Friday Free Week Stoner Jam: Duel

“Free Week is a magic window of time”

Stoner lord vox, Seventies metal tunings, and a doom-braised Kraken rumble all steam roll Austin quartet Duel. Headlining tonight’s all-star gathering of like-minded locals at Swan Dive for Free Week, frontman Tom Frank fielded our five queries. “Lucky for both of us my edible just kicked in,” he emailed, “and I’ve decided to give this my FULL attention.”

Duel’s redrum: (l-r) Shaun Avants (bass), Tom Frank (vocals, guitar), Jeff Henson (guitar), JD Shadowz (drums)

Austin Chronicle: Free Week, genuine exposure or sham to not pay bands!?

Tom Frank: I think it’s great. Free Week is a magic window of time when a promoter can put together a “dream” bill with some the best local talent available and pretty much no overhead costs to fret about. The bands are more than happy to set aside what they deem their hard fought value to play for fun and local clout.

It’s no secret shows are very well attended during this time and it’s considered prestigious among local artists if you’re chosen to play one of these shows as a free gift to the wider Austin music scene. I’ve also heard it’s considered a kind of apology to our local scene for what’s about to ensue during SXSW, where you will absolutely not feel at home where you normally do. Your favorite spot is sold to the highest bidder for one week.

Either way, it’s cool. It’s a big party and the bands choose to do this to have fun and feel appreciated. Since there’s no cover, the promoters aren’t making anything really. The venue has higher than normal bar sales, but they’re also covering sound and production costs that would normally be the promoter’s expense.

So it all works out. If anyone profits, it’s people attending the show, which is the idea.

AC: STACKED bill. Free Week shows sometimes come off haphazard, so in this case, who knew what they were doing via the booking?

TF: Thanks!! This is a show I put together. It’s the seventh Stoner Jam. I do about four or five a year. For the past few years, I’ve been booking a lot of metal and stoner shows mostly for fun and to strengthen our heavy music scene. It’s been a blast! There are so many great, tripped-out heavy bands right now, especially in Texas. The Austin scene for this is absolutely killer.

I think having these big shows where lots of these bands are all playing together, seeing each other, sharing gear, and hanging out is super healthy for our scene. The bar gets raised higher and higher musically. You really feel bands pushing each other and amazing times ensue!

Also, regional styles or a particular sound comes from a scene like this. We’ve all seen it happen. Like Seattle in the Nineties or New York in the late Seventies. That’s culture!

AC: STACKED bill! Please handicap the bands for our readers.

TF: Stacked bill with only a handful of the bands I wish would fit. Two side-by-side stages will alternate. A band plays a 30-minute set and the next one starts immediately after, all night. It really works out great. The energy level never dips in the room.

I had it booked for indoor/outdoor one year with 11 bands, and we had this freak ice storm and almost had to cancel half the bands. Jason Morales from Tia Carrera, who was playing that night, had the idea to do two stages inside and it went really cool! The bands playing are somewhat of the same old-school stoner ilk, but all have their own sound.

I see Duel as more dark, Seventies rock, while Sweatlodge has more of a trippy wall of sound. Tia Carrera is an all-instrumental threepiece doing mind-melting improv. Communion is ultra heavy and doomy. Bridge Farmers remind me of a much gnarlier, heavier-hitting Hawkwind. Ladykiller is straight-up sleazy motorcycle metal. Heavy Chills, by the name alone, is more laid back groove and boogie metal.

AC: Duel made some progress in 2016. Can you recap and share what’s in store for 2017?

TF: 2016 was amazing for us! We formed mid 2015, played our first shows in the fall, and did some domestic DIY runs out to the West coast and down South, just building up our stage time and content. We also recorded an EP before going after a label. Our full-length [Fear of the Dead] came out February 2016 on Heavy Psych Sounds Records in Rome, Italy. They’re a great, up-and-coming label breaking lots of bands from all over, especially the United States.

The record gained a lot of buzz simply because of a few specific people in the music industry who had really liked it and wrote about it. We did a 30-day tour of Italy, France, Switzerland, and Germany in March 2016 right after the release. Then we were asked to come back again just this last October to play some of the big festivals: Desert Fest in Antwerp, Belgium; Keep It Low in Munich, Germany; and Heavy Psych Fest in Parma, Italy. We did three more weeks of European shows around this. All went really amazing.

We’re now recording our second record with our guitar player, Jeff Henson, who also produced our first record. This is at his lakeside studio, Red Nova Ranch, way out in the sticks. We’re stoked at how it’s coming out! It’s set for release in April on Heavy Psych Sounds and another 30-day run is booked for May, taking us to Sweden, Denmark, Greece, and other common Western European countries.

AC: Your influences please, both as a bandleader and guitarist.

TF: My influences as a guitarist: I want to be Glenn Tipton and K.K. Downing from Judas Priest rolled into one, but I don’t have the chops. It ends up coming out more Bo Diddley or Rob Tyner (MC5), which is cool. I’m really influenced by heavy riffers like Leslie West and Ted Nugent, and of course the darker players like Tony Iommi and Ritchie Blackmore.

As a frontman, my influences are more the eccentric freaks I wish I could emulate. Freddy Mercury, to me, is the ultimate badass. Then there’s Rob Halford, Ozzy, Dio. I’m not sure exactly how I sound, but I know I don’t sound like that.

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Duel, Free Week 2017, Stoner Jam, Tom Frank, Jeff Henson, Jason Morales, Tia Carrera, Sweatlodge, Communion, Bridge Farmers, Ladykiller, Heavy Chills, Heavy Psych Sounds Records, Red Nova Ranch, Judas Priest, Black Sabbath, Leslie West, Queen

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