10 Freaks and Geeks to Redefine Austin Music

Local passion projects with singular visions

Attic Ted


Photo by Christopher Paul Cordoza
Once upon a time in the Nineties, San Marcos artist Grady Roper bought a Hammond chord organ for $20. Because such an unlikely score demands tribute to the forces of random fortune, Roper founded Attic Ted, a warped reconstitution of carnival freakery utilizing the instrument as its musical fulcrum. Live at their local Thirst Fursdays residency of six years (long at Chain Drive and now at Badlands), elaborate box heads conceal the performers and sometimes even the audience as a cacophony of sound swirls. Roper uses a mic inside his mask to summon characters like the titular "Ted" and "Virginia Black," his female counterpart. "I comment on all sorts of relationship hang-ups and question gender roles and sexuality, and even offer the service of 'ménage à trois' in trade for accommodations while touring," explains Roper. Eschewing the binary, Attic Ted's latest, Parade Dust Mischief, was recorded on vintage analog equipment for the troupe's biggest sound yet. Roper's touring Eastern Europe this fall to celebrate, but he won't leave San Marcos for Austin. "I don't want to tell too many reasons why San Marcos is a better place to live," he confides. "I don't want a bunch of freshly transplanted Austin hipster jerk-offs moving down here." – Greg Beets

The Beaumonts


Photo by Cody Powell
Nudie suits, Stetsons, boot-stompin' 4/4 beats, barking Telecasters, cryin' steel guitar, anthems declaring "Ah like drankin', Ah like dancin', Ah like gittin' high" and "If you don't love the Lord, you're fuckin' fucked." Austin's always cottoned to hard country acts who'd sooner skewer the form than salute it: Kinky Friedman, the Geezinslaws, even the Hickoids. Famously claiming Panhandle origins, these pornographic outlaw country specialists actually hail from San Marcos while playing Austin religiously. In 2005, a loud guitar rock outfit called Hognose asked Triple Crown owner Eric Shaw if "our friends from Lubbock" could open their record release show. "We learned 30 minutes of material and it was a massive trainwreck," chuckles singer/guitarist Troy Wayne Delco, aka Todd Engram. "Which apparently is more entertaining than the well-rehearsed-and-executed stuff we were trying to do in Hognose." The alter ego overtook the host band to the point where Delco estimates the Beaumonts play 50 shows annually to Hognose's two, and have issued six full-lengths to Hognose's pair. They still use the "we gotta git back to Lubbock" ruse to get more money from Austin booking agents. "[Headhunters'] Billy Milano didn't know we were local guys for two years," grins Delco. – Tim Stegall

Big Bill


Photo by Bryan Parker
Pureeing nasally New Wave and garage-y power-pop into a neon green mush, Big Bill eschews conventions of gender, sexuality, and hipness onstage, cultivating the antithesis of devastatingly boring "regular guy syndrome" or, worse yet, the insipid "cool guy syndrome." Frontman Eric Braden, often in a dress and always sporting a glued-on unibrow, resembles a gender-bending caveman delivering surrealist observations. "In real life I'm normal-looking, reserved, and I don't enjoy being the center of attention," reveals the singer, who founded Big Bill locally with his brother, guitarist Cody Braden, in 2011. "But in a band you have this space and opportunity to be whatever you want to be. It should be interesting because you're literally the loudest person in the room." Big Bill's lysergic live show has a wondrous effect of tearing down audience inhibitions, but they're equally potent on the stereo. 2015's The Second Bill dealt a royal flush of cartoonish bizarro anthems about summoning evil spirits and searching for missing cats. "A lot of successful Austin artists are just singing about what good husbands they would be," assesses Eric. "My brother is quick to veto it any time I write a sensitive song!" – Kevin Curtin

