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8 Mile

An Austin octet of SXSW Picks 2 Click™

By Kevin Curtin, Fri., Feb. 28, 2014

8 Mile
Photo by John Anderson

Zorch

Tue., March 11, North Door, 11pm

Consider how just two musicians summon the sonic tornado of joyous electro-madness that is Zorch.

Face-to-face, Zac Traeger and Sam Chown take their places and power up. Speckled by roving lasers, illustrative of the Austin duo's future psych, they come to life in a robo-blitz of jaw-dropping dexterity, speaking a secret language of math and mania.

Headbanging, Traeger appears to have grown a third arm as he works a keyboard setup that includes a Moog monosynth, on which he plays bass notes and generates arpeggios; a Prophet '08 analog keyboard; and a MIDI controller that triggers samples from his laptop. Each spastic composition from Zorch utilizes dozens, even hundreds of homemade samples.

Chown, meanwhile, makes most drummers look like they're napping. His wiry arms go berserk on an acoustic kit augmented with an electronic sample pad, while he sings lead vocals into a headset microphone that's run through a convoluted collection of pedals and stereo effects. Midsong, he'll pop one foot on the drum throne, lay an electronic autoharp over his knee, and flutter rapidly between two chords.

These are dedicated musicians who honed their considerable talents at Berklee College of Music, only to have eccentric tastes lead them away from convention and into the obscure lands of glitchy, synth-driven, psychedelic jazz-pop. Their wild sounds have caught the ear of oddball extraordinaire Wayne Coyne, leader of the Flaming Lips, who last summer invited Zorch to be the first band to play at his Oklahoma City art space, the Womb. More recently, Coyne asked Chown and Traeger to record a version of "Good Morning Good Morning" for a potential Sgt. Pepper project.

"I think Wayne sees us as younger weirdos carrying the torch of neo-psych," laughs Chown.

Zorch, who got an expert lift last year when they signed to L.A. indie Sargent House and released dynamite debut Zzoorrcchh, plans to have a laid-back SXSW.

"We'll play at least seven, maybe 10 shows," shrugs Traeger. "It will be the least amount of shows we've played during a South by Southwest."

In 2012, they played 19 sets, a Herculean feat when coupled with helping book the Escapes concert series at Club 1808 and South by South Mess at premier campus hang the 21st Street Co-op. What return have they seen on that investment?

"Well, we haven't got any white dudes in suits with cigars saying, 'I'm gonna make you famous!'" notes Traeger. "But a big part of South by Southwest is helping your friends from out of town. Everyone needs shows and doesn't know what's going on."

"It's all about paying it forward," adds Chown. "We make friends and build relationships, and you never know where that's going to lead to."

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