drummer

Quentin Thomas-Oliver plays violin along with his robotic drummers. Thomas-Oliver, his two robotic drummers and his wife, Hillary Thomas-Oliver, make up the local band Pony Trap.

Photo Credit: Marshall Tidrick | Daily Texan Staff

Four years ago, Austin music teacher Quentin Thomas-Oliver went looking for a drummer willing to play the type of music he wanted. When he couldn’t find one, he built one.  

“So I had this idea of playing classical, tribal, industrial music,” Quentin said. “Everyone makes a face, which is fine, but it’s my thing.”

His two homemade robotic drums make up 50 percent of the band Pony Trap. The other two members are Quentin and his wife, Hillary Thomas-Oliver. The husband, wife and their robot bandmates spent Sunday afternoon walking up and down Sixth Street promoting their show at The Dive on Friday. 

“The drums just give this huge, powerful, pounding drive to the music and we’re just hanging on for dear life,” Hillary said. “[The drums] are running the show and we’re just trying to keep up.”

Quentin emphasizes he’s not in it for anything but an artistic challenge.

“The end goal is to make art,” Quentin said. “What I want to do is no different than what any other band wants to do. I have an artistic thing that I want, that I think matters — for whatever that’s worth — and I just want to get it out.”

When the two have a free afternoon, they load the robot drums in the back of Quentin’s Chevy and drive down South Congress Avenue for what Hillary calls a “robot parade.” Apart from that, they aren’t looking to manufacture the electronic drums.

“[Pony Trap] is just for us,” Hillary said. “He’s not looking to get into the robot-drum-making business.”

Both Hillary and Quentin agreed that the music is bizarre but urge listeners to be open to the idea of a robot band.

“I know this sounds absurd but I love that they are what [the drums] are,” Quentin said. “Hopefully as we make our music, [people see] they’re just a part of the band.”

Austin City Limits Music Festival is a visual feast. College students walk around Zilker Park in cutoffs and bikini tops, the Austin skyline stands out against the violet sunset in the evenings and headlining artists sport some outrageous hair styles. The Daily Texan compiled a list of our favorite hair donned by singers and songwriters that you should be on the look out for this weekend.  

HAIM

The middle part is hard to pull off for anyone. For HAIM, it is even more impressive as all three sisters part their long locks right down the middle. The look fits the ‘90s rock-influenced sounds created by Alana, Este and Danielle Haim, plus their drummer Dash Hutton. Maybe the group will influence your own festival fashions. Just check with an honest friend before trying the middle part for yourself. 

The Cure 

The men of The Cure may have aged, but their hair is just as lively as ever. The Cure’s hairstyle of choice is not quite an afro and not quite a mohawk. It looks like something that is probably achieved by the band sticking their fingers in electric sockets and hair-spraying it into place right before they take the stage. Beauty is pain. But don’t worry about The Cure because according to them, boys don’t cry.

Grimes 

Grimes’ setlist is not the only unpredictable factor at the Canadian electronic artist’s live performances. There is no telling what color Claire Boucher’s hair will be when she performs at this year’s ACL festival. It’s possible it could even change between weekends. She is like the real-life version of “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind” character Clementine Kruczynski, whose trademark move is constantly dying her hair different vivid colors. Boucher’s hair has been orange, green, blue, pink, dark brown, platinum blonde and rainbow streaked. 

fun. 

It would be unfair to say the members of fun. are entirely to blame for the awful hipster haircut trend of shaven sides with a tall, fluffy top. But they definitely are not helping. This hairstyle looks like the army regulation cut they probably gave soliders during World War II. Paired with suspenders or skinny pants, it is an obvious hipster alert. 

Dawes 

Most members of Dawes look like any other folk rock band, with bedhead and a little scruff, maybe a plaid flannel shirt. But drummer Griffin Goldsmith has something special resembling a cloud resting on top of his head. Griffin’s dirty blonde almost-afro looks so soft you could take a nap in it. Even though he’ll be at the back of the stage, audience members from all distances will likely see his curly locks bouncing to the beat. 

