lead singer

Colin Blunstone is the lead singer of The Zombies. Known for their psychedelic sound. The Zombies were the second U.K. band — the first being The Beatles — to have a No. 1 hit in the United States, helping lead the “British Invasion” in the mid-1960s. The Zombies will perform at Stubb’s on Thursday.

The Daily Texan: In 1964, you came to the United States. What was it like being one of the first pioneering groups?

Colin Blunstone: For us, it was a culture shock. Whereas now a lot of the cultural elements are very similar to the U.K., people didn’t travel back then like they do now. To get on a plane and go across the Atlantic was quite a big deal. We were just 19 years old, and to come to America, the land of rock ‘n’ roll. It was amazing. All of our heroes came from America: Elvis, Buddy Holly, Chuck Berry, Little Richard. These are the people we grew up listening to, and it was the place we always wanted to come to.

DT: What did you use as inspiration to find your sound in the early days of The Zombies?

CB: We took our inspiration from a very wide spectrum of music. There’s jazz influences, rhythm and blues, rock ‘n’ roll and pop music all there in our music. That’s one of the things that made our music so different. To give your band individuality can be a great advantage, but, in the beginning, it was a disadvantage as well. People get confused when they can’t mentally connect the music to something they’ve heard before.

DT: A lot of people consider the The Zombie’s early career as frustrating because of poor management. Do you think that with a different record company or manager, you guys could have been as big as The Beatles or The Rolling Stones?

CB: I wouldn’t want to compare us to any of those bigger bands of the time, but yes, if we had been looked after properly. This is true for nearly every British band of the ’60s. The bands weren’t looked after; they were exploited and used. That’s what frustrates me. If some of the people in management had a bit more vision, they could have been involved in creating lifetime careers. But they just didn’t have the vision.

DT: There were rumors when you guys broke up in late 1967 that John Lennon, himself, offered to manage your band. Is any of that true?

CB: Well, he never spoke to me about it. What I am told is that he was interested in producing the band, not necessarily managing. But I have to say that I heard it in the same way you have — never from him.

DT: In your most recent album and presumably your upcoming one, there’s a slightly different style than that of your earlier works. What should listeners be looking out for?

CB: We could play something similar to Odessey and Oracle, but we were 20 years old when we played that. What I would say is that people should look out for fine songwriting in the album we’re just starting to record now. Everyone in the band is incredibly skilled, so I would also pay attention to the musicianship. I just sit back and watch them play as a fan of sorts. It’s a thrill for me to be up on stage, being part of a group with such wonderful players.

DT: Where do you see your influence in bands today?

CB: When they, themselves, cite us as an influence in how they’ve come to be playing their music and how they’ve developed, our influence is clear, but I can rarely hear it myself. It’s definitely one of the highest compliments you can receive. When people like Tom Petty and Dave Grohl have all said how much they enjoyed our music and cite us as an influence, it’s wonderful.

DT: What are you guys looking forward to most at SXSW?

CB: I love the madness. It’s just crazy. Last year, we were playing three or four times a day, and, when we weren’t playing, we were moving the gear, going to do radio shows, live sets [and] acoustic duos. It’s just all these different things all the time. It is truly the most full-on festival in the world, and it is a little crazy, but incredibly good fun.

Matt Berninger of The National performs at ACL Live on Monday evening.

Photo Credit: Alec Wyman | Daily Texan Staff

The National took the Moody Theater stage Monday night as a seven piece band, though the band’s energy rested on the shoulders of lead singer Matt Berninger, who seemed to carry the role of frontman as a burden. Dressed in an all-black suit, he was desperate to get away from his microphone, throwing it on the ground and beating it against his head.

If he wasn’t singing, Berninger would neurotically pace around the stage, mumbling to himself or his bandmates. He treated his in-ear monitor like a parasite, picking at it during the entire show trying to curb the discomfort.

These are all just stray neuroticisms compared to Berninger’s performance when he stood in front of the mic. Any desperation he felt about stepping away was channeled into the delivery of the songs dealing with a similar plight: the feeling of assuming a role while simultaneously trying to run away from it.

