowd cheered, and Timberlake appeared blazer removed in a black tuxedo t-shirt holding a pint of dark beer that he promptly downed in one gulp. 

Soon after the guzzling, Timberlake sang “That Girl,” which is the seventh song on the 20/20 Experience. In it he sings, “Pretty lady, you’ll always be my baby, baby, baby// It’s so amazing, how you became my baby, baby, baby.” If that isn't a boy-next-door line, I don't know what is. 

At the end, when the stage went black except for a single spotlight and Timberlake whispered into the microphone “I’m motherfuckin’ bringin’ sexy back,” it was his wedding ring that cast a massive reflection back into the crowd. 

Printed on Tuesday, March 19, 2013 as: Pop star's image remains 'good' through changes 

The new Myspace at a glance

I screamed when I finally got the email invite I signed up for, something I had been dying to get since first seeing the preview video two months ago. The preview was fluid and creative and beautiful but I was very curious as to how the revamped social media platform would actually work.

As a disclaimer, I’m on the lookout for new social platforms, I obviously self selected into this beta trial and I have been disenchanted with Facebook for some time, so I may be more forgiving of the new Myspace’s flaws than most. I’m viewing the site on a PC using Google Chrome. This acrostic below represents my first impression and is not meant to be a definitive analysis.

The new Myspace from Myspace on Vimeo.

Music: Where Facebook failed miserably, Myspace triumphs as it always has. Circa 2007, Myspace was a medium where you watched your favorite “little known” bands get famous. Right now the new Myspace is mostly dominated by the big names like Beyonce and Taylor Swift, but there are some surprising smaller artists like T. Mills and Big Chocolate making an appearance. Facebook made music a hassle through the use of outside apps like Bandpage, but every inch of the new Myspace is designed intuitively with music in mind. On top of being able to create custom mixes that you can assign a photo to and choose the privacy level of, you can queue up music or radio stations to listen to continuously while moving throughout the whole site.

You: The new Myspace is a blank canvas just for you. It’s not the place to reconnect with old friends, but it is the place to reconnect with an old favorite song and people who also have an affinity (even though I’m still trying to figure out how it’s calculated myspace measures affinity now) for that song. It’s cool and very confusing to use, so hopefully this will keep the parents and grandparents away. The problem is that to truly get the full experience, the new Myspace will suck up a lot of your time as well. From remembering how to get to things to endless amounts of media to “discover”, it’s definitely not the place to take a quick study break.

Streamlined: Your “stream” on Myspace is equivalent to your newsfeed on Facebook or your home on Twitter. It collects bits from all the things you connect to (we’ll get to that part later) and displays them. At first glance, what makes the Myspace stream so different and in my opinion better than its counterparts is the horizontal scrolling feature. Scrolling through the content from left to right is a very natural way to read. It reminds me of the way reading is typically done on tablets, especially on apps like Flipboard which consolidates your social networks into a feed that’s visually appealing and well as the name denotes something you can flip through like a magazine.

People: This will obviously make or break the new Myspace. If it is invite only for too long like Google+ was in the beginning those only slightly interested or simply content with the social networks they currently maintain may not have the attention span to wait for it. It incorporates a lot original elements that mimic other tools people use like the music steaming on Spotify, video streaming on YouTube, posts that have a 150 character limit similar to Twitter’s 140 character limit, and feed that lets you scroll through it all. The question is, does Myspace master each of these elements enough to convince you to save time by ditching your other tools and consolidating it all on one site. At this point the answer is no, partially because there is a definite learning curve that comes with the new platform and partially because it is doing so many things that it doesn’t take the time to perfect each like the individual tools do.

Affinity: When you hover over a person, artist, song, etc. a Venn diagram appears with an overall affinity percentage and percentages broken down into the categories of music, connections and activity. I have affinity percentages with artists I haven’t connected to. Does this mean that connections of connections can also determine affinity? Or connecting to similar types of artists can determine affinity?

Connect: Connect is the new Myspace’s verb. It serves the purpose of both the “add friend” and the “like” on Facebook and the “follow” on Twitter. It is both ambiguous and impersonal. You use the connect feature to connect with your best friend, Jay Z, the song “Call Me Maybe”, and a Michael Jackson music video.

Enigma: I still have a lot of questions like how exactly uploading photos and creating photo albums will be and how the old Myspace, Myspace Classic as they’re calling it, integrates with the new Myspace. How will the mobile experience change? Will there be a tablet app with similar new features?

I simply created a new account instead of facing the shame of my old one, and the invite only status makes for a lonely site so far. For now, I’m simply swimming in the vast sea of media the new Myspace offers because I’m not too sure how the friend, you know the people you actually know in real life, part will work yet.

It’s definitely worth a try. Request an invite. Friend me! If that phrase is still applicable. There’s a lot to work with here. Let’s figure it out together.

Goodbye Tom. Hello Justin Timberlake.

HOUSTON — The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals ruled Wednesday an accused killer’s MySpace pages were properly used as evidence by prosecutors to help convince a jury to convict the Dallas-area street gang member of murder.

Ronnie Tienda Jr. appealed his conviction and 35-year prison term for the slaying of 23-year-old David Valadez in a 2007 shootout on a Dallas freeway.

In the appeal, Tienda’s attorney argued the judge at his 2008 trial in Dallas County was wrong to allow MySpace entries into evidence because it was questionable whether Tienda was responsible for entries that referred to the killing on his pages on the social networking site.

The appeals court said the content of Tienda’s postings, which included photos, comments and music, was sufficient to show he created and maintained it and the trial judge wasn’t wrong to allow it as circumstantial evidence for prosecutors to show Tienda was involved in the slaying.

Tienda’s attorney, Leslie McFarlane, said Wednesday she wasn’t sure where the case could go now. The Court of Criminal Appeals is the highest criminal court in the state.

“I think it’s fair to say it’s troubling,” she said.

Valadez, from Grand Prairie, died at a Dallas hospital of wounds suffered when gunfire erupted from at least two of three vehicles during a confrontation on Interstate 30 that began earlier at a club. Valadez was driver of one of the cars.

Court records indicate Tienda was present during the gunfire but testimony at his trial was inconsistent as to who fired first. Bullets from Valadez’s body never could be matched to a weapon and no firearms ever were recovered.

Valadez’s sister told prosecutors as they were preparing for trial about three MySpace pages featuring Tienda boasting about the killing. They also included entries of him complaining about wearing an electronic monitor while awaiting trial.

“I kill to stay rich!!” according to one of the entries. Another features a photo of a tattoo of the Roman numeral for 18 on the back of Tienda’s head, which a detective testified referred to the North Side 18th Street gang in Grand Prairie.

Tienda’s trial lawyer unsuccessfully argued the evidence wasn’t credible and couldn’t be authenticated.

Responding to the appeal, prosecutors said the social network pages contained “sufficiently distinctive information” to justify their admission into evidence.

The appeals court agreed, saying it also was aware electronic writings can sometimes be open to question.

“Computers can be hacked, protected passwords can be compromised, and cell phones can be purloined,” the judges wrote. But the court said in this case an email address and subscriber name used Tienda’s nickname, “Smiley,” his home zip code, tattoos, photos, even a link to a song played at Valadez’s funeral, to tie him to the MySpace pages.

“This is ample circumstantial evidence — taken as a whole with all of the individual, particular details considered in combination — to support a finding that the MySpace pages belonged to [Tienda] and that he created and maintained them,” the court said.

Tienda, 26, already had a conviction on three counts of robbery when he was arrested for Valadez’s murder. He doesn’t become eligible for parole until August 2026.