SXSW Picks 2 Click 2008
"There was no future in playing music in Beaumont."
Elliott Frazier probably isn't the first person to ever say that, but the fact that a deep, heavy band like Ringo Deathstarr sprung from a humid, marshy, East Texas Gulf town gives the statement a nice "it came from beyond" glow.
"Collectively, our previous bands were trying to change [the scene]," Frazier recalls, "and it seemed like the shows were getting bigger; bands like La Snacks started playing. But now La Snacks is the only survivor, and half of them live here. Back then we had only two music venues, a gay bar called the Copa and a coffee shop called the Dorm Room, which shut down after the punks vandalized it."
In the 200-odd miles between Beaumont and Austin, the number of lineup changes was staggering, with Frazier the only constant. "I could have thrown in the towel," he says, "but even though we played some really, really crappy shows, I felt like the songs were worth the struggle of finding the perfect members."
Two years after forming, the group finally solidified last year with guitarist Renan McFarland, bassist Alex Gehring, and drummer Dustin Gaudet. Ringo Deathstarr's gauzy sound crystallized on 2007's five-song, self-titled EP, which was recorded with Stephen Hablinski of For Those Who Know before the current lineup and released on UK label Spoilt Victorian Child as well as the group's own Real Cool Trash label. Frazier says their particular sound was seeded long ago.
"I had seen so many bands that sounded exactly like the Rapture or AC/DC or Green Day but not anyone that sounded like Jesus & Mary Chain or My Bloody Valentine. In Beaumont, you definitely didn't have anything even close. I had listened to Starflyer 59 for years, and none of my friends wanted to play music like that. To see our name alongside great bands like that in record reviews, I'm a little tickled."
The blogosphere has noticed all right. On the group's MySpace appears a roughly translated, but oddly Zen, review from an Italian blog: "... immersed inside atmospheres burnt from the high vapor of temperatures and wrapping. Distortions that come from some nightmare of Wes Craven: here the grandchild of the brothers Reid."
While they certainly sound like the orgiastic coupling of Psychocandy and Loveless, songs like "Down on You" and EP opener "Swirly" are instantly narcotic in their own way, at once massive and soft under a wash of warped guitar – the kind that fills the brain with electric pleasure. Live, they're not such delicate flowers. The group likes short sets, and when playing Emo's last December, Frazier ended the show tangled up in drums.
"I've seen lots of people kick over drums and throw guitars, but I always enjoyed it when people jumped into the drums. The inside photo of Nirvana's Bleach really had an impact on me."
SXSW showcase: Wednesday, March 12, 12mid @ the Hideout