Chaos in Tejas Interviews

Ted Leo
Ted Leo

THURSDAY

Ted Leo & the Pharmacists

9pm, Mohawk

"People have been telling me I need to write a song for Occupy, and it's like, I've been writing songs for Occupy for the last 20 years!"

Ted Leo certainly keeps his well-marinated DIY ethos close at hand. The D.C. vagabond blends nostalgia, humor, and activism into a truly idiosyncratic career. Few can sing falsetto and still get respect from the hardcore crowd.

"In this segmented, Internet-driven culture people are surprised that hardcore kids would listen to something outside of their niche," says Leo, "but my music is always a punk project, and I think people understand that."

He walks a tightrope all right. Currently at work on an entirely self-recorded seventh LP with the Pharmacists ("At this point in my career I'm able to self-edit effectively"), Leo can deftly explain his perspective on the 99%, while also poking fun of Danzig onstage at last year's Fun Fun Fun Fest. For an outsider, it can look like he's splitting personas.

"I don't see it that way," says Leo. "All that stuff is just part of me. It's what comes out during a long conversation." – Luke Winkie

Cheap Curls

12mid, Beauty Ballroom

Katie Brouillette-Serbian was plucked from Austin in 2009 to join girl-gone-glam outfit the Dum Dum Girls, a high-octane project that engendered an immensely photogenic look perfect for the stage and/or magazines, both of which the Girls conquered. After three years of touring, Brouillette-Serbian finished one last trip with the band Down Under then returned to her adopted home.

"We decided to move back here so I could finish my Masters and concentrate on Cheap Curls, which I started in 2008," she reveals.

A forthcoming 7-inch on Art Fag Recordings, titled Jackie Oh, nods to both the girl group leanings of her last band and to something more approachable.

"When I was first writing songs, the bands I was around and in made very fuzzed-out, high-treble music," she explains. "I like fun pop songs. I wanted to blend the fun pop-punk, driving stomp songs that I loved with something that also complimented cleaner guitar lines and a fuller sound."

Cheap Curls is still in its infancy, but this shot at Chaos will feature Brouillette-Serbian backed by a full band and dipping into a repertoire that should surface as the band's first LP. – Adam Schragin

Nasum

12:55am, Red 7

Sweden's Nasum set the standard for European grindcore until singer/guitarist Mieszko Talarczyk was killed in Thailand by the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami. In a sense, the wave killed Nasum too.

Then this spring, a statement appeared on the band's website: "You thought Nasum were dead? We are. This is not resurrection. It's farewell, for good." Two decades after its genesis, Nasum announced a reformation with Rotten Sound singer Keijo Niinimaa subbing in for a summer's worth of touring. "No cheesy reunion, no new albums, no epitaph for Mieszko," read the mission statement. "We will play only a few cities and festivals in a limited number of disruptive, unruly concerts."

Nasum's victory lap isn't your typical cash-in either. It's a farewell that the band, the fans, and Mieszko all deserve. Nasum drummer Anders Jakobson describes the tour's first shows as "Pure joy."

"It's a great feeling looking at the people that have come to these shows and are totally into what we are doing," he reported from Canada. "Some are screaming their lungs out, reciting lyrics we wrote a long time ago. That brings a smile to my face and makes us understand that we've made the right choice." – Kevin Curtin


FRIDAY

Chelsea Wolfe

11:10pm, Cheer Up Charlie's

For a year, Chelsea Wolfe stopped playing – and listening to – music.

"I really wasn't happy with the music I was making, so I stepped back from it," she says on the phone from California. A performance art tour with a friend from Sacramento became the catalyst for an awakening. "They didn't typically bring musicians [on tour], but he thought it would be cool having a musician play at the end of every night. I played in all sorts of different spaces like old abandoned factories – and that sparked something in me to approach music again in a new way."

The new Chelsea Wolfe had a rustic rebirth on last year's The Grime and the Glow, recorded on 8-track with the hopeful end result of something "crackly and real." Synthesizing everything from metal to folk, Wolfe's latest, Apokalypsis, continues to mate disparate moods from opposing ends of the spectrum.

"I'm all about contrast," she admits. "I'm really inspired by minimalism and also flamboyancy."

Wolfe and her band preview an acoustic disc and possibly a forthcoming LP she says will include "electronics." – Adam Schragin

Church of Misery

11:45pm, Red 7

Tokyo's Church of Misery crosses Sabbath doom with Zeppelin-esque breakdowns, raging almost exclusively about real-life serial killers since the late-Nineties (see "The Gray Band," Jan. 14, 2011). Sole composer and original member, bassist Tatsu Mikami relishes the band's first U.S. tour. – Raoul Hernandez

Austin Chronicle: Your song "Road to Ruin (Charles Whitman)" touches on Austin in that Whitman's crimes took place here. Do you visit cities associated with your song subjects, and what's your research process like?

