Psychedelic-rock band Calliope Musicals have been developing their sound and identity since they formed in 2009.
Photo Credit: Griffin Smith | Daily Texan Staff

The members of Austin-based Calliope Musicals haven’t had just one near-death experience on tour — they’ve had multiple.

A rattlesnake nearly bit guitarist Matt Roth on Tennessee’s Smoky Mountains while the rest of the band unknowingly kept hiking. Another time, they walked barefoot around Joshua Tree National Park in California before discovering they shared their campsite with scorpions. And when they drove through inner-city Baltimore, they were almost carjacked.

According to guitarist Chris Webb, the band wouldn’t have it any other way.

“If you don’t almost die on tour, it was a really shitty tour,” Webb said.

The members of the psych-rock band are preparing for another nationwide tour and the release of the album they finished recording in February. The band’s upcoming album is the first time the member have “gotten their feet wet” in the recording studio, because they prefer to focus on live performances.

The band focuses on connections. The members build off each other’s jokes and recount their near-death experiences with enthusiasm, speaking over each other and completing each others’ sentences. But despite the band members’ chemistry, Calliope Musicals wasn’t always comprised of today’s six members.

The band first formed in 2009 when guitarist Matt Roth booked front woman Carrie Fussell to play a show at Pipe’s Plus on the Drag. The pair started writing songs together. They then connected with vibraphone player Craig Finkelstein on Craiglist, and Fussell’s then-boyfriend-now-husband Josh Bickley started playing the drums.

Guitarist Chris Webb and bassist Andrew Vizzone joined Calliope Musicals two years ago. Vizzone said the band’s sound morphed from a folk-vibe to psychadelic party-rock after he and Webb joined the band with electric guitars and bass.

“We were originally thinking Mamas and the Papas — or kind of Peter, Paul and Mary,” Roth said. “But then electric guitars came into the mix.”

Roth said the band members like to collaborate on their songwriting, so the music doesn’t fully conform to one person’s ideas.

“We look at ourselves as all different songwriters, so we try to come together to create something cohesive,” Roth said. “We’re more like, ‘Let’s throw all of our sounds together and try to make something from it.’”

Vizzone said the band members don’t have a definitive way to describe their sound, but Fussell said it’s always “colorful, energetic and fun.”

Calliope Musicals is one of three acts playing Saturday’s Untapped Festival at Carson Creek Ranch alongside Manchester Orchestra and Phosphorescent. Fussell said Calliope Musicals likes playing festivals because they draw a different, more energetic crowd than smaller-venue shows.

“People at festivals have signed up for that experience — they’ve got their ticket, their cooler, their friends — and they picked out their clothes they want to wear,” Fussell said. “People just seem to be really excited about a festival.”

Calliope’s live shows involve a confetti cannon, animal costumes, candles and dancers. Roth said the band members elicit audience participation in all of its shows by having them sing along or come up on stage and dance.

“It’s not just about ‘Here’s the band, here’s the crowd and here’s the barrier in between,’” Roth said. “It’s more about, ‘What can we create in this moment together?’”

After Untapped, Calliope Musicals will promote their album and work on booking their tour. Fussell said the band’s main objective on this tour is to give the audience a good experience.

“I think the most important thing, and one of the things we love most about playing music, is making people feel happy,” Fussell said. “Making them feel good and making them feel empowered.”

Editor’s note: Some answers were edited for length and clarity.

Australian indie pop-rock band Ball Park Music is composed of frontman Sam Cromack, bassist Jennifer Boyce, keyboardist Paul Furness, guitarist Dean Hanson and his drummer-brother Daniel Hanson. The band, which formed in 2008, released their latest album, Puddinghead, last April. The group is going on a tour in Europe this summer. Ball Park Music will play three official shows during SXSW. Dean Hanson spoke with The Daily Texan about the band’s music and Australian roots.

The Daily Texan: How was Ball Park Music formed?

Dean Hanson: The five of us studied music at university in Brisbane, and that’s where we began playing together. It wasn’t too long before we realized we had a good chemistry as a band, and we should see how far we could take it. The rest is history.

