Faster Than Sound: School’s Out for Dayglow
Nineteen-year-old Sloan Struble leaves UT for the bedroom-pop big leagues, while two new area record stores make their debuts
The day before moving to Austin for college last summer, Sloan Struble finished up a Play-Doh-looking sculpture of his own head. The wonky likeness of the blond and smiley songwriter emblazoned his debut album, Fuzzybrain, under the sunny pseudonym Dayglow. With some 9 million plays on Spotify for the bright bedroom- pop piece, 19-year-old Struble won't be back on campus anytime soon.
"It's been so much change over and over, where weeks felt like years," says the Texas native, recently freed from freshman finals. "I feel like I went through all the transformation someone goes through during college in just a year."
After enrolling at UT-Austin, Struble self-released the LP in September, riding off some interest in sticky single "Can I Call You Tonight?" Early attention from indie blog Honey Punch fueled placement on chilled-out Spotify playlists, Struble's effervescence aligning with streaming megawatts like Rex Orange County and Peach Pit. This year delivered cassette and vinyl releases of Fuzzybrain on Nashville's petite Acrophase Records.
California artist Ginger Root now takes Struble on Texas dates, including this Friday indoors at Stubb's. Come October, he debuts beyond his home state on tour with major-label trio Coin. Seems Struble has stumbled into the arena of synth-pop boy bands and floppy-haired solo acts. Like a musical version of LaCroix sparkling water, they're fun, fizzy, and most people would like it all right if offered.
"Multiple times a day, I think, 'Holy cow, this is crazy,'" admits the singer/guitarist, whose current backing band includes six-stringer Nate Davis, keyboardist Nico Fennell, bassist Eric Loop, and drummer Brady Knippa of Big Wy's Brass Band. "I'm very blessed."
Struble began producing on GarageBand at age 10, using loops and samples "like song Legos." Into middle school, he emulated Christian mainstreams Owl City and Relient K before going through a major dubstep phase. YouTube tutorials upped his production chops, first aired as layered SoundCloud project Kindred under the influence of MGMT and Passion Pit's poppy electronics.
During high school, Struble recorded all of Fuzzybrain from his childhood bedroom in Aledo, just outside of Ft. Worth.
"I couldn't fathom other people being interested in what I was interested in, so I learned to play all the parts and shape my own sound," he reflects. "Being on a farm with goats, I had to use the internet as my guide."
In recent months, Dayglow got a major boost from reigning teen YouTube queen Emma Chamberlain via her Instagram. (She's also pushed Austin act Summer Salt.) Now, a partnership with Nashville's Foundations Artist Management assures he won't be finishing an advertising degree.
Although Struble is back in Aledo for the summer, he wants to make Austin a permanent home this August. We met while he was in town shooting a video for the persistently upbeat "Hot Rod," which opens with audio of his mom sweetly encouraging him in a childhood home video. Catchy croons and guitar jangles follow closely.
"I want optimism to be evident in my music," Struble asserts. "I don't think there's enough optimistic artists right now."
Now Open: Astro Record Store & Feels So Good Records
School letting out ushered two new vinyl-loving locales into the Austin area. Amid the metalhead hubbub of Austin Terror Fest, cowboy-boot-clad locals descended on the June 8 opening of Feels So Good Records, situated right next to Barracuda's entrance on East Seventh. On May 25, Astro Record Store popped up on our southeast neighbor Bastrop's downtown Pine Street.
After attempting to start a record label, Justin Weems, owner of East Austin screenprinting shop Fine Southern Gentlemen, landed on a record store instead. Barracuda co-owner Jason McNeely offered their adjoining storage/green room – a tiny space under 300 square feet, now lined with retro wood paneling and Southwestern flair. The cubby combines Weems' vinyl stock with that of partners Felipe Granados, Marcos Jorge, and Taylor Perio, along with vintage clothes and fresh tees from Weems' store.
Under the care of Granados, who previously sold vinyl out of his dad's dry cleaning business in McAllen, the store reflects the founders' collective love for vintage rock, country, and Texan artists. A few new local pressings make it into the mix, many of which were stocked from the recent Austin Record Convention. Weems surprised himself in letting go of a pricey Roky Erickson original for their first-ever sale.
"When you sell the good records that you're proud of, you get a little bit scared," considers Weems of the early buzz. "We're planning another trip this weekend to pick through some old records in small towns at antique shops."
A veteran seller at the Austin Record Convention, Englishman Kevin Mawby finally found a worthy home for his expansive collection at Astro. He toted his treasure trove to Texas following Hurricane Katrina, which forced the closure of his previous Magic Bus storefront in New Orleans. His bright Texas shop came together in just a few weeks after the perfect 1,000-square-foot location opened up in Bastrop's historic downtown area.
Intended as "a crate-digger's dream," the store focuses exclusively on used records, embellished by CDs and memorabilia. Mawby will expand hours next month after leaving his longtime gig with national education program Head Start, and plans to collaborate on events with neighboring Copper Shot Distillery. Settling in, he's enjoyed watching curious pickers flock to unsorted collections as they come in.
"The artistic people are getting moved out of Austin, and the ones coming this way still want to go to an independent record shop," remarks Mawby of his busy first weeks. "It's all very symbiotic. I feel like I'm fulfilling a service I didn't know was needed."
Electric Lady Bird, the Austin Public Library's online music-streaming site, accepts song submissions from local musicians until June 30. If selected by local judges, musicians will receive a payout of $200 on LPs and $100 on EPs for a three-year nonexclusive contract. For a sampling of library-loving Austinites from the first round – like Thor & Friends, Fuvk, and Hard Proof – stream the "Electric Lady Bird Sampler Platter" at www.atxlibrary.musicat.co.
Local punk septet Blood finally put its intensive poetics to tape, celebrated live by indoor moshers at last Saturday's Bill Ball 4. Frontman Tim O'Brien's perfect post-punk croon splits his lovely and anarchistic abilities between "Intro" and "Primitive Priest." The immersive team elegantly spun a broken-string lapse into a deadpan infomercial for the cassette during their trumpet-and-cello-inclusive weekend set. Buy in at bloodatx.bandcamp.com.
Texas Folklife premieres its summer audio documentary series "Women in the Austin Music Scene" Friday, June 21, in Bass Lecture Hall at the LBJ School of Public Affairs. The docs were crafted during a weeklong Stories Summer Institute training program, led by UT professor Dr. Rachel González-Martin and open to applicants from the local community. One story features Austin jazz legend Connie Jo Kirk.