Tunesday

Atoms for Peace debut album Amok is haphazard and insincere. Thom Yorke supposedly crafted the songs on his laptops and it sounds that way.

Photo Credit: Courtesy Photo | Daily Texan Staff

It had to happen eventually. Radiohead frontman Thom Yorke essentially continues his solo career under the moniker Atoms For Peace, gathering close friends for the band and taking the name from a track off his 2006 solo album The Eraser. The all-star group, consisting of Red Hot Chili Peppers bassist Flea and their touring percussionist Mauro Refosco, former Beck/R.E.M drummer Joey Waronker and longtime Radiohead producer Nigel Godrich, was initially gathered to perform songs off The Eraser live. After a few years of jamming together, they decided to record an original record, almost as a continuation of Radiohead’s turn towards electronica per 2011’s The King Of Limbs

Yorke’s electronic experimentalism dominates Amok, the band’s debut. He supposedly crafted the songs on his laptop before teaching the band what to do, and the result is as inorganic as the process sounds. Amok is a puzzling move — there’s almost no resemblance to typical songwriting formats like verse/chorus/verse, and Yorke’s consolatory emotional falsettos per late Radiohead songs “Lotus Flower” or “Jigsaw Falling Into Place” are largely downplayed and replaced with peculiar wailings.     

The songs are rendered largely inaccessible in their quest for avant-gardism. Opener “Before Your Very Eyes...” makes the listener arduously wait for three minutes before the band shows its true hand. Yorke’s ubiquitous moaning is oversaturated with reverb, to the extent of making any sort of lyrical intelligibility impossible. The fuzzy synthesizers backed by an incessant drum shuffle seem to continue through all of Amok’s unnecessary 47 minutes. The length of most songs is around five minutes, just long enough to hint at a musical climax that never comes. 

Some songs like the single “Default,” and “Unless” show untapped potential that is subsequently smothered with confusing electronic samples and vocal loops. What should be catchy turns out to be discordant through overproduction. And then Amok ends on the title track, fading away as unsatisfactorily and mysteriously as it began. 

With a lineup able to make any rock n’ roll fan jump out of their chair, one might have expected an enthralling debut. But Amok was crafted on a laptop, and maybe it should have stayed that way. The rock star names are just a publicity stunt. It is impossible to determine where Flea’s bass is real or when Yorke programs it. There is both a drummer and a percussionist credited in the band, yet the drums on every track sound like a drum machine. The result is a haphazard record that plays as an insincere spin-off of The King of Limbs, which could’ve been billed as a Thom Yorke solo project or a much less talented Flying Lotus. 

Shout Out Louds' Optica

Artist: Shout Out Louds
Album: Optica
Label: Merge Records
Songs to Download: "Sugar" "Hermilia"

The ‘80s are either still alive or have been resuscitated on Shout Out LoudsOptica. The Swedish band exchanges its lo-fi sounds for disco balls and sparkling effects. There’s a heavy synth background on songs like “14th of July” that bears comparison to Chromatics. Indie ballads like “Chasing The Sinking Sun” are reminiscent of a Funeral-era Arcade Fire. The songs are expertly crafted in an upbeat mood, hiding the deeper, melancholic lyrics of frontman Adam Olenius. 

Mount Moriah's Miracle Temple

Artist: Mount Moriah
Album: Miracle Temple
Label: Merge Records
Songs to Download: "I Built A Town" "Those Girls"

The cover art for Miracle Temple is a burning barn, which might represent how Mount Moriah is torching conceptions of country music.  The neo country power trio draws heavy influences from Neil Young, but features Heather McEntire’s powerful female vocals and perspective. The band’s heavy use of blues guitar work is tastefully complimented with aspects of gospel, like on the standout heartbreaker “I Built A Town.” 