DT: How would you describe your sound to people who have never heard your music before?

DH: We play alternative pop-rock music. We like to break your heart and fix it again, make you laugh, make you cry, and, all the while, we’ll be there partying with you. 

DT: Who are some artists that influenced you?

DH: I think, as children of the ’90s, we can’t help sneaking twinges of ’90s pop-rock into our records. We like to explore lots of different influences and ideas track-to-track while always trying to maintain our trademark Ball Park Music sound.

DT: Do you think that being from Australia influences your music?

DH: There are definitely a few in-direct references to Australian themes that occur in some of our tracks. I think, by living in Australia and writing personal lyrics, you can’t avoid referencing where you’re from. We all listen to a lot of Aussie music, new and old, and we’re proud to be a part of Australian music, which is so great right now.

DT: What are any favorite memories or interesting anecdotes from tours you’ve been on?

DH: There have been so many that I could write a book about them. My personal favorite, which might not excite anyone else, was last year after our concert in London. [Furness, Ball Park Music keyboardist] and I found ourselves riding “city hire” bikes across London Bridge at 4 a.m. after a few beers. I looked to my left and saw the Big Ben and realized I was surrounded by all these beautiful London landmarks, and it was such a great moment. I thought to myself, “How did I end up here?”

DT: Do you have any favorites among your own albums or songs?

DH: I’m really proud of all our records, and I love them for different reasons. I guess the songs I love the most are the ones I most enjoy playing live because that’s how I feel them once the record is released. I always enjoy playing “Fence Sitter” from our second record, Museum, and “Cocaine Lion” from our fourth record, Puddinghead. “Cocaine Lion” is a real slow burner that just builds and builds to a great climax. It’s got a great energy, and I love playing it.

There was no shortage of young bands invoking the sounds of the ’90s in 2013, from blistering pop-punk to skuzzy indie-rock, but few arrived with the personality and talent of Potty Mouth. The four-piece from Northampton, Mass., released its debut full length album, Hell Bent, last year, and is planning its first full U.S. tour this coming spring. Singer/guitarist Abby Weeks and bassist Ally Einbender talked about preparing new music for the upcoming tour and their excitement to play SXSW for the first time. 

The Daily Texan: Are you excited to come down for SXSW?

Abby Weems: We’re so excited for it. I think it’s going to be crazy and super fun.

Ally Einbender: Yeah, I’ve never been before and I’m just so excited to leave this polar vortex we’re in right now. It’s horrible here. It doesn’t stop snowing, and I never leave my house unless I go to work. I’m excited to have a real spring break. 

DT: Are you working on any new music right now?

AW: We have a bunch of new stuff, and we’re actually recording a demo later today so we can pass it around at SXSW. We have five or six new songs already. 

DT: Will the upcoming shows be mostly new songs?

AW: Yeah, I think we have so much new stuff. It’s split between that and songs from Hell Bent.

AE: I kind of feel conflicted about playing so much new stuff because I know that when I see a band I really like, in that moment I only care about seeing them play the stuff I know. When you see a band live, it’s so much about the experience, and you want to see the stuff you’re familiar with. But I think we all really like our new songs, and we’re trying to keep it balanced. 

AW: We played a local show recently, and we thought it was OK to play a ton of new songs because everyone there had seen us a bunch of times and wouldn’t care if we played the old stuff they’d seen before. Then we realized for the U.S. tour, we’re going to cities we’ve never been to before on the West Coast and that people are going to want to see songs they know, so we’re trying to make that work. 

DT: Your music gets compared to music from the ‘90s a lot, but where do you see the influences coming from for the songs you write?

AW: For me, when I first started learning guitar, I was going through a major Green Day phase. It just inspired me that their songs are so simple. It was reaffirming for being a new guitarist that you can write songs that are really simple but still catchy. As we’ve been touring more we’ve been playing with tons of new bands like Swearin, Radiator Hospital, Ovlov, Speedy Ortiz, and I think they influence me more than anything else. You get to know the people you’re playing with, and that makes me think about the music more. 

