Houston Calling

SXSW preview: My Education

March 6th, 2009 · 1 Comment

Photo by Farley Bookout

Photo by Farley Bookout

Instrumental indie rock bands have gained popularity over the past decade or so. Bands around the world create everything from ambient, melodic, mellow tunes to feedback-laden, crunching metal. Amongst the glut of “post-rock” bands, a few bands stand out. Austin’s My Education got its start in 1999, and over the past decade has refined its sound over solid albums and EPs, including the band’s latest release, Bad Vibrations.

My Education’s Brian Purington, Scott L. Telles, and James Alexander recently answered a few questions for Houston Calling in anticipation of this year’s South By Southwest festivities.

HC: You guys have played during South By Southwest before. Anything memorable stick out?

Scott L Telles: SXSW is a maelstrom whirlwind of chaos, music, noise, PR flackery, shameless self-promotion, free booze, awful food, and dreadful hangovers. We always have a good time and are thoroughly exhausted by the time it’s over. Just don’t talk to me about the time I went and saw Joan Jett at an after-party at about 4 in the morning, already completely stoned, and the bartenders were so drunk they were passing out free bottles of Jager, and, uhhh…bad things happened.

James Alexander: We’ve had great showcases, and not-so-great showcases. A highlight was having David Fricke rave about us after seeing us at the Mohawk. The lame showcases, no reason to dwell on — it’s luck of the draw to some extent, and no matter what happens it’s always just fun to be a part of the whole thing.

Brian Purington: The first SXSW showcase we ever played back in 2003, we were tacked on at the end of the Asian Night showcase. We were playing with a bunch of metal bands from China during the height of the SARS outbreak.

HC: Most people I know from Austin have strong opinions (positive and negative) about SXSW. What are you most looking forward to at SXSW?

SLT: There’s always at least one little gem, like getting to see Hugh Cornwell play an acoustic set and whipping out seven Stranglers songs, or Jarboe freaking out about hurricanes nearing Atlanta. This year I’m looking forward to seeing the Silver Apples again.

JA: I think some of the best, most memorable things happen outside the bounds of the festival. Like waking up in the morning to find Nikki Sudden sleeping in your kid’s wading pool. Or watching Nina Hagen get a haircut while eating a frozen yogurt at a dank East Austin beauty salon. And then there’s all the great day parties.

HC: Bad Vibrations has earned you guys some positive press so far. Are you pleased with the result of the album and the reaction from fans and critics?

SLT: The reviews have been almost unanimously favorable, so that’s been great. I’m just disappointed that we haven’t gone triple platinum yet. But seriously, one thing that has interested me about the reviews is the amount of praise given to the title track. People really seem to love that one so much — I was expecting that a strong melodic piece like “Sluts and Maniacs” would draw the most critical raves, or perhaps a more traditional instrumental band type thing like “Arch” or “Britches Blanket,” but everyone seems to be falling in love with this wispy, breathy, barely-there ambient thing! It’s really pretty great and really very gratifying as “Bad Vibrations” is one of the most experimental things on the record.

JA: I think it’s a really great record, and shows a definite progression in terms of what we’re doing as part of the Instrumental Rock genre (or whatever it’s supposed to be called). The daunting thing is feeling the need to surpass the last record each time. We’re taking our time with the next record to make sure that it does so.

HC: I’m curious about your songwriting process. Since lyrics aren’t a factor, what determines the “mood” of your songs? How do you approach the songwriting process — is it a collaborative jam where you all
works out ideas or does one person bring an idea and you work from that?

SLT: The process varies, but usually one person will bring an idea in and then the rest of the band will mess with it, massage it, tweak it, blatantly ridicule it, tug its little ears and yell at it until it eventually and most arduously reaches its final form.

JA: No matter who comes in with the original idea, everyone contributes to the process of pummeling the track into its final state of being. We’re working on a mini-album right now that’s a little different in that most of the pieces were brought in fairly complete by an individual member. But then everyone else gets involved and contributes ideas on how to make those pieces into My Education quality material, and they really start to take flight. Speaking for myself, it’s this “ego-less” collaboration thing that makes My Education the most fun project to work within that I’ve ever been around.

HC: I am a big fan of instrument rock bands — bands like you guys, Explosions in the Sky, Mogwai, and even more lesser-known bands I’ve come across. What do you consider to be your primary musical influences and how do you think they play into your songs?

JA: Between the lot of us, our musical influences are literally all over the map. Ranging from Josquin des Prez, to Van Halen, to Patsy Cline, to Crispy Ambulance, to all those guys you just mentioned -– and all points in between. But it’s almost impossible to quantify how all those influences filter down into what we do as a band. It’s easy to tie a vocal-less band like us into a “instrumental Post Rock” knot, but that since that genre can include anything from Bark Psychosis, to the Mermen, to Pelican, no matter what label you apply has no real meaning. The most important thing is to stake out your claim to whatever sliver of originality you can come up with, and pursue it with intensity, conviction, and rabid abandon. Rabid abandon will set you free.

HC: The line-up at Soho Lounge for your showcase is unreal — Maserati, This Will Destroy You, and My Education. Are you pleased SXSW put the bands together like that?

SLT: Oh yeah. This is a great showcase lineup! We’re psyched and extremely pleased that SXSW took the time and effort to craft this finely-constructed bill. It’ll be a blast! We’ve done some touring with Maserati, have stayed with them, and are good friends, and we’ve done several shows with TWDY as well, so it’ll be a reunion of sorts.

HC: What are My Education’s plans for 2009?

SLT: We tour the East Coast in April. We already have a pretty healthy start on two new projects — an EP of some of the material from our score for Murnau’s Sunrise, which we’ll be performing in New Orleans at the Zeitgeist Theatre shortly, and an album of new songs. We’ve also begun dabbling with the idea of making a soundtrack CD for a book-publishing project for a friend of ours.

HC: What are some of the bands you’re looking forward to seeing at this year’s SXSW?

BP: Oh, loads of bands, most of which are playing at a day party we’re co-hosting on March 20th/21st at Salvage Vangaurd Theater. It’s a pretty diverse line-up. For more info go to www.leisuretourniquet.com.

Here’s a video of My Education:

My Education plays its official South By Southwest showcase Wednesday, 3.18.09, at Soho Lounge. You can also check the band at the Salvage Vanguard Theater on 3.20.09 and 3.21.09.

Visit My Education online at www.myeducationmusic.com.

Tags: Interviews · Music · Show listings · SXSW

1 response so far ↓

  • 1 SXSW previews // Mar 20, 2009 at 7:54 am

    […] Moccasins | The Whip | Superdrag | Death is not a joyride. | Ume | Glasvegas | Kamerra Franklin | My Education | That Petrol Emotion | Bosque Brown | Johnny Goudie and The Little Champions | Tre9 | B L A C K I […]

Leave a Comment