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Playback: Zorch Paaarties

Zorch for hire, Ancient VVisdom on loan to Satan, and Charlie Faye updates her relationship status

By Kevin Curtin, Fri., July 26, 2013

Sam Chown (l) and Zac Traeger in an art installation by Scott Gelber
Sam Chown (l) and Zac Traeger in an art installation by Scott Gelber
Photo by Shelley Hiam

In the midst of their most productive year, highlighted by signing to popular L.A. indie label Sargent House, which released the local duo's full-length debut this week, Zorch continues marching to its own crazy beat. Besides our own favorable review this week (see "Texas Platters"), Spin deemed Zzoorrcchh "A maximal pop masterwork."

While most acts at their level go on a club tour to promote a new album, the maniacal electro-psych-pop experimentalists have embarked on a 10-date DIY party tour, plugging their elaborate, laser-shooting live show into various living rooms, warehouses, and alternative art spaces across the South. Shindigs include free booze, sets from Houston noise rapper Blackie, and Carlos Hernandez of soul-glitchers Ava Luna providing impromptu haircuts.

"We're trying to create an experience that makes people feel something," explains keyboardist Zac Traeger. "I've had some of my best times at off-the-grid shows. This tour's an experiment in how far we can go with that idea."

Drummer Sam "Shmu" Chown recalls one live highlight of Zorch's five-year history, a clusterfuck gig during South by Southwest at UT's Pearl Street Co-op, where they performed in the campus house's massive, dirty-dish-filled kitchen.

"I don't want to make facts or use math, but roughly 20 to 25 percent of those kids were definitely on molly, acid, or 'shrooms," laughs Shmu. "They were ready to get down and have a rave!"

The tour, which began on Thursday, touches home on Saturday, August 3, at the word-of-mouth-only venue that Traeger operates in Austin as an art and show space: the Museum of Human Achievement.

Brooklyn Bros.: Questlove and Zeale (r)
Brooklyn Bros.: Questlove and Zeale (r)
Photo courtesy of Zeale

"The concept behind the Museum of Human Achievement is about getting around this culture that's on information and invite overload all the time to create something that feels important," says Traeger.

Their Satanic Majesties Request

Evil reigns when seemingly indestructible heavy metal dark horses Pentagram hit Emo's next Friday, joined by local doom-folk rockers Ancient VVisdom and glam-psych mystics the Saint James Society. For all three bands, common ground comes not so much in sound, but in lyrics, which embrace life's dark mysteries by employing satanic imagery that earns them the classification "occult rock."

Rockers finding inspiration in the occult is nothing new or particularly shocking considering the Rolling Stones released Their Satanic Majesties Request back in 1967, but Ancient VVisdom differs in that their reverence for Satanism remains genuine.

"Do I sit around and worship?," AVV singer Nathan Opposition asks rhetorically. "Absolutely not. It's silly. But I do believe the words I've read and things I've experienced."

His band, formed in 2009, comes highly regarded among peers Ghost B.C. and Blood Ceremony as a new era of occult rock that's conceptually deeper than past forms.

"It's really important for me to write something with substance, something that inspires people to experience life from a different point of view," says Opposition. "Maybe they'll write about it, come to embody it."

The Saint James Society formed in Austin and relocated to Los Angeles earlier this year, shortly before releasing debut full-length Bab(a/y)lon Rising, which bassist/vocalist Brandon Burkart describes as a "gnostic revelation of sex and death in the framework of rock & roll." The lyrics, he says, are informed by the philosophies of two (for lack of a better word) religious organizations, Ordo Templi Orientis and the Illuminates of Thanateros, plus simple shamanism. Bab(a/y)lon Rising also doubles as soundtrack for the band's upcoming film project, The Circular Ruins, a sexy, mystical, cultish narrative of their music, shot, in part, on their voyage to Austin Psych Fest this past April.

Playback: Zorch Paaarties

After opening for Pentagram, Ancient VVisdom and the Saint James Society take the show on the road nationally. For an epic interview with Ancient VVisdom, visit the Chronicle music blog Earache! at austinchronicle.com/earache.

Half Notes

› While jet-setting around America owning mics, Zeale hit Brooklyn to hype the crowd for an Absolut Vodka-sponsored party at which the local rapper spent an evening on a 30-foot tower with Questlove, who DJ'd while he MC'd. "I'd been super nervous because I grew up on the Roots' albums Things Fall Apart and Phrenology," admits Zeale, who read Questo's book Mo' Meta Blues on his flight to NYC. "When the night was over, he told me I did a really great job and it meant a lot." Zeale hits home for a show at Holy Mountain on Friday. Expect material from his new mixtape, out this fall.

Red Bull begins its efforts to promote Austin's underground music scene this Saturday with a free show at Stubb's, pairing headliners Theophilus London and the Dandy Warhols with local power-pop quartet Gentlemen Rogues and Austin's indie-electro standouts the Sour Notes. For both local bands, it's their first time playing the venue's main stage. The Sound Select program focuses on developing and exposing Austin artists to a wider audience, says local music vet Matt Sonzala, who's working as the program's consultant. He hopes to assist bands by setting up concerts through a variety of local curators, both concert promoters and street-level supporters, in mixing local talent and national headliners. Though RSVPs are closed for Saturday's show, they may release more passes at www.redbullsoundselect.com.

• Our friends at the Good Music Club, whose mission statement is to bring Austin's best new bands to the rest of the world through high quality concert videos, host a special Utopia Fest taping Saturday when they welcome the Bellmen, Holiday Mountain, and Henry & the Invisibles to the North Door. Available at the merch table will be the brand new Shakey Graves 7-inch, featuring two songs recorded at the local troubadour's breakout GMC taping last August.

› "Playback" is taking next week off to finish another tour with Black Eyed Vermillion (revisit Feb. 22 column, "Pastures of Plenty").

Charlie Faye's Break-Up

On her last album, Travels with Charlie, Austin-based singer-songwriter Charlie Faye surveyed America, recording 10 songs in 10 different cities. This time around, she stopped rambling and hunkered down in L.A. to record You Were Fine, You Weren't Even Lonely, which spins delicate Americana with traces of Stax-inspired soul. Faye wrote and recorded the bulk of the album with her boyfriend of five years Will Sexton, the somber tones and broken lyrics foreshadowing the disintegration of their relationship, which ended after the album's completion.

"We wrote these songs during the last two years of our relationship about how difficult it was to be together," Faye recalls. "We tried so hard, and you can hear that in the lyrics."

Faye plays those songs solo, plugging into her antique Califone record player as a vinyl pressing of her rhythm tracks spin behind her singing the soundtrack to their breakup.

"It feels great, because I don't feel stuck in the place I was when the songs were written," she reflects. "Then it was depressing. Now, I look at it as a great collaboration and the portrait of a moment in time where, despite the struggle, we made something beautiful."

Faye and her record player host an album release show at Strange Brew on Saturday, Aug 3.

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