On Monday, a presentation by The Art Guys, a duo of artists, involved a guitarist and a man in a dragon suit blowing party horns out of its nose.

The group is comprised of artists Michael Galbreth and Jack Massing, known for their eccentric art, which uses a variety of mediums.

“I wasn’t sure if they brought the dragon or if the dragon was here to help them,” psychology freshman Katie Kei said. “It kind of made other people laugh, so I felt like it’s kind of rude because they’re presenting — unless it was part of the presentation.”

Massing said the goal of their art is to change people’s traditional perspectives about what art can be.

“We share this belief: If you can change perception in someone, you actually change the world,” said Massing. “So if we can change the perception of a person or of people or a group of people or a society … we as artists have changed the world. There’s nothing more powerful than that.”

Galbreth said the reason they chose to involve the additional entertainers in their event was to help keep people interested.

“It’s a nontraditional way of doing it,” Galbreth said. “We don’t do it very often … . It’s sort of like a non sequitur. It’s just, if you’re making a collage and you put something in there that doesn’t belong there, it makes it interesting.”

One of the group’s earliest pieces involved its members as the primary medium.

“We spent a year selling the ad space on our pants,” Galbreth said. “The concept came from — literally — from a New Year’s Eve thing, watching football. You know, the football games are like, ‘The Tostitos Bowl, brought to you by FedEx,’ so we thought, ‘Why can’t we be the Tostitos Art Guys and sell ourselves?’” 

In an effort to continue challenging popular ideas about art, The Art Guys married a tree several years ago.

“Around 2004 to 2006, the Contemporary Art Museum in Houston asked us if we could do something for them,” Galbreth said. “We said we wanted to marry a plant, and they said that was great. We ended up deciding on a live oak tree.”

Lily Avalos, a visual artist who participated in the presentation, said the duo has been an inspiration in her own work.

“I think it’s really just a good refresher … to continue what you’re doing,” Avalos said. “Just do what you want. Do what you’re proud of. Don’t take yourself too, too seriously,” 

A man was arrested Saturday night after police say he stole a guitarist’s tip bucket on East Sixth Street.

Austin police apprehended Dante Beard, 24, in an alley off the 400 block of East Sixth Street on Saturday just before midnight, according to an arrest affidavit for Beard. Austin police saw a large group of men chasing Beard, who was running through the alley with a bucket containing money. The men were yelling for Beard to stop, and Austin police then detained Beard.

According to the arrest affidavit, the men chasing Beard told Austin police Beard had stolen the money, and Austin police then made contact with the victim of the alleged theft, Piedra Ramirez. Ramirez told police he was playing guitar in the 400 block of East Sixth Street with a tip bucket next to him when Beard ran by and grabbed the bucket and all the money inside. Ramirez said friends of his then followed Beard.

According to the affidavit, the bucket contained $17. The theft with no prior convictions would constitute a class C misdemeanor, but because a criminal history check on Beard during his arrest came up with two prior convictions for theft, the theft charge was enhanced to a state jail felony.

Beard remains in the Travis County Jail on $6,000 bond. 

(Photo courtesy of Deerhoof).

It would not be an overstatement to say that band names that begin with the word “deer” have their own special place in the rock music spectrum. Avant-garde, anything-goes rock band Deerhoof holds their own in the special deers-only section that includes Deerhunter and Deer Tick; it’s a strange blend of distortion, frenetic drums and lead singer Satomi Matsuzaki’s child-like delivery that separates them from other deer-friendly groups.

Deerhoof’s 18-year career can be summed up in two parts: distance and experimentation. The members, who all used to live in the San Francisco Bay Area, have since relocated to different places. It’s proof of the band’s long-lasting chemistry that in between all of the joyous calamity, you can sense the group’s reliance on one another. They mesh their own world into each other’s to create a universe that, upon first listen, you can’t help but be hooked.

Guitarist John Dieterich spoke with The Daily Texan about the distance between members, influences and future plans.

