Austin Bands Worth Knowing: The Laughing
The ways to get me on board with a band are pretty standard: a unique lead singer, catchy melodies, and a good beat. Plenty of bands provide that, in Austin and in the “Indie” rock scene that has become so big in the last few years. But not very many bands compel me to buy their music. I’ve heard and enjoyed several MGMT songs, and have had no subsequent interest to find out what they’re doing next; TV on the Radio, on the other hand, demanded my attention with one single song, and so far they can do no wrong in my eyes. So it also goes with local music, for me. I can’t speak for other cities, and I haven’t heard this reflected in popular music, but there is a movement here in Austin of bands with a sort of driving, noisy, dirty psychadelic-but-not-in-an-annoying-way rock that would be at home, snug, right in the soundtrack of a movie featuring a near-future American wasteland as some ragged matte black muscle car with external wrecked parts cobbled together from junk and greasy, charcoal smoke pouring from the exhaust speeds down a desolate highway. The music evokes a world where achievement is measured no more by houses, job benefits, and shiny new threads.
I caught one of these bands about 4 years ago at a local place called Mohawk, one of the more popular venues for showcasing those indie bands we love to swill our cheap beer to, when they were opening for who-knows-who. Their stage show, originally comprised of three dudes and more instruments than you can shake a three-string stick at, was an audible assault that made you feel crazy. Their drummer is tireless and their lead singer gives you the impression he’s unaware that anyone else is around as he fixes his gaze firmly downward and shakes frantically through every song. I was broke the first time I saw them (this is common), so I purchased no music, and shortly after the second time I saw them, they disappeared from the music scene for what seemed an eternity. I nearly forgot about them, when they showed up for several shows during Free Week. They were now stripped-down, with a new member on keyboards. Each member stuck to his instrument, and the sound certainly did not suffer for it. The experience was far more pleasing, in fact, with each performer more free to move about the stage, making the live show as entertaining as ever.
I bought their first full-length album, Fever, later that year at a show, and it quickly became a favorite. It is an reverb-laden, heavily-percussive jaunt into what sounds like a night of fitful (fever)dreams, every song weighty and pregnant with catchy melodies. I almost want to call the sound frothy, but I’m starting to feel like I’m describing a fancy beer. The point is, this is a band that doesn’t seem to have garnered much attention even in Austin, much less the rest of the country, but ought to be on everyone’s watch list.