Breakdancing Ronald Reagan


Photo by Nukkia Photography
Amongst a tangle of effects pedals plugged into a cheap mixer, Johnathan Cash strikes an ironic power stance as he screams over harsh noise creations: shirtless, pizza gut glistening, eyes obscured by ugly cop sunglasses, hair perfect. "I like to do a piss take of noise tropes," explains Austin's Breakdancing Ronald Reagan. "Noise can be this macho, edgy, borderline misogynist sort of thing, but I like to abuse that idea and skewer it into something absurd." His caustic compositions of skittering static, found sounds, and electronics frequently incorporate elements of cornball pop and regrettable alt-rock. His 2015 LP J.C. (Confessions of a Cyber Bully) includes twisted MIDI massacres of Shania Twain, Third Eye Blind, and Papa Roach. Since his arrival here five years ago, the Houston native's been a ringleader of the homegrown noise scene, hosting two annual staples: Sux by Suxwest and 9/11 Noisefest. The latter, next Sunday at Beerland, unites 50 noiseniks from around the nation including masked veterans the Haters and spoken word hero Bryan Lewis Saunders. For himself, Cash banks on big reactions live. "I can take a bad show that trainwrecks, like someone trying to pick a fight with me," he says. "I just can't handle lukewarm reactions. There's nothing worse than freaking out and screaming and then having people golf clap." – Kevin Curtin

Chasca


Photo by Maurice Eagle
Is Chasca the most eccentric band in Austin? Don't let anyone tell you otherwise! Often adorned in a war helmet and smeared, glittered makeup, frontman J.T. Martin exudes a Beetlejuice-like ringleader weirdness as he time travels to medieval Europe on the Millennium Falcon with David Bowie androgyny and Queen's heavy glam theatrics in tow. Before becoming the Rocky Horror Picture Show quintet of the Austin avant-garde, story has it is that Martin, Junior Scott (bassist), Brittany Paris (keys), and Sean Hannon (guitar) were on duty as former members of the Coast Guard and ran into Rod Stewart's agitated entourage on a yacht. After being hurled with insults and debris, Chasca "didn't want to be aimless swine anymore and were committed to oink like gods." Live, those oinks transform into messianic shrieks during bombastic performances as Martin teaches the 10 Commandments of Superstentialism. "It's basically a rip-off of Scientology, but less emphasis on Darth Vader and money, and more on Oscar Wilde and kinky sex," offers Martin. "Our beliefs demand that we give until we have nothing left in us. Just like the Olympian Steve Prefontaine." – Alejandra Ramirez

Cunto!


Among the most unreasonable spectacles in Austin, Cunto! shows rank near the top. Between badgering fans, wrecking stages, and a set list that celebrates the modern American experience of meth-addled, freedom-bating necro-incest, and glory holes, the punk-roots quintet obliterates any sense of decorum. "We did ourselves a favor when we named the band because that's always kept it fun," attests Julian Laney, who mans guitar and accordion. "No matter how good you get, you can't take it too damn seriously when you name the band Cunto!" Formed in 2010 with an ethos that sucks on the Dicks and Hickoids as forebears of confrontational and absurdist Capital City irreverence, Cunto!'s belligerence belies the talent that allows for chaos onstage. All five members, including Chronicle columnist Kevin Curtin, write and take turns inciting at the mic, which usually means dodging a barrage of trash thrown at them from the crowd. Cunto! takes as much shit as they dish. "It's just a complete mess. You feel bad seeing the doorman cleaning up and just cussing you, but it's also fucking awesome," says Laney. "We have huge love for all those places that put up with us, but we bring in good alcoholics, so it works out good for everybody."  – Doug Freeman

Gary Floater


The first time I tried to see Gary Floater he was a no-show. Something about law trouble with the Missouri State Highway Patrol and the molestation of an endangered bird. The excuse seemed legit but more followed every time he flaked on his own gig. Floater's a legend – a songwriter beyond compare and the greatest unsuccess story in local country music history – but reliable he ain't. Thankfully, his pals Brandon Wayne Akins, Puffy Dan Walters, Carlos Perkins, and more always come through, playing Floater classics like "That's When the Eagle Screams" and "It's High Time This Old Cowboy Quit Getting So Goldanged High" in loving tribute. We forgive Floater his many transgressions because he's an honest-to-God poet. He only spells at a first-grade level, but the man can paint pictures with words. In fact, sometimes those pictures – like a border town donkey show gone awry ("Y'all Watch This") and a deeply sad tale of truckstop self-love ("Holding On So Tight") – can never be unseen. – Thomas Fawcett

