An Austin octet of SXSW Picks 2 Click™
OBN III'sFri., March 14, Hotel Vegas Patio, 8:25pm
"He was popping off a bit. Then I was in the crowd at one point, and he was being too forceful with me."
Orville Bateman Neeley III sits in the kitchen of the East Austin house he shares with two others, including Flesh Lights guitarist Max Vandever. He's been up an hour this frigid February day, having played the night before at Beerland, which hosted the January 2010 debut of the band bearing Neeley's initials, the OBN III's. While he rips newly mailed CDs of Seventies Detroit proto-punk legends Sonic's Rendezvous Band and Ohio Nineties garage punks the Cheater Slicks onto his laptop and sips coffee, he explains how he got two rather large and painful-looking lumps on his face.
"I was like, 'Hey, man! Fuck off! Stop!' Then he threw a beer right in my face – the whole beer. Not tossed it at me. He threw the whole can at me!"
This resulted in the heckler being thumped with Neeley's own full tallboy and ejected from the Red River cavern by one of the bandleader's friends. Then another audience acquaintance punched the singer in the eye, yet claimed he was not angry at him. The OBN III's catalyze strong emotions in their audiences.
Formed to fill a slot at Beerland and whipping together a 30-minute set in two weeks, the OBN III's quickly became local garage-punk royalty. Their fame spread when Britain's NME filmed them playing on the Beerland sidewalk during SXSW 2011. Two LPs for Chicago's Tic Tac Totally, various 45s, and a limited edition live release for Matador Records impresario Gerard Cosley's local imprint 12XU, plus tours with luminaries like Thee Oh Sees, piece together a complete package. Neeley doesn't seem satisfied.
Playing in bands since age 13 in a Houston suburb, he's habitually had simultaneous membership in three or more bands since high school. Currently, he also leads the Bad Sports, boasting last year's Bras LP on indie Dirtnap. For the last year, his music has supported him, which is apropos given the quality of Neeley's songwriting on tracks like "No Enemies" from OBN III's bow The One and Only and "No Way to Rock n Roll" off 2012's self-titled LP. Both are notably more developed than most garage-punk outfits, a classification Neeley chafes at.
"We're a de facto garage band, because we practice and record in a garage, but I don't relate with a lot of the so-called 'garage' stuff these days."
He warns that the next studio LP, due in May, is "a hard-rock record." Changes are also forthcoming in what's been a steady lineup: Neeley, guitarists Jason Smith and Andrew Cashen, bassist Graham Low, and drummer Matt Hammer. The frontman wants to shake up what he feels has become a "stale" musical dynamic, and play more guitar.
"I'd rather be doing that than being a shitty Iggy Pop."