Austin’s Club 1808 felt like a soul-food roadhouse yesterday as some young dudes who clearly dig Sebadoh worked through their tight, efficient set. In the bright sun of the backyard stage, Jeff Moore, the guitarist and frontman of Dead Stars, looked younger than he had when he played a show in dreary New York last week, and bassist John Watterberg — who was excited about playing on the bright backyard stage after a long winter of playing indoors — quickly became flushed.
Moore’s voice often tore out over the music in surprising ways (he did, after all, go as Kurt Cobain for Halloween) and, as if to set the tone for their six SXSW shows, the drummer broke his snare mid-set and had to borrow another one.
The previous week at Radio Bushwick, we talked with Jeff Moore and drummer Jaye Moore about SXSW, hipsters, and a legendary bar named Kokie’s.
Jeff: A lot of bands go down there and think, I’m gonna play SXSW and be discovered. It’s not that kind of festival anymore to me. Coldplay and Lady Gaga are playing for Christ’s sake. We just want to play as many shows as possible, have a good time, meet other bands and make fans. I always like going into a situation not expecting too much.
Jaye: For sure. Him and I are cousins. We moved here together. They say after you’ve been around 10 years you’re a New Yorker. You definitely feel more out of place when you go back to your home town. What do you mean the bars close at two?
Jeff: I think it’s really cool because for the first time in a while, in the past year or two, there seems like a really cohesive scene of bands. All these bands are friends with each other, play shows together. It’s a lot less fragmented than it was before.
Jaye: It doesn’t seem like there’s a competition, it seems like everyone’s trying to support one another’s shows, everyone goes to each other’s shows, we try to book as many shows together as we can. Where ten years ago they were all competing for labels — when there were labels looking at bands.
You lived at Bembe? Tell us about that.
Jeff: It was a gutted warehouse.
Jaye: There was an apartment upstairs. We went in, and for the first couple months we lived on the ground floor. There was a basement, too, and we had to dig that out, and turned it into a jam room. We lived there for about 3 years, until it got too expensive. We had no idea it was gonna become a bar. I had the lease, I shoulda held onto it. [laughs] I was too young to know any better. It was like 1500 at first, then it went up to 2000. Which is incredibly cheap now, but at the time—we were all working shitty jobs. That was when Kokie’s was still down the street. We never actually went there, I just remember walking by it.
And now it’s The Levee.
Jaye: We’re more like beatniks. We’re beatsters.
Jaye: Do you know the bar the Ginger Man? That was where I first worked when I moved here, and there were a lot of people from Texas. We were from Florida, and all of a sudden we were hanging out with a lot of people from Texas. We had a lot in common. I guess hipster is a new word for slacker.
Jeff: [shrugs] Half the people down there won’t be from Austin. I think it’s just SXSW-land, people converging from all over the place. Most people I know from Austin just leave and rent their places out.
Jeff: [High Gain] is the five-song EP we did. Last year we put it out on this little label called Uninhabitable Mansions. It was a good representation at the time of what we were doing. We got a lot of good press. The goal after that was to record a full length, which we did. We shopped that around to some people, and we just signed our deal with Old Flame Records. That will be out June 10th. We’re pretty psyched, it was all like a progression, this plan we had. Put out an EP, try to get people to pay attention, do a full length, and build off of that. Seems like things have worked out slowly going up in a way.
Jeff: As soon as the record comes out we’re probably gonna tour for the second half of the year as much as possible. We’re playing the Midpoint Festival in September in Cincinnati. Try to do festival shows and tour as much as possible. East coast. Out to the West coast. Basically just try to work this record as much as we can.
I just feel like nothing bad ever came from playing a bunch of shows.
Find Dead Stars at SXSW Wednesday at Legendary White Swan at 10 p.m., Thursday at Ham Solo Project at 5:30 p.m., Friday at Valhalla for the Old Flame & Bar/None Records showcase at 8 p.m. and Saturday at the Kababilicious Showcase at 6pm
Correction: This post was revised to correct the name of the label. It’s Old Flame Records, not Flame Records.