Within the Ruins' Elite

Artist: Within the Ruins
Album: Elite
Label: Victory Records
Songs to Download: "Feeding Frenzy" "Ataxia" "Elite"

Within The Ruins is one of contemporary metal’s only hopes in a genre of image and showboating. The Massachusetts band set the bar high after 2010’s Invade made listeners seriously question how many times signature switches were possible in one song, and the band continue its work on Elite, confirming its status as a more serious Dragonforce and a slightly less technical Periphery. The album’s lightning fast riffs downplay distorted guitar effects and instead focus on time changes and technicality.

No photo yet

Local punk/hardcore band Fingers Crossed kicked-off a busy year with the release of their first full-length album on New Years Day. Although they formed their roots in Houston, the band has since relocated to Austin. 

Photo Credit: Pearce Murphy | Daily Texan Staff

Fresh out of the studio after recording its first full-length album, punk/hardcore act Fingers Crossed is anticipating a busy year. The quintet, originally from Houston, has relocated to Austin since its start in 2008.

“We finally put our full-length out Jan. 1 of this year, kind of with the idea of starting the year out on a good note,” guitarist Zach Chad said. “We had this idea of 2013 being our year. Getting this album out and then just keeping up the momentum all year.”

Despite being spread out, with three members living in Austin and one living in Houston, the band has a practice schedule that works for them.

“Our drummer lives and works in Houston, which is a challenge sometimes,” bassist Nathan Helton said.

Chad agreed, saying flexibility is key.

“It takes a lot of jamming with no drums, just playing acoustic in our rooms,” Chad said. “Then, on the day of the shows, we’ll all meet up either here or in Houston, wherever we’re playing, and just rehearse all day. But as far as having a regular practice schedule, it’s kind of rough.”

But the band is used to dealing with obstacles. Fingers Crossed has cycled through several different lineups before settling on the members they have now.

“Andrew [MacLaren] and myself are the two founding members,” Chad said. “We started back in high school, back when we were, like, little kids. We started touring with Nate’s other band, Thieves, and that’s how we met. After that first tour, we lost our drummer and eventually our bassist, and that’s where we picked up Nate.”

Through the band’s relationship with Thieves, Helton eventually came on as its bassist.

“It’s funny, because I had always been basically the official No. 1 fan of Fingers Crossed,” Helton said. “I was always at the shows. And once I found out they needed a new bassist I pretty much made them let me join the band. Since then I split time between the two bands, but since Thieves is kind of in a lull right now I can spend time working on this.”

Fingers Crossed recently returned from tour, which Chad said is the best part of being in the band.

“Our last show was in El Paso, rounding out our two-week West Coast tour,” he said. “I live to tour, I’d do it all the time if I could. I don’t think I’d have the opportunity to see half of the places I’ve seen, like the Hoover Dam, if I wasn’t doing this. It’s a lot of work and yeah, sometimes it’s kind of miserable, but we’re having the time of our lives.”

Helton said the band is excited about its upcoming appearance on “Local Live," its first live performance since releasing its album.

“This album is definitely our best yet,” Helton said. “Whereas a lot of our previous recordings we did in just one or two takes, we put a lot of work into this one. A lot more planning, a lot more cool effects. We’re looking forward to playing the new songs on air. It should be pretty good.”

Published on January 25, 2013 as "Fingers Crossed releases first full-length album". 

Indie local band Boy+Kite shares music experiences, advice

Boy+Kite features the musical stylings of Darvin Jones, Chris Mietus, Giuseppe Ponti, and Beth Puorro. The band’s debut album, Go Fly, is currently available at Waterloo Records’ listening stations. (Photo Illustration)
Boy+Kite features the musical stylings of Darvin Jones, Chris Mietus, Giuseppe Ponti, and Beth Puorro. The band’s debut album, Go Fly, is currently available at Waterloo Records’ listening stations. (Photo Illustration)

Released less than two weeks ago, local indie alternative rock-pop band Boy+Kite’s debut album Go Fly is already riding high on reviewers’ top listens. Pronounced “boy plus kite,” the band has been especially well-received locally — Go Fly is currently on stand at one of Waterloo Records’ listening stations and the band has an upcoming performance at “Dia De Los Toadies” in New Braunfels in August.