Always clutching the microphone in both hands, Berninger would start crooning the lyrics in his classic baritone, slowly moving toward a state of unrest, which ultimately led to Berninger shouting the once softly spoken lyrics at an audience that couldn’t get enough.

While Berninger was the welcomed focal point of the show, the band did a fantastic job translating The National’s songs for a live performance, most notably the cathartic crescendo during “About Today.” At one point, guitarist Bryce Dessner held his guitar upside down and banged the headstock on the ground at the beginning of “I Need My Girl,” producing a distorted growl that accompanied Berninger’s equally low register.

At the end of the show, The National played its revered “Mr. November,” a politically charged anthem that had the crowd yelling along with Berninger. As the first chorus began, Berninger approached the edge of the stage, letting his fans pull him into the crowd. This is the point when most performers surf on top of their fans, showcasing the mutual trust between a person and his supporters. Berninger wasn’t much up for surfing and decided instead to assimilate completely into the crowd, his microphone cord the only thing pinpointing his location in the swarm of fans hoping to get close enough to touch him.

Finally finished with his obligation as frontman, Berninger ripped his monitor out of his ear and threw it on the ground. Berninger then prompted the crowd to finish the set with him by singing along to an acoustic version of “Vanderlyle Crybaby Geeks.”

With Monday’s performance, The National proved yet again that it’s OK to feel just as lost and sorrowful in their 40s as people do when they’re in their 20s.

A night of loud music at Mohawk

Willy Moon performs at Latitude 30 Tuesday night. 

Photo Credit: Chelsea Purgahn | Daily Texan Staff

We picked up our music wristbands and after much deliberation headed to Mohawk for the Pitchfork Interactive Showcase. Badges had priority, then wristbands. It was supposedly open to the public, though there was no evidence of a non-badge or wristband holder in sight. By 10:00 pm, there were more than 50 non-badge holders lined up outside with no hope. 

Night Beds

Night Beds opened the show indoors. I had never heard this band and I was blown away by the lead singer’s voice. They played several of their own songs and a Mac DeMarco cover. The crowd was huge for the indoor opener, and I had to squeeze in and see this band.

Listen to: “Ramona”

IO ECHO

After Night Beds, I headed to the outdoor stage to stake a spot for the later acts. IO ECHO was about to take the stage and set up a fog machine, screens on either side of the stage and a big paper fan in front of the drums. The lead singer stepped on stage in a kimono and cut off shorts. The band had an intriguing stage presence, but it was a mistake to be third row from the stage. It was the second loudest show of the night.

Listen to: “Shangai Girls”

Marnie Stern

The band was just three people: a drummer, bass player and guitarist/singer Marnie Stern. She tapped her guitar and also used pre-recorded loops occasionally. I can guarantee her music is not for every one, it is rough around the edges, as any punk influenced music should be I guess. But she is a badass chick and fun to watch.

Listen to: “For Ash”

DIIV

This band was the coolest looking of the night and also my favorite set. The lead singer is totally androgynous with bright blond hair, the keyboardist had on sunglasses at 10:30 p.m. and the bassist worked very hard to keep all of his hair in front of his face. The band was energizing and perfect for hipster kid head bopping.

Listen to: “Human”

Cloud Nothings

Cloud Nothings was the loudest set of the night. They didn’t seem to stop between songs. Then from out of nowhere we were shoved into the stage by a crazy mosh pit that didn’t end for the rest of the set. I can't remember anything else about this set or their music as I was trying to survive the moshing. 

Listen to: “Hey Cool Kid”

Local Natives

The surprise guest of the night was Local Natives. After playing a show across the street at Stubbs for the Interactive closing party, the band came over to Mohawk at 12:30 a.m. It appeared much of the crowd had waited for this moment with anticipation. After a painfully long sound check, they started their set. It was worth the wait. Their records are much softer than their live show. When they closed with “Sun Hands,” it sounded like the whole audience was singing along.