TM: Yeah! After reading the book [A Sniper in the Tower], I got a TV documentary and it really impacted me. Shot people on the ground, the terrible sound of guns. Seven years ago in the UK, we visited the house of serial killer Dennis Nilsen. He was a gay [who] killed 15 people. We took many photos in front of his house. Someday I wanna go to visit Plainfield [Wisconsin, for Ed Gein].

AC: Fans must offer suggestions for song subjects. Do you keep a running list?

TM: Yes, our fans always suggest new subjects. It's really fun. Most of our song subjects are from the U.S. and UK, but there are so many interesting serial killers in Germany. We will write songs about them: "Peter Kürten," "Fritz Haarmann," "Nuremberg Vampire."

AC: Are you for or against the death penalty?

TM: Gruesome murderer, serial killer – they should pay the price.

Ceremony

12mid, Beauty Ballroom (Also: Sun., 8pm, Mohawk)

Ceremony dashed the hardcore model on its last two LPs, 2010's Rohnert Park and March's Zoo, managing to stay confrontational and dark while restraining the tempo that straitjackets purists. No longer a blitz, the San Francisco quintet assaults you now in a psychological way, with mental-patient poetry over gutter garage punk.

They've also maintained a bedlam live show, legendary locally for a pedestrian bridge DIY set at Fun Fun Fun Fest last year. That was guitarist Anthony Anzaldo's favorite Texas show.

"It took us a while to play good shows in Austin," he admits. "We never did until we played Chaos in Tejas, Fun Fun Fun, and South by Southwest last year."

Onstage, singer Ross Farrar shares the microphone with his fans – even when the cable's wrapped around his face. Anzaldo wears gratuitous mascara. Neither gives a fuck about image.

"We're all very different people, we act different ways. That comes out through our music," he says. "We don't adhere to any look or style or vibe onstage. We love the music we've created and we express ourselves the best way we know how individually." – Kevin Curtin


SATURDAY

The Clean

11pm, Club de Ville

From the beginning, the Clean was a band out of time. Snatches of surf, punk, and psychedelia commingled into a potent wooze evoking an alternate universe. Or maybe that's just how it sounded 7,754 miles from Dunedin, New Zealand.

"I had a New Zealand amp called a Gunn Classic with JBL speakers and a wonderful reverb chamber," says guitarist David Kilgour – who formed the band with drummer brother Hamish in 1978. "I also had a Japanese Ibanez guitar. Full treble, no bass or middle, full reverb."

Being a music fan in mid-Seventies New Zealand meant waiting for the NME to arrive by boat three months late. Even so, Dunedin birthed a scene that foretold indie pop's emergence.

"There was a small group of vinyl junkies who took up guitars, basically," Kilgour says. "The whole snowball seemed to come from a group of about 15 people."

The Clean's 1981 debut single, "Tally Ho!," went Top 20 in New Zealand, but the group disbanded the following year. In 1988, the Kilgours and bassist Robert Scott reunited for a London show. The band's been an "ongoing side project" ever since.

Although the Christchurch earthquake waylaid the sequel to 2009's Mister Pop, Chaos in Tejas mastermind Timmy Hefner is reissuing 1982's Oddities cassette on 540 Records. Kilgour credits Hefner for getting the band to Texas for the first time.

"Timmy's been trying to get us on the bill for years," says Kilgour. "Thanks to his persistence we are coming to the U.S.A." – Greg Beets


SUNDAY

Best Coast

12:30am, Emo's East

"Austin has this special place in my heart," says Best Coast singer Bethany Cosentino. "Austin has so much to offer. I love festival settings, so I'm excited to play Chaos in Tejas."

This latest local stop on Cosentino's heavy touring schedule coincides with The Only Place, a dreamy new collection of garage rock that's smoother and more introspective than the Los Angelinos' debut full-length two years ago.

"I was really inspired by the Southern California scene in the Seventies," she says. "This idea of California being a fresh place for songwriters and musicians to come and make themselves known."

Cosentino also recently released her own clothing line for Urban Outfitters.

"It was fun to do something different creatively than just write songs and record them," she admits. "I'd love to do something involving cooking, like having my own Web series where I cook and talk to people, like the Food Network. I love cooking and watching TV, so it'd be my two favorite things combined!"

Not that food's replacing music anytime soon.

"I listen to a lot of strong female artists like Loretta Lynn, Patsy Cline, Connie Francis – women whose voices impacted a generation. I want to be one of those women someday." – Zoe Cordes Selbin

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