After meeting in a hot tub at a friend’s birthday party in February 2009 and bonding over the recent break-ups of their former bands, singer-guitarists Darvin Jones and Beth Puorro’s friendship quickly went from trading mixtapes to brainstorming song and lyrics to forming Boy+Kite. Following their three recorded songs for the 10-track LP, the duo were joined by drummer Chris Mietus and bassist Giuseppe Ponti, completing what Puorro describes as the right mix.

During The Daily Texan’s weekly music blog series “The Basement Tapes,” the Texan spoke to the band about its formation and the new album.

The Daily Texan: I recently saw Go Fly on Waterloo Records’ listening station and was so ecstatic. What is it like to be a local band?
Beth Puorro
: All of us have been in bands. I have been in bands for years and Austin is just saturated with artists. There’s just a lot of musicians, so it’s good on two levels. The fact that you get to play with some really great musicians — you have to weave through some really bad musicians­ — and then there’s all these bands trying to play the same places. You get to play good stuff, but then there’s always a ton of it. I feel with us, we just got the right mix. It’s like sometimes you just get the right blend of people together and it works ...
Darvin Jones: Chemistry.
Puorro: Chemistry. I feel like this time, for me at least, it is the right mix.

DT: So what does that mix include?
Chris Mietus
: I think our personalities. We all get along really well and that makes it really easy to work together. We’ve all been through the pace, just in terms of being in bands for so many years that we’ve all sort of kind of gone through the growing pains. Now that we found kinship in the music, we are able to get pass all those little weird ego things that happen in bands where everyone’s got to be the writer or the star guitar player or whatever. We’re all sort of humble and just pretty low maintenance in terms of getting along. Past experiences I think have conditioned us to be that way.

DT: So Darvin and Beth, you two met in a hot tub and that’s how it all started ...
Puorro
: That’s what’s crazy. It’s true. That’s how we met. I think when we started we were like, ‘Let’s do this crazy band’ and at least for me, it’s let’s get together and see if we can write well because I was brokenhearted over a band breakup. Like with any breakup, it was the best thing that ever happened to me, but at the same time it was hard ... I just needed to play with someone and it just happened [to be Darvin].

DT: And how did it go from a duo to a foursome?
Puorro
: We didn’t want to be a duo, you know. We wanted to be a band after we started realizing that our music was good. When you get just two people, to me it gets kind of acoustic and I think we both really wanted a drummer and a bass player that’s really talented with layers and just added a dynamic to the music.
Jones: And I think that we just got to a stage in our writing, to evolve to what we are now, we needed to bring in other people.
Puorro: And it wasn’t just like let’s find a drummer or find a bass player ... it was like a specific kind of drummer and bass player, one that was tasteful. When Chris came in he was just really tasteful and he listens and he adds to the music and Giuseppe is the same way. He doesn’t just come in with root notes, he comes in with melodies.

DT: OK, so what was the inspiration behind Go Fly?
Jones
: I would say life, personally. I think for me the inspiration was just music, loving to
play music.
Giuseppe Ponti: Yeah, pretty much. We all love to play music and without doing it, we wouldn’t be happy.

DT: What do you think makes you stand apart from other local artists?
Puorro
: I don’t think we are necessarily going ‘Hey, the Strokes are popular, let’s play songs that’s like them.’ I feel like that happens a lot. This is my opinion: Bands do well ... and 20,000 other bands try to be just like that band. And I don’t think you can pin us down and say we sound like ‘blah, blah, blah.’