Listen to: “Who Knows Who Cares”

 

Emicida


Brazilian hip hop artist Emicida's show last night at The Whiskey Room was definitely not one to miss. He is well known for his incredible lyricism and smooth beats. Growing up in the northern part of São Paulo Emicida became prodigious for his ability to rhyme in underground freestyle battles. In recent years the rapper has gained a great amount of notoriety in the hip hop world in Brazil and internationally. His unique style not only resonates through his music but also through his DIY approach to distribution and exposure as an entirely self-distributed artist. If you want to skip out on ridiculous lines and experience very high quality music, Emicida and his band play again tonight at Meduse Lounge at 10:45. Highly encouraged.


Listen to: "Triunfo"
 

With the breakup of The White Stripes, The Black Keys has become one of the only mainstream blues-rock bands still jamming out. However, Rival Sons are looking to join The Black Keys with their second album, Pressure & Time.

The album is content with being pure down-and-dirty southern rock; no pussyfooting here. On “Young Love,” the guitar cackles and the bass thumps as lead singer Jay Buchanan’s deep, thundering vocals take charge and sing of just loving someone so much. The rhythms of “Pressure and Time” never stop with the back-up vocals that ask, “Can we build it up?” reaching soul sermon territory.

Pressure & Time only slows down on closer “Face of Light” as the band restrains the clashing, and Buchanan takes time to agonizingly sing every word of the sparkle of a girl’s face. It’s a refreshing change of pace.

For the rollicking good time they are having, Rival Sons does little lyrically or musically to push blues-rock into the new decade. At its worst, they come off as a Led Zeppelin cover band, but a damn good one at that. Such a worry seems to be the last thing on Rival Sons’ mind ­— all they want to do is rock out and have a good time.

There’s nothing quite like getting beat up at Fun Fun Fun Fest while the lead singer of GWAR shoots red dyed water at you. Or getting trapped under a fallen crowd surfer only to push the body off your head so you can continue jumping and screaming along to Bad Religion.

It’s hard to explain to someone who has never experienced the intensity of a mosh pit the immense pleasure that comes from thrashing with it and the consequences of being thrashed. Everyone’s smelly breath and body odor are right in your face. As people slam you into other people, you find yourself smeared with their sweat and filth.
The crowd constantly surges in all directions, so limbs and hard bodies shove you around. For someone of my height, that means my face smashing into shoulder blades and elbows cutting into my ribs and boobs. As people claw for survival, your hair gets ripped and you accidentally rip other people’s hair — as proven by the clumps of foreign strands that cling to your body after a particularly rough mosh pit.

People are packed so tightly there’s no good place to put your arms except for up in the air. If your arms are scrunched awkwardly in front of you, they get caught, painfully bent and pulled away in the tide. If your arms are down at your side, you don’t have enough time to worm your hands up when a crowd surfer comes flailing your way with their foot kicking at
your mouth.

It might sound awful to leave a music festival with bruises all over your body, your hair matted, a bump blossoming on your forehead, your bra strap torn and your face so grimy that a regular washing can’t get rid of all the dirt. But it’s not. Not for me anyway.

There’s something so liberating about screaming with like-minded people until you’re hoarse. When a circle pit starts and people are running in circles and banging their bodies into each other, there’s something raw and exhilarating about punching your way right in. The mosh pit carries a vigor that wears off the farther away from the stage you go, and there’s something about being where all the action is, close enough to see the band’s sweat stains, that makes you feel like you’re a part of the show.

With adrenaline coursing through you, sometimes this sense of surrealism hits. It’s difficult to think of anything outside of the here and now. Maybe you’ve spent the week slugging away at school and going through the motions just to survive the week. You throw all your energy into this for an hour or two and suddenly you just feel so alive. Maybe emboldened, even.

The first time I was in a mosh pit was at my first concert, which I’m embarrassed to admit was a My Chemical Romance show my freshman year of high school. Gerard Way, the lead singer, parted the crowd in two halves and then the two halves charged into each other. It was love at first crash.

