Fuck Money, Unmasked: The Solid Core of Austin's Most Unhinged Noise Band

"We reserve the right to say no to shit"

Fuck bitches, get honey: Jeremy Humphries, Bill Kenny, TaSzlin Trébuchet, and Alton Jenkins on the masked singer’s South Austin property (Photo by John Anderson)

"Primarily, I suppose, I like aggressive music – playing it, listening to it – but it's not for the aggression."

Bill Kenny's words come slowly, deliberately. Hand on his knee, knee on a chair, chair set beside a microphone he himself has placed – the guitarist speaks of his craft like a man who decades ago figured out the appropriate confidence to draw from it.

"Music, for me, is not some cathartic purge. It's not about transmitting an urgent political imperative right to the surface," Kenny emphasizes. "If we're aggressive, we're loud, we're wild, this is simply because we are executing a thing we have made."

Restraint, humility, sober reticence, thy name is ... hmm, well, I guess thy name is Fuck Money.

And the thing is, compared to his bandmates, Kenny's stance kinda sorta near the center of Fuck Money's studio/practice space is positively gaudy. After warning me that none of them are "interview people," the remaining members disappear into liminal spaces throughout the room. Drummer Alton Jenkins settles into my right-hand blind spot on the opposite end of a couch. Bassist Jeremy Humphries tucks himself alongside a fridge-sized amp and thereafter avoids even once opening his mouth; he smiles very sweetly as his bandmates field questions.

Most striking is vocalist TaSzlin Trébuchet, who lives on the spacious South Austin property and keeps bees in the backyard. Recusing himself immediately from any possible "frontman" designation, he bashfully dismisses himself as "but an instrument," and nestles accordingly behind a piano. On three awkward occasions throughout the interview, his answers – gentle-voiced and sincere – will be punctuated by an accidental hit of the keys.

As far as in-your-face attitude goes, a single sign on top of the hardwood lid does the heavy lifting: "No cocaine on the piano, please." Actually, never mind, scratch that. The most punk rock thing in this room is Kenny's gargantuan, floor-fucking pedalboard.

"It used to be bigger, actually. Fifteen years as a pedal addict ... there's whole generations of setups," Kenny muses. "But the thing about Fuck Money is, if I lost everything except distortion, I think we'd be okay."

Distortion is indeed the thing. Every element that makes Fuck Money Austin's scariest, sexiest, most unclassifiable new(ish) band emerges from the fact that you cannot see them (literally in the case of the barking, manic Trébuchet, who – be it in ghillie suits, jumpers, or head-to-toe body socks – always takes the stage in imposing obscurity). Dense with industrial backwash, the group doesn't write songs so much as they scatter elements of song across surging soundscapes of pure dislocation.

The experience of listening is a bit like admiring your wardrobe from inside of a whirring dryer. Occasionally some colorful bit of fabric will fly past your eyes: one of Jenkins' virtuosic popcorn snare fills, Trébuchet in the moment his howls first bend screaming toward melody, or the hypnotic chug of Humphries' bass – faint and pulsating underneath Kenny's collagist feedback skronk. But, mostly, you're getting banged up and spun the fuck around in the dark.

There is an otherworldly quality to the currently available 15 minutes of recorded Fuck Money material; the self-titled 2022 EP on San Diego experimental label Three One G creates the uncanny sensation of a band coming at you from all directions. At one time, I would have claimed this feeling impossible to replicate live. That was before I turned around on Parish's mezzanine to find a figure dressed in a full-body black unitard humping the air behind my head.

Fuck Money's May performance opening for the Octopus Project is already disseminating into Austin gig legend. About five minutes into the set, the Brushy Street venue was descended upon by a swarm of similarly garbed Trébuchet-alikes – trained dancers from local company BLiPSWiTCH (Jenkins is longtime friends with co-founder Alex Miller). Some mirrored the vocalist onstage while others threw around in the mosh pit or terrorized patrons idling at the bar.

Thankfully, the real Trébuchet was not lost amidst the surge of mimics. Near the end of the show he ripped his mask off, revealing his sweat-flecked face. This has become a hallmark of every Fuck Money performance. No matter how thick Trébuchet's garb at the start, you'll eventually catch a naked glimpse of the man beneath. With the band maintaining performance-length silence, the unveiling always provides a welcome moment of release.

According to Jenkins, the BLiPSWiTCH stunt emerged from his desire to do something "unique" with the "weird, unexploited" multilevel Parish interior. When the drummer approached Trébuchet looking for ideas, his bandmate already had a vision in mind: "I wanted to put people in the song," he explains, "a three-dimensional sort of situation, with a multidimensional version of me."