DT: What are some mistakes you guys have made in the past you know for sure you don’t want to repeat in this band?
Mietus
: Play music for money. That’s the worst thing I’ve ever done as a musician. Like a hired gun. I used to do that for a living, play bass. I was miserable.
Puorro: Bands that he wasn’t into like, ‘Would you come play for me and I’ll pay you $50.’
Jones: I have a good one. I’ll never go to L.A. for a record deal without knowing that the owners of the record company are heroine addicts. That’s a past mistake I’ve made that was a lot of fun.
Puorro: Don’t sleep with other band members. That’s a big one.

Printed on Monday, August 8th, 2011 as: Boy+Kite shares insights, experiences

Joshua Epstein, left, and Daniel Zott, right, make up indie pop duo Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr., performing tonight at Stubb’s. (Photo courtesy of Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr.)

Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr. is fairly unique in that it has managed to create a dreamy pop, alternative sound, vaguely reminiscent of something that’s very west coast, despite it’s Detroit origin.

It is perhaps because of its experience with America’s ailing economy that it named its most recent album It’s a Corporate World. Although the band claims not to be taking a particular advocacy with the title, it does harbor opinions on the current state of the economy and corporatism.

“I don’t know if it’s our job to make political commentary,” said Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr. drummer Joshua Epstein.

“Sometimes, it’s really nice to be in the middle of nowhere and see that you can get coffee and Internet at Starbucks, and sometimes, it’s really shitty because you know that the American dream is harder to attain than it used to be. Like when you’re in Iceland and you see a KFC, it’s both comforting and shitty at the same time.”

The whole corporate world motif gets funny though: Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr. keyboardist, guitarist and vocalist Daniel Zott, is in the freecreditreport.com band from commercials. Jokes aside, they are no slouches when it comes to talking politics. They are particularly interested in the work of Slovenian Marxist philosopher Slavoj Žižek.

“We don’t know if capitalism is a bad thing,” Zott said. “We just want to start the conversation.”

The duality of their sentiment towards capitalism reflects the overall duality Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr. possess. They carry a sort of goofy, childlike front, combined with a sort of serious poise and demeanor.

“[Lamberts, the venue we’re playing at], is supposed to have great macaroni and cheese,” Zott said.

While the duo that make up Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr. are fairly interesting, their music has certain compelling qualities as well. They sound like something that has been in indie-rock before, but it’s hard to put a finger on where exactly. It might lie in sample-driven instrumentals with folk guitars, placed atop fluid and noticeably reverbed vocals. Their conjoining of sounds can be likened to that of Foster The People if they sampled Flying Lotus beats instead of having a drummer. The heavy backbeat isn’t commonplace, either. With that, they’ve managed to achieve uniqueness within a sort of familiarity.

Their ambitions are even more unique.

“We’d like to play at some high school’s prom and then DJ afterwards,” said Zott, with Epstein behind him, nodding in concurrence. “We just really like DJing.”

Even if Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr. doesn’t blow up, they still have a place in music thanks to “Corporate America” and those Free Credit Report commercials. The commercials serve as a revenue stream in the absence of mainstream notoriety. Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr. is acutely aware of this fact.

“Everything is being sold now, and everything is for sale.”

Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr. - Simple Girl (Tiger & Woods Remix) by Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr.

Music Monday

It’s a crisp, clear day and lead singer and guitarist Ryan Lentell is holding a 24 oz. of Budweiser and chain-smoking cheap Pall Malls as he talks about how he thinks the psych-rock scene in Austin has become a trend — not that that’s necessarily a bad thing. After all, Shells has gotten the psych-rock comparison before, though much of Shells’ sound can’t be attributed to one genre.

That’s because Lentell’s previous solo work in alt-country and folk-inspired music has thrown a wrench into the works when it comes to the psych genre. On one hand, facile comparisons to psych and blues bands are easy to make when you’re listening to Shells as a recorded band. On the other hand, the Shells live experience proves that its sound is more like a double entendre. Lentell, bassist Michael Caviness and drummer Jack Smith are effortlessly cool and energetic in their live shows, tossing around with wild abandon and oftentimes breaking either themselves or their instruments — not because destruction is cool, Caviness says, but because Shells’ energy is just that enormous.