Moshing is not for everyone, obviously. If you have never experienced moshing, I recommend you try it at least once for the experience. If you are female, even more so. But please, don’t be the girl with her head buried in her boyfriend’s shoulder while he wraps his arm around her head, kissing her soothingly. You are at a rock show, not sitting at home watching “The Notebook.”

If the violence is too much for you to handle, get in the pit for a band you know will be less riotous. The mosh pit for MGMT won’t be the same as the mosh pit for Mastodon.
Fun Fun Fun Fest, thanks for the long overdue beating. I might go to bed tonight aching and still feeling unclean, but it was worth it.

Faces flushed and out of breath, lead singer Marshall Newman and keyboardist Brett Moses of the indie pop band The Frontier Brothers gave quick waves from the door before dashing off to order iced coffees. The other half of the band, drummer Travis Newman and bassist Matt Hudson, were on their way.

It has been a busy summer for the foursome, as they are playing weekly at local venues and working diligently on their upcoming EP, while making time for summer fun with their college friends.

Known for their whimsical, free-spirited take on indie pop and their metallic spandex space suits worn for their galactic-themed full-length album, Space Punk Starlet, The Frontier Brothers have been making a name for themselves. What makes this rising band stand out from the rest is the palpable brotherly love the four have for each other. One bandmate could not start a sentence without another finishing it for him. This chemistry creates a lasting impact on The Frontier Brother’s sound and performance.

The Daily Texan: How did you become the Frontier Bros? I call you guys The Frontier Bros. I hope you guys don’t mind. [Laughs]

Marshall Newman: The brothers are trying to fight off the fro’ bros’. But I don’t mind.

Brett Moses: I don’t mind. We’re not really “bros” though. Well, Marshall [Newman] and Travis [Newman] are bros in the literal sense, where they share the same parents, but ...

BM: But yeah, Marshall and I went to school together, and Marshall’s always like the guitar guy, you know, playing weepy songs for the ladies.

MN: I was playing cool songs, I was playing the Pixies and stuff, man, not weepy.

BM: And I was always the nerdy keyboard guy. We had never played together until this arts festival. We sat down and wrote “The Robot Song,” which was on our first full length record. And so, we played this show, just the two of us, and it was sort of a big hit.

MN: There was a standing ovation. It was just thunderous.

DT: How would you describe your sound?

BM: It’s like narrative art rock.

Travis Newman: Yeah, I definitely think the songs have a narrative vibe to it. The latest three songs, I realized I was trying to write obscure thoughts down and string them together and while that works for people, it doesn’t for me. I need to have a story to work off of or else things get lost.

DT: Where do you get inspiration?

TN: My imagination. I write poetry, so I steal things from poetry. Oh yeah, I rip-off a lot of books too. Check my lyrics. But I think it is going to be getting more fantastical.

BM: Yeah, what’s that thing you are working on right now with the geologist?

MN: It’s this day dream I had about me becoming a mountain man and I was alone for a long time and then this beautiful geologist, wearing the kind of outfit that the girls has in Jurassic Park, yeah, that’s what she has on going through the woods. And then I would bring her into my world, the natural world.

DT: What is your song writing process?

BM: We often say our songwriting process is a lot like going to war. It can be painful and intense and very slow.

MN: One of the challenging point about our music, that is also the strongest, is that it’s very tight and lean. There’s not an extended part where nothing is going on. It’s either changing or going into something new.

BM: We are aggressively not a jam band.

MN: We are the exact opposite of a jam band. That’s probably something that happens as a result of introducing a song in practice where parts that don’t stand up, don’t make it.

TN: But the fact is whatever we are doing, we want to have fun and entertain people.

DT: So what has been the best and worst parts of being in a band so far?

TN: Worst part is us getting stranded one time in Virginia for two days.

TN: Well, we’ve been stranded many times on the road, but this one time, we just thought we were going to have to get jobs there.

DT: How did you guys get stranded?