“It’s like, ‘No, I don’t care about getting a Yeti cooler or fucking soccer jersey or some shit.’ Fuck Money is a real piece of art. It’s not here to help you sell alcohol.” – TaSzlin Trébuchet

Whether it be assaultive music videos that broadcast useless, strobing epilepsy warnings or the South by Southwest 2021 showcase where Trébuchet scattered hundreds of dollar bills inscribed with their band name, the Fuck Money fandom experience has generally been a tempestuous one – pockmarked by all sorts of mischievous conceptual monkeyshines. The band , you think, must surely exist as a vehicle toward some sort of determined radical end. Motoring up the long driveway to their wooded studio space, my goofyass mind strayed unavoidably to romanticized images of commune living and terrorist compounds. But, in truth, Fuck Money operates as if the Symbionese Liberation Army or the Baader-Meinhof Gang made bombs just because they were skilled at it.

"We don't think about artistic 'identity.' In fact, it's very unpredictable to us," Kenny explains. "Fuck Money is what it is by the sum of its parts."

"We're at a point in our artistry where we play what we play because it feels good," Jenkins elaborates. "In our last band, I felt really like I needed to prove something, push myself. But now I'm just indulging myself, living inside the impulses that just come naturally in our own connectivity as musicians."

Jenkins, Kenny, and Humphries have been playing together in some form for over 10 years. That "last band" was the zippy and sugar-damaged Future Death, which cycled through a succession of female vocalists before going on indefinite hiatus as the group figured out its next permutation. "Fuck Money" was a phrase that Kenny used to scrawl flippantly on the side of Future Death merch. When I suggest they've preemptively stolen the name away from some more bone-deep activist band, a general murmur of sheepish agreement rises from the trio. Then, a dissenting voice.

Photo by John Anderson

"See, I love the name," Trébuchet says. "For me, it says, 'We reserve the right to say no to shit.' I feel like in Austin, as an artist, people expect you to do things according to this unspoken program. It's like, 'No, I don't care about getting a Yeti cooler or fucking soccer jersey or some shit.' Fuck Money is a real piece of art. It's not here to help you sell alcohol."

"We're so lucky for TaSz," Jenkins marvels at his impassioned bandmate. "I know [he was] dealing with some stuff for a long time, but he's always had the magic, and he's at a moment where he's tapping into it with full clarity and full momentum."

Jenkins and Trébuchet have wanted to collaborate since meeting as neighbors on the Eastside in the late 2000s, but Trébuchet says Fuck Money never could have happened before this moment. Before our conversation I'm instructed to largely avoid discussion of Trébuchet's most notable previous band, BLXPLTN, a project with Urban Heat's Jonathan Horstmann once described by the Chronicle as "Austin's most politically compelling act." Trébuchet explains,"I'm looking ahead."

Later, he admits that in the past his artistic expression had often felt "contrived" – its political content "regurgitated from things [I saw] on the news," his stage presence "exoticized" and perched dangerously on substances for confidence. But just as working with the vocalist has helped his bandmates unlock new capabilities, so too does their decade-strong interplay and stable "creative atmosphere" offer Trébuchet the support to finally push himself as an artist (that and also four hard-won years of sobriety). Together, they're looking ahead to upcoming singles produced with White Denim's James Petralli, a yet-to-be-recorded debut album, and aspirations to tour Europe and Japan.

"Now that I finally feel safe, I feel like I'm channeling a lot of authentic frustration that's been trying to get out," Trébuchet says. In sharp contrast to his bandmates, "for me, the aggression is cathartic sometimes."

Trébuchet accidentally hits a piano key again. This seems to draw his attention back to where it so frequently goes onstage: outside himself, multidimensional shit.

"Fuck Money, right? I'm trying to get people to focus on that bigass eye on top of that pyramid," he says. "Hopefully now I'm putting across shit that's happening from more of a bird's-eye view."

As we walk outside onto the property's massive soccer field, Trébuchet mentions that somewhere, hidden in the sky, are three turkey vultures named Edgar, Allan, and Poe.

"You think they're these violent, sneaky things," he says, gazing up toward the lowering sun. "But, you know what? They're cool. I want to try and raise them like dogs or something."

Fuck Money plays with clipping., Clams Casino, Prison Religion, and Domino at Mohawk on Saturday, June 17, as part of Oblivion Access. Find our full preview of the homegrown festival here.

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Fuck Money, Bill Kenny, Alton Jenkins, Jeremy Humphries, TaSzlin Trébuchet, Three One G, James Petralli

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