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Off the Record

The Butthole Surfers reunite, Sarah Jarosz paddles up Nickel Creek, and Shearwater soars to new heights

By Austin Powell, Fri., May 23, 2008

Off the Record

Across A Wire

Brothers Jared and Michael Bell of Lymbyc Systym have one of those left- and right-brain connections. "It works out nicely because I generally handle the more melodic stuff, and Michael sorts out the programming and percussive elements," says Jared. The balance is immediately apparent in 2007's Love Your Abuser (Mush), an emotive melding of fractured beats and spacious post-rock. It's also crucial considering the two have been separated by New Mexico since Michael moved from Tempe, Ariz., to Austin in 2006. "We send things back and forth before we figure things out in the studio," Jared explains. "All of the songs generally have one overly strong theme that binds it together, and we build on top of that." The brothers meet up at Stubb's on Friday, opening up for local instrumentalists This Will Destroy You, who appear on Lymbyc Systym's Love Your Abuser Remixed and a split EP due in October on Magic Bullet. Denton duo and recent Western Vinyl signees Mom usher in the ambience.

New Adventures in Hi-Fi

The 34th season of Austin City Limits premieres on Saturday with a special one-hour presentation of R.E.M., which includes portions of ACL producer Terry Lickona's interview with Michael Stipe, Peter Buck, and Mike Mills. View the full segment at www.austincitylimits.org. Meanwhile, construction of the program's new studio in the W Hotel Downtown has officially begun. The project is scheduled for completion in late 2010.

Psychic ... Powerless

Before the inaugural Damonfest last September, Gibby Haynes lamented that the Butthole Surfers weren't reuniting for the occasion. "The guitarist won't play," quipped Haynes. "It's too bad. It would have been a good time for us to do it." Timing isn't everything, though. The Surfers' classic 1980s lineup – with bassist Jeff Pinkus and tandem drummers Teresa Nervosa and King Coffey – are re-forming for an eight-gig summer run on both sides of the pond. Guitarist Paul Leary won't be a part of the European portion due to prior commitments but is scheduled to appear at Webster Hall in New York on July 29. The tour may prove uncharacteristically PG-13, as the Paul Green School of Rock All-Stars are backing the Surfers for each show. No Austin dates have been announced.

Misty Mountain Hop

Sarah Jarosz
Sarah Jarosz
Photo by Todd V. Wolfson

"Let's jam sometime," wrote Nickel Creek mandolinist Chris Thile on Sarah Jarosz's program at the 2002 Old Settler's Music Festival. "At that point I knew one day I wanted to be good enough to do just that," recalls Jarosz, who just finished her junior year at Wimberley High School. Having shared stages not only with Thile but also bluegrass patriarchs Béla Fleck, Ricky Skaggs, and Earl Scruggs, the precocious 17-year-old multi-instrumentalist got good enough to ink a deal earlier this month with Sugar Hill Records. Her debut album, which will be recorded in Nashville and will consist primarily of original material, is tentatively scheduled for a spring 2009 release. "More than being overwhelmed, I feel really honored and blessed to have been in so many situations where I've gotten to play with such extraordinary musicians," Jarosz says. "I can't help come away from those experiences inspired and wanting to practice and write more." Capping things off, Jarosz recently jammed with bluegrass convert John Paul Jones of Led Zeppelin. "He was playing mandolin, and I was on clawhammer banjo," Jarosz says of the impromptu session, held in a hotel lobby area in New York City. "We jammed on five songs and then some with Uncle Earl. He can definitely hold his own."

Winged Life

Birds of a feather: Jonathan Meiburg and his audiologist
Birds of a feather: Jonathan Meiburg and his audiologist

Jonathan Meiburg of Shearwater is a noted expert on the Striated Caracara, a rare bird of prey native to the Falkland Islands (see "Transcendentalism," May 12, 2006). Last year, the local songwriter, who also holds a doctorate in ornithology, joined scientists surveying the bird in its natural habitat, following up a study he helped conduct a decade ago. "It was interesting to see how these places had changed," says Meiburg, who officially parted ways with Okkervil River last week. "It was like getting to go back in time and understand it in a different context. It was magical." Whereas 2006's Palo Santo culled the femme fatale spirit of Nico for inspiration, Shearwater's exquisite Matador Records debut, Rook, explores Meiburg's studies through ornate flights of fancy. "When you're out there, it feels like you're getting this glimpse into the old world that's passing away," Meiburg explains. "There's an aesthetic loss too, an entire realm of beauty and meaning that most people didn't know was there to begin with. The record is partly an attempt to deal with that, to rail against it, and make peace with it." Backed by a string quartet, woodwinds, trumpets, and a harpist, Shearwater unveils Rook – due out June 3 in its entirety at the Parish on Thursday.

Bloody Hammer

Roky Erickson & Billy Gibbons (r), Emo's May 17
Roky Erickson & Billy Gibbons (r), Emo's May 17
Photo by Sandy Carson

Given that ZZ Top was in town for a final farewell to the Backyard, it was no shocker that Billy Gibbons joined Roky Erickson & the Explosives at Emo's on Thursday. Witnessing the two iconic Texans rip through "Two-Headed Dog (Red Temple Prayer)" and "You're Gonna Miss Me" for Chaos in Tejas had even the most jaded punks raising their fists in approval. "This is as good as it gets," declared guitarist Cam King. "Tell your grandkids about this." The remainder of the three-day festival more than lived up to its name, so much so that it left a few from the Chronicle bruised and swearing to never return. Well done.

Random Play

• Local string quintet Mundi has been invited to appear at the Granada International Festival of Music & Dance in Spain on Independence Day but needs a bit of help getting there. The worldly ensemble's gig tonight (Thursday) at the Barr Mansion doubles as a benefit to offset travel accommodations.

• Austin's undisputed champion of rare psych grooves, End of an Ear, officially joined the Alliance of Independent Media Stores. Congrats!

Jack Ingram nabbed the award for Top New Male Vocalist on Sunday at the 43rd annual Academy of Country Music Awards.

• At this rate, Alejandro Escovedo is going to have to add a few new chapters to his autobiographical new album, Real Animal, before its release June 24. The Continental Club mainstay has lined up a six-date tour with Dave Matthews Band and is confirmed for appearances on NBC's Late Night With Conan O'Brien (June 20) and The Today Show (June 24).

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