The Daily Texan sat down with Lentell and Caviness to talk about how Shells got its start, jumping into drum kits and the pysch-rock scene in Austin.

The Daily Texan: So I’ve had a good listen to your recorded demo album a few times and really enjoyed it. When can people look forward to a release?

Michael Caviness: We have our album mixed, but it isn’t mastered yet. Money’s involved with pressing it ourselves, so we’re not exactly sure what we’re going to do yet.

DT: Have you considered doing a Kickstarter project to fund the album? I know a lot of artists are using it now to help out with production costs.

Ryan Lentell: I think, as far as the record, I think we’d rather do things on our own terms if we can.

MC: It’s cool if you can actually get the funds raised, but I don’t know if we’re that type of band.

DT: The times I’ve seen Shells play, that’s sort of the vibe I get: very D.I.Y.

MC: Which shows have you seen us play?

DT: I’ve seen you play at Hole in the Wall, and I think the most recent show I saw was during Free Week in January.

MC: Oh, at Cheer Up Charlie’s?

RL: There was so much feedback that night.

DT: So let’s talk about how Shells got started.

MC: Ryan and I were living together at the time, and we were in this one band. He asked my drummer and me if we wanted to work on some other songs. Ryan had been doing country and folk stuff solo for a while.

RL: Someone asked me to play a show as a kind of one-off sort of thing, and then we kind of started picking up gigs after that. But our initial drummer didn’t work out very well; I don’t think he was very serious about it. We got Jack, our current drummer, right before South By [Southwest] last year. And it’s been good ever since.

DT: So when Shells was just getting started, was it sort of predetermined what the sound was going to be like? Ryan, did your country and folk leanings have any influence on Shells’ sound at the beginning?

RL: I actually had a lot of songs that I was sitting on at the time that Shells started. And a lot of the songs we play now were songs that I had before this band. But I think we approach song by each song — ‘What suits this song stylistically or sonically?’ I think there’s a common factor to everything, but we take it song by song.

DT: Back to what I was saying a little earlier about Shells’ sound, I know this is kind of a stock question, but who are Shells’ influences?

MC: I think we listen to a lot of older records. The whole psychedelic thing, I think that’s becoming a trend, you know? And we don’t want to be trendy.

RL: [laughs] I don’t know if it’s that we don’t want to be trendy, but I don’t think any of us are that very current with new music right now. I like a lot of Austin bands, though I don’t think they necessarily influence our stuff.

MC: Well, I like to set up a lot of our shows, and I usually want to put bands on with us that aren’t going to be boring. Like if you’re in a country band and play with a bunch of other country bands, that’s kinda boring. I like to set up with different kinds of bands — passionate bands.

RL: We do listen to a lot of the old psych and ’70s rock.

MC: And we collect records, so we like listening to records as a whole.

DT: For people who don’t know, what’s the mood and vibe at a Shells’ show?

MC: I would say it’s dangerous and intense. [laughs]

DT: I remember reading something around the time of Free Week about you jumping into a drum kit?

MC: That’ll happen every so often — There’s definitely a destructive element in our music sometimes.

RL: But we’re not about showmanship; we like to have fun.

MC: I don’t think any sort of destruction we do is a gimmick. We’re usually bouncing off with all our energy. Just in that moment, it lends itself to its own destruction.

DT: Have there been any obstacles in getting Shells off the ground?

RL: We’ve definitely played shows to like six people before, where making a record feels like it could feel defeating.

MC: We’ve had pretty much everything that could possibly go wrong at a show happen — sound problems, getting hurt, playing to really small crowds.

RL: But I’ve never walked away from a show feeling like shit. It’s a drag when things [don’t go your way], but I think since we kind of just play nonstop, I think that with a new band like this, in terms of getting tight and having it down as a band, we’re at the point we can kind of sit back now and pick our shows a little more carefully.