The Daily Texan: You guys will be coming through for South By Southwest, and then doing a tour with Of Montreal and Kishi Bashi. How does it feel to be back on the road?
John Dieterich: It feels good. It’s always slightly nerve-racking when we haven’t played for a while. But we’re going to have a few days to work on things here in Albuquerque. We’re in the process of working on a new album, so a lot of our energy is focused on that. It’ll just be good to make noise in a room together again.

DT: Do you feel that not having played with one another for a while and the distance between everybody makes the songwriting process more challenging?
JD: To be honest, it’s always difficult for us, getting together and working out the music. The part that is the hardest is that it’s more of a challenge to get in the same room. We never know if — when we get back together — if we’re going to know how to play. After a couple days I’m like, ‘Oh, what was I worried about?’ but there’s always this fear that we can no longer play our songs.

DT: You guys have opened up for an assortment of bands including The Roots, Bloc Party and the Yeah Yeah Yeahs. How is it looking back and seeing your music has struck a nerve with these groups from different genres?
JD: It’s always very humbling. It’s always a surprise when I hear that someone has listened to our music. It’s just a shock that what we try to communicate is heard by, and even reinterpreted by others. Music is the philosophy through which I see the world, and it’s great to be a part of that musical conversation.

DT: Are there any bands you hope to catch while you’re here and any fond memories of performing in Austin?
JD: We’ve played SXSW a couple of times. This’ll be our first time in several years playing several shows. Usually for past SXSWs we’ve just done like one show. I have no idea of what is happening yet, but I know we’ll be able to see some other bands. We’re going to be running around like crazy. As for a memorable moment in Austin, we actually played with a local group called The Weird Weeds. They’re good friends of ours, and if we get the opportunity to see them, that’d be very exciting.

DT: What’s next for you guys after SXSW? I know you already mentioned recording.
JD: We’re in the midst of [recording]. We’ve been writing all separate from each other, so some of what we’re working on will be what we end up recording. Basically we’re going to do the tour with Of Montreal, and then we’re going to have several days in Portland where we’re just recording over there.

The Stevie Ray Vaughan statue stands next to Town Lake under a twilight sky on Monday afternoon. Vaughan was recently named one of the top 100 guitarists by Rolling Stone and he was part of the musical momentum that led Austin to be named the Live Music Capital of the World.

Photo Credit: Jorge Corona | Daily Texan Staff

Smiles came easily whenever the late Austin musician Stevie Ray Vaughan was around because of his positive spirit and the revolutionary sound of his music, said music photographer and friend Susan Antone.

“When Stevie came in the room, he just made you smile — he was really a neat, fun, creative person,” Antone said. “I don’t know anybody who didn’t like Stevie.”

Vaughan, an Austin blues-rock legend, was named 12th best guitarist in Rolling Stone magazine’s “100 Greatest Guitarists” ranking.

Antone’s brother Clifford Antone, a close friend of Vaughan’s, opened the music bar and restaurant Antone’s on Fifth Street in 1975 as a place for up-and-coming musicians to play. The restaurant, now known as one of the prime live music venues in Austin, helped launch Vaughan’s remarkable career.

Dallas-bred Vaughan dropped out of high school at age 17 to move to Austin and pursue a career in music. He formed the blues band Blackbird before joining The Cobras in 1975, a band that would become Austin’s Band of the Year in 1976.

Vaughan then became the lead singer of the band Double Trouble and circled through music clubs around Austin and Texas. Musician and record producer David Bowie saw one performance and asked Vaughan to play on his next album “Let’s Dance.”

Double Trouble released several of its own albums, the fourth of which went gold and nabbed a Grammy Award in 1989 for Best Contemporary Blues Recording.

After a Double Trouble concert in Wisconsin featuring other guitarists including Vaughan’s brother Jimmie, Vaughan boarded a Chicago-bound helicopter. It crashed minutes after takeoff, tragically killing 35-year-old Vaughan and its four other passengers on Aug. 27, 1990.

His legend was never forgotten, and Austin Music Commission vice chair Joah Spearman said Vaughan continues to influence the music scene in Austin.

“You can look at how much downtown Austin has changed since he died, but artists are still influenced by him,” Spearman said. “It speaks to the timeless nature of Stevie Ray. I think we can think of him as someone to credit for making Austin the Live Music Capitol.”