Francine Thirteen


Photo by Justina X
Francine Thirteen treats the stage like a sacred shrine, her avant R&B slowly unfolding between elaborate rituals. Over dark, brooding instrumentals she celebrates nature, the divine feminine, and all manner of black mysticism. It's wholly bizarre and utterly hypnotizing. "The rituals/ceremonies vary according to the seasons, astrological signs, and so on," reveals the Dallas native who now lives part time in Austin, where she does most of her recording. "I seek to bless my audience in some unique way." Francine was raised Baptist and says that's reflected in her vocal styling and movement onstage. She calls herself Francine Thirteen the SoundCloud Queen but aims to smash the patriarchy on forthcoming official debut 4 Marys and the King. As her stunning video for "Sovereign, Song of Auras" attests, sometimes the best way to do that is while rocking nothing more than jewelry, gemstones, a live snake, and gold body glitter. "Some have no clue/ I'm sovereign, it's true." If you need more shell divination and Gnostic Gospel references in your pop music, Francine Thirteen is the shero you've been waiting for. – Thomas Fawcett

Sailor Poon


Courtesy of Sailor Poon
"Eat me out, buy me shoes, make me cum, and then please leave," command the ladies of Sailor Poon on "Leather Daddy." The sonic, sexual equivalent of World War II's Rosie the Riveter iconography, the Austin sextet provides a rallying cry for the modern woman. They began January 2015 as a running joke, an act they told people about before there was even a band. After finally committing to a house show, the vulgar, arty Sailor Poon achieved far-reaching notoriety. Hammering key riffs like falling down stairs, knocking basslines, nails-on-chalkboard squeals, and throaty droning, their sonic mishmash and unpolished, polarizing energy embodies punk. Poon sounds like it's on the verge of exploding and raining freaky, feminist guts, and none of that even touches the live theatrical madness. Last year, after a publication inaccurately painted Sailor Poon as adolescents orchestrated by an older man to exploit their youth and sexuality, the ladies responded in true Poon fashion: "One of us hatched out of an egg as an intro to our performance, and then we brought a man-baby onstage to dance with us," the ladies recall. "But then he broke his crib and we had to put him in time-out." – Libby Webster

Laura Scarborough


Photo by Todd V. Wolfson
Originally from San Antonio, Laura Scarborough moved to Austin in 1992 to study music at the University of Texas. She earned a degree in classical piano, but what she's done since has been anything but classical. While Scarborough pursued her own musical vision in the early part of the century, most have seen and heard her add color to the music of Kat Edmonson and Suzanna Choffel. Recently she's Eyesus of Devices in the Golden Dawn Arkestra, where the dark-haired beauty majors in keys, vibraphone, the oddly played and otherworldly-sounding theremin, and performs with hula hoops, one of her many nonmusicial specialties. Around 2000, Scarborough founded the Massive Attack/Portishead-like Lila's Medicine, then started her own piano-based singer-songwriter thing. "Laura Scarborough's Musiklandia is songs that I've written over the years that haven't been released," she explains. "I've taken a good 10 years off, but really in my heart of hearts, it's who I am. I'm more of an artist than a performer." A record release event occurs Nov. 11 at Strange Brew. – Jim Caligiuri

READ MORE
More Weird 2016
Playback: 35 Years of <i>Chronicle</i> Music Covers
Playback: 35 Years of Chronicle Music Covers
We wade through the roughly 300 issues stamped with the mug of a musician

Kevin Curtin, Sept. 2, 2016

More by Greg Beets
Sunday ACL Fest Interview: Tank & the Bangas
Sunday ACL Fest Interview: Tank & the Bangas
Poetry fuels the lyrics of New Orleans band

Oct. 6, 2017

Texas Platters
Jean Caffeine
Sadie Saturday Nite (Record Review)

Sept. 1, 2017

More by Tim Stegall
Texas Platters
Leroi Brothers
Check This Action (Record Review)

Oct. 27, 2017

Texas Platters
ST 37
Fuck You, You Rule: ST 37's Greatest "Hits" (Record Review)

Oct. 20, 2017

More by Kevin Curtin
Playback: Revamping the Austin Music Poll
Playback: Revamping the Austin Music Poll
Here's how Playback's voting

Nov. 17, 2017

Still Unconquered: Israel Vibration
Still Unconquered: Israel Vibration
Roots uplifters grace Flamingo Cantina tonight

Nov. 14, 2017

KEYWORDS FOR THIS STORY

Weird 2016, Attic Ted, Beaumonts, Big Bill, Chasca, Johnathan Cash, Cunto!, Gary Floater, Francine Thirteen, Sailor Poon, Laura Scarborough

MORE IN THE ARCHIVES
NEWSLETTERS
AC Daily, Events and Promotions, Luvdoc Answers

Breaking news, recommended events, and more

Official Chronicle events, promotions, and giveaways

Updates for SXSW 2017

All questions answered (satisfaction not guaranteed)