The Black

SXSW Picks 2 Click 2008

The Black
Photo by Todd V. Wolfson

Alan Schaefer and David Longoria slouch back into the couch. Schaefer's living room is spacious and uncluttered, allowing the late-afternoon light to cast an incandescent glow that catches soft specks of dust in a lingering dance. Against the back wall, a sectioned bookcase shelves rows of records, one block stacked with copies of the Black's new 12-inch Donna EP.

"We're pretty obvious vinyl freaks," laughs Schaefer, reaching back to pull out an original 1958 Atlantic pressing of Chuck Willis' The King of the Stroll. "We both dig pretty deep for stuff, buy lots of vinyl, and we both look at a lot of blogs that put up MP3s of original 78s and 45s."

Appropriate, then, that the two should meet while rifling through the vinyl bins of Sound Exchange. Schaefer, five years older than his counterpart and already friends with Longoria's sister, joined the Black in the fall of 2004, then consisting of Longoria and his roommate, Andy Morales. The group's 2005 debut, Tanglewood, split songwriting credits between Schaefer and Longoria but mined both of their archival instincts to excavate an upbeat set of retro-garage pop and Southern country-rock that hearkens Dylan and the Band.

"I'll be the first to admit we're drawing from music from 40 or 50 years ago, but we're always thinking about what we're going to do to make it stand out, take the old form and spin it just a little bit and make it our own thing and not something simply derivative," explains Schaefer. "It's good having two primary songwriters and then mixing that with a group that's able to jump on and put their part into the arrangements. I guess we end up, not necessarily consciously, hitting all the different bits of styles that we want to bring in."

The Black may also embody Austin's indie scene more than any other band. The juxtaposition of Schaefer and Longoria alone is strikingly indicative, the former's laid-back intellectualism reflecting the culture's classic slacker roots while the latter's stylish wardrobe, sharp black hair, and playfully sly smile embrace the suave. Though having cemented their core quartet with drummer Yamal Said and bassist Ryan Hall, the group also involves an expansive collective of Austin's elite, whether being joined by members of Voxtrot and Trail of Dead or serving as Pink Nasty's backing band.

Following a third-straight South by Southwest appearance, the Black takes to the road this spring with the Golden Boys for a West Coast tour. They're also prepping a new single for release later this year.

"I think we'll do a 45 release, just to get more of our vinyl urge out," offers Schaefer. "We've gone backward, from the LP to the EP to a 45. I think we're supposed to do it the other way around."

SXSW showcase: Thursday, March 13, 8pm @ Dirty Dog Bar

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