Casual Victim Pile

Hometown SXSW showcasing sampler

Casual Victim Pile
Photo by John Anderson

The Sour Notes

SXSW showcase: Wednesday, March 17, the Hideout, 12mid

No one was more surprised than Jared Boulanger when Waterloo Records cut him a $600 check for his record collection. The Sour Note figured they'd take most of it, but not every last piece. Said stake then paid for the local pop quartet's second album, 2009's Received in Bitterness, but today in the Chronicle bubbleplex, the skinny Boulanger finds himself jobless, thankful for food stamps, and indebted to his girlfriend. Heartbroken as he may be about his music library, the Sour Notes' third disc, It's Not Gonna Be Pretty, was worth the struggle.

"I'm not afraid to say this album will be the best record I'll ever put out," he told us in January, and six weeks later the 29-year-old singer-songwriter still believes. "I call the new album the best I'll ever do just because the songs came together all in a row like a stream of consciousness," he explains. "Everything always sounded right. There wasn't ever a point in the recording or the writing process where we were like, 'What should we do here?' The way the songs flow in and out of each other just feels perfect to me. I don't think I'll get that perfection again with this kind of sound.

"From the beginning up until this album, we've been on the wave, getting more experimental and louder and faster and more rock & roll. All the elements of our four [releases] are on this one. The first one's kinda quiet, the second one's garage-y, then we put out the 7-inch, and it was rock-sounding. It's Not Gonna Be Pretty encompasses everything I've ever tried to do. The next one, even though there will still be elements of the Sour Notes' sound on it, needs to be a new direction, because you can't just keep feeding people the same ol' song and dance."

Somewhere between Fountains of Wayne's Teflon hooks and the Shins' minor-key reveries, the Sour Notes – Boulanger, multi-instrumentalist Chris Page, keyboardist Elaine Greer, and drummer Travis Hackett – emote anything but the same ol' song and dance, especially here in cow town.

"Totally," humbles Boulanger, who moved to Austin from Houston in 2008. "I think that's been our biggest struggle so far. Not only did I move here knowing nobody and not having any connections – and having to start from nothing – we don't have that niche. We don't fit into a certain group. I feel like there's a scene within the Austin music scene, people who have that sound, like Strange Boys and Harlem. That's a really popular sound right now, and people love it. I love both those bands. But I don't think they'd accept us in their scene. Not because other bands sound better or worse, it's just their scene."

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