TN: Well, our RV broke down horribly to where it cost thousands of dollars to repair it or at least that’s what the mechanic told us. We exhausted all options for leaving and basically ended up taking a two hour taxi ride to a car rental place. Rented two cars and drove back home nonstop for thirty hours.

BM: Sometimes the worst parts are also the best parts. Like you know something that can be very dramatic oftentimes causes us to band together. There can be a lot of joy in that.

DT: I know you guys are working on your next EP, what kind of sound is it going to be?

MN: I think it is going to be similar to our last EP in the sense that there is going to be a pretty tight song, then another song that is a little more disjointed and the last one is going to be experimental.

TN: We’re just going to buckle down and get it done.

A girl in a bohemian dress sways to the rhythm of her favorite song. Shirtless 20-somethings yell and tussle in the August heat. Thousands of music lovers engage in a mutual dance, despite being surrounded by mud. This is not the Austin City Limits Music Festival but rather a painting of Woodstock by Grace Slick, the lead singer of the 1960s rock band Jefferson Airplane.

Slick, who wrote and performed Jefferson Airplane’s hit “White Rabbit,” will display her collection of psychedelic paintings at Art on 5th through April 24.

Slick became interested in the music industry while working as a fashion model in San Francisco, where she represented designers such as Christian Dior and Balenciaga. She said that although the clothes were beautiful, the modeling job wasn’t interesting to her.

After watching the then-local band Jefferson Airplane perform at a small club, Slick decided that it was time for a career change.

“I thought, ‘My mother was a singer, I can be a singer!’” Slick said.

Shortly thereafter, she and her husband, Jerry, formed the band The Great Society and began touring with Jefferson Airplane. In 1966, Jefferson Airplane’s lead singer, Signe Anderson, left to start a family, and Slick was asked to fill the position.

“We were both dark-haired, low-voiced Norwegians, only I was more flamboyant,” Slick said.

After headlining three of the festivals that shaped the ’60s, both musically and culturally — Monterey, Woodstock and Altamont — Slick’s band achieved international fame. Their U.S. Top 10 singles “Somebody to Love” and “White Rabbit” are both listed among Rolling Stone’s “500 Greatest Songs of All Time.”

After nearly three decades of success in the music industry, Slick decided to broaden her artistic horizons. In 1998, she chose to put down her microphone and pick up a paintbrush.

“You’d be surprised how many guitarists can paint, or how many set designers have a knack for, you know, producing interesting smells. We can jump around because it all comes from the same part of the brain,” Slick said. “Painting is like music, but more solitary.”

Slick claims to have always taken some interest in visual arts, designing her family’s Christmas cards at age 3 and creating line drawings for CD inserts. However, her painting career did not truly blossom until her agent suggested that she depict what she is famous for — music.

“I thought, ‘A musician painting musicians? That’s too cutesy!’” Slick said.

Her vibrant, flowing portrayal of Jimi Hendrix proved to be a popular piece, however.

“When I use colors, you know it. Rock ’n’ roll isn’t obscure; it’s blatant, it’s in your face. That’s what my paintings are,” Slick said. “I don’t want to make something so obscure that people don’t know what to think of it.”

Another recurring motif in Slick’s artwork, which she describes as “elaborate cartoons,” is the white rabbit from “Alice in Wonderland.”

Claiming that the rabbit represents curiosity, Slick says that no one should be afraid to follow it wherever it may lead.

“Everyone has fears — they’re a survival mechanism that dates back to when people lived in caves,” Slick said. “But we don’t live with lions outside our doors anymore. If you’re afraid to do something, do it anyway.”

Though the rabbit pieces are popular among fans who enjoy the hit song with a similar message, Slick identifies with the character on a more personal level. Slick was born in the year of the rabbit and grew up next to a rabbit farm. She likens the rabbit in “Alice in Wonderland” to her own experiences in the music industry.

“‘Alice in Wonderland’ was written in Victorian England, and I was born in the ’50s, when women were expected to wear medium heels and wait at home for their husbands. Boring!” Slick said. “The ’60s, sort of like ‘Wonderland,’ were nuts by comparison.”