Playback: Major Frost
Who's Max Frost and how did the Austin native sign to Atlantic Records?
Count Max Frost as the only Austin musician who's down with both Kydd Jones and Bob Schneider, or disparate company like League of Extraordinary G'z and Ruby Jane. The 20-year-old vocalist/multi-instrumentalist/hip-hop producer has the versatility to throw down with the blunted rap underground or the sensible KUTX milieu.
Last week, Frost's manager posted to Facebook a photo of the singer at a table applying his signature to an array of documents, with satisfied businessmen watching closely. The accompanying text read: "Today Max Frost officially signed to Atlantic Records! Thank you to everyone who has been with him on this journey though it has just begun!"
Frost declined to divulge details of the major label contract, offering only: "With the state of the industry and the fact that I'm basically a no-name, it's an incredible deal."
More so, it's Frost cashing in on a personal gamble. Last September, he dropped out of UT, one day into his sophomore year, to focus entirely on music. A sign that he'd made the right decision came eight months later, when his independently released single "White Lies," a soul-pop gem with nimble vocal delivery, suspicious lyrics, and an irresistible groove, earned copious clickage on nationally read music blogs. That tune, he says, will be the centerpiece of his first official EP.
Though he's not yet old enough to buy booze, Frost has a long acquaintance with Austin stages, learning guitar a decade ago at Dave Seebree's Rock Camp USA, then cutting his teeth in tween rockers Joy Ride before beginning his tenure in Blues Mafia, which had notable local success. Later, he stinted as rhythm guitarist for fiddle babe Ruby Jane, though it was local rapper Kydd Jones who most contributed to Frost's development when they collaborated.
"He was the catalyst of me moving into the worlds of R&B and hip-hop," credits Frost, who plays every instrument on the tracks he produces. "Using those elements, I finally connected all the dots of my influences and made it something my own."
No longer taking the coffee shop gigs he might have at this time last year, Frost boasts a covetable local show schedule with bookings at UtopiaFest, ACL Fest, and a Blues on the Green performance for KGSR opening for Bob Schneider on July 10.
"I'm really looking to reciprocate any success I can have back into the creative energy of the city," says Frost, who was born and raised in Austin. "I'm not looking to succeed and then move to New York. I want to stay and knock doors down for all the talented musicians here."
Riders Against the Storm
When Chaka Mpeanaji and Tiger Lily, the husband and wife hip-hop duo known as Riders Against the Storm, got a hug from Willie Nelson during a chance meeting at Arlyn Studios in March, they felt a transferring of the vibe – like Austin's foremost ambassador had just confirmed their citizenship.
Since moving here from Rhode Island four years ago in hopes of building a community around deep raps and poignant partying, RAS scored opening slots for kindred spirits like Dead Prez and Mos Def, became a SXSW shoo-in, and built a solid fan base with their monthly Body Rock events. Next week, they reintroduce themselves with a new, self-titled EP.
"When we first started making music, it was for a very specific community, particularly black folks from low-income areas. It was very militant, very strong, very angry," explains Mpeanaji. "Part of our journey was realizing that anger is momentary. It's not going to feed you, and you can't live off it. We still have very social content, but now the music has become more universal. It's all about transcending."
The local thought renegades drop the new disc with an afterparty for the sold-out Kings of the Mic tour, which features old schoolers LL Cool J, Public Enemy, De La Soul, and Ice Cube at Stubb's on Tuesday, where Tiger and Chaka will demonstrate what "Master of Ceremony" truly means.
"Ceremony is an opportunity to unlock part of yourself that you don't otherwise get to express," glows Tiger Lily.
Housecore Horror Fest
When metal provocateur Philip Anselmo (Pantera, Down) and true-crime author Corey Mitchell first theorized a festival combining their interests of horror flicks and heavy music, they envisioned a small affair: one night, one screen, and a couple bands.
"As soon as we went public, people started calling us up," says Mitchell, who co-hosted UT radio's The Metal Show from 1988-1990. "We wanted to grow it slowly, but it just snowballed."
Only when they unchained the 34-band lineup earlier this month did the metallic magnitude of the Housecore Horror Fest come to light. The bill features Big Easy bashers Down, Eyehategod, and Crowbar; genre-giants Gwar, Suffocation, Goatwhore, and Pig Destroyer; as well as culty Italian progsters Goblin, who've never played in the U.S. and will be performing both a concert and a live score for Dario Argento's creepy 1977 film Suspiria.
"Philip has been a champion for the underground since day one, so we made sure to book some badass local bands too," reports Mitchell, who tapped townies Ancient VVisdom, Skrew, Headcrusher, Dead Earth Politics, and Honky to round out the bill.
The Housecore Horror Film Festival goes down Oct. 25-27 at Emo's and other yet-to-be-announced venues. Music wristbands ($129), film wristbands ($99), and priority combo badges ($199) are on sale now.
Last week, 1,500 miles away from Austin, in a small but well-armed town in the forest of Northern Michigan, I saw a phenomenal harmonica player blowing at a bar. Upon introduction, he regaled me with tales from his own days in Austin: "Joe's Generic – that was the place for blues! They'd blow the damn roof off every night." His flashback reminded me of KUTX's weekly "Flashbacks" series, a sort of oral history reminiscing about dead honky-tonks, blues joints, punk dives, and rock clubs that once rocked Austin. Past segments recalled the Flatlanders playing at the One Knite and Marcia Ball remembering how the hippies infiltrated a country bar called the Split Rail. What's next is up to you: Call KUTX at 512/861-8266 and tell them your favorite live-music memory. Your voice just might end up on the air. "Flashbacks" airs during Texas Music Matters on Fridays at noon and 11pm.
› The Reverberation Appreciation Society, the local record label and production company responsible for Austin Psych Fest, has announced plans to host its first international event: Levitation France. The concert will be held in Angers, France, and will feature the Black Angels, Damo Suzuki (singer of the German Krautrock greats Can), Dead Skeletons, Dead Meadow, Night Beats, and others playing at Le Chabada on Sept. 20 and 21. Angers, located 200 miles southwest of Paris, fancies itself a sister city to Austin.
› American Sharks singer Mike Hardin, aka Roky Moon, has been sending me amazing cell phone videos of him practicing Electric Light Orchestra songs like "Livin' Thing" and "Sweet Talkin' Woman" in a living room with live piano, cello, and violins navigating the wistful arrangements. He's gearing up for a Fourth of July tribute set at Hotel Vegas, because nothing says Independence Day like pretending you're a British baroque-pop band. Also playing: the Motel Ball Band doing the Texas Tornados and Los Twat Vibes as the Stooges.
› The full list of artists playing November's Fun Fun Fun Fest won't be known until July 9, but organizers on Thursday leaked another handful of bands including Deerhunter, who slayed at Austin Psych Fest in April, the Keith Morris-fronted Black Flag squad known simply as Flag, Mississippi hustler Big K.R.I.T., and British beatmaker Star Slinger.