In 1994, a statue was placed at Auditorium Shores in honor of Vaughan to remind Austin of a musician who helped shape its reputation as a music-centered city, said Megan Crigger, a spokeswoman for City of Austin Cultural Arts Division.

“It’s been a huge success,” Crigger said. “Not only because we see people leaving gifts at the foot of the sculpture, but because it reinforces Austin’s reputation as the live music capital — it’s been really beneficial to Austin in that way and the reputation of having great music and supporting musicians and artists.”

Susan Antone said she remembered “Stevie Ray” as both a kind-hearted friend as well as an extraordinary musical talent.

“He was and is one of the greats, and he is not to be repeated,” she said. “He is an ambassador for Austin — every place he went, he carried the banner for Austin and for music.”

Printed on Tuesday, November 29, 2011 as: Austin icon Stevie Ray Vaughan noted as 12th best guitarist by Rolling Stone

After a brief hiatus, Blake Sennett makes a return with his band, The Elected. Their latest record is filled with his go-to trademarks. (Photo courtesy of The Elected)

The Elected- Babyface by MMMusic

In between the transition from lead guitarist of indie band Rilo Kiley to center stage with his own band, The Elected, singer-songwriter Blake Sennett found a lighter-hearted perspective on music.

Despite his two-year break from the music industry, Sennett’s latest album Bury Me in My Rings is laced with what he is best known for — not-too-sweet lyrics on conventions of love, smooth, poppy beats and a whispery voice.

While in town for the band’s concert at Emo’s last Friday, Sennett met with the Texan to discuss his musical hiatus, his latest album and child acting career on “Boy Meets World.”

Daily Texan: This is your first album since you kind of, well, left the music world in 2010. So what inspired you to come back?
Blake Sennett: I think I missed it. I think I did a lot of soul searching. Also, I was excited to try things with this fresh perspective that I think I’ve been able to cultivate over the last two-and-a-half years.

DT: Why did you decide to leave in the first place?
BS: I think I was disappointed. I felt a little stagnant, a little stale spiritually and emotionally. If you’re around the same people for years it can make you a little, well, bitter and weird. I didn’t want to be like that. I needed to step away from everything and see what that felt like and experience that perspective.

DT: So how is Bury Me In My Rings different from previous albums by The Elected?
BS: I think it’s a lot less self-conscious. It’s a lot more stream of consciousness. I tried to focus more on narrative and story arc in songs versus on the last record, or really the last two records, where I wrote a little more abstractly and a little more from pain probably.

DT: You’re also the lead guitarist of Rilo Kiley. What was the transition like to The Elected?
BS: It’s a little more stressful. You can’t just wing it, you have to have a lot more focus. When you’re playing guitar behind that person you don’t feel it as much when shows go bad or even when it goes well. You take shows a lot more personally.

DT: Okay! A few less serious questions. What’s the strangest thing to happen at one of your shows?
BS: I think the first time at a Rilo Kiley show that a kid peeled back his sleeve and showed a big Rilo Kiley tattoo on his forearm, I think that was pretty weird for me.
DT: Cool or creepy?
BS: It’s a lot of pressure! Someone inks up for you and it’s on their body for life. You don’t want them to regret it. Like I loved Primus so much when I was younger, but if I had a Primus tattoo on my forearm now I would be like “WEIRD.”

DT: Have you ever Googled yourself?
BS: Oh, yeah. Definitely. Not for a long time, though. I don’t really like doing it.
DT: Well I have, and —
BS: Googled yourself?
DT: No, Googled you! And you were on “Boy Meets World,” something children of the ’90s like myself find very exciting. So what was your character?
BS: I was a bully, Joey the rat, for about 20 episodes.

DT: What was your favorite episode?
BS: There was one where I had to do some wrestling, and a pro-wrestler came in to show us how to do some of those body slams and stuff. It was pretty awesome. I think I was wrestling Ben Savage (Corey Matthews) in the show.
DT: Did you win?
BS: Oh no, he’s a hero ­— I’m pretty sure he beat me.