Classical music probably isn’t something most people think of when they hear “South By Southwest,” but Houston’s Two Star Symphony does classical like no other band can. The group’s music is a somewhat gothic take on classical music, and they do “rock”. I was fortunate to catch the band–which includes Margaret Lejeune (cello/harp/oboe), Jo Bird (viola/toy piano), Debra Brown (violin/percussion), and Jerry Ochoa (violin)–live at SugarHill Studios late last year, and was reminded of how Houston musicians are such a vibrant and diverse set.
The band recently answered some questions for Houston Calling in advance of its debut appearance at South By Southwest.
Houston Calling: This is your first time playing at SXSW, right? What are you as a band hoping to get out of this year’s SXSW?
Two Star Symphony: This is our first time to appear at SXSW as Two Star Symphony, yes. As a band, we are especially interested in film scoring, so SXSW offers a great chance to connect with film makers as well as other musicians. We also want to increase our exposure in general, and SXSW represents a great opportunity to reach a lot of people at once. At this point, exposure is everything.
HC: Any band(s) in particular that you’re looking forward to seeing during SXSW?
TSS: Chamillionaire, Lords of Altamont, Thurston Moore, Low Line Center, David Garza, Tiger shit tiger tiger, to name a few. We are looking forward to the unexpected, people and bands we have never heard of.
HC: Have you been to Austin during SXSW before? If so, what’s your most memorable experience?
TSS: Jerry has been featured at SXSW as a music video director, and Debra, Jo, and Margaret have performed as backup musicians with Danny and the Nightmares. The performance with Daniel turn into a mini-nightmare when he offended the audience by making a joke about concentration camps. The girls hid behind their instruments as the crowd sat in silence.
HC: Classical music probably isn’t the first thing that comes to mind when someone thinks of SXSW. How do you think the crowds will react to your music?
TSS: I think they will be surprised to discover that classical music can melt their faces. We have performed and have been well received at venues that other quartets would not step in to–we once won a talent contest at Austin’s own Sugar’s Cabaret! Our music has always been accessible to a wider audience and I think people are really gonna dig hearing our sound. As far as I can tell, out of 1900 bands, we are the only string quartet, so hopefully people will give us a chance.
HC: How would you describe your music to someone who has never heard it before?
TSS: Cinematic, playful, rocking, and haunting. Influenced by Shostakovich, John Zorn, Danny Elfman, and Dr. Dre. We write with visions in mind–our music takes audiences on different journeys everyone is allowed to create their own stories.
HC: When I was the guest on Live At SugarHill, you guys seemed to really rock it out a few times during your performance. Are you planning anything special for your set at SXSW?
TSS: We are just planning to bring it, you know? We’ve been composing and performing together for 8 years now, and we’re going to get up on stage and put on the best show we can. We play unusual music on an unusual set of instruments, and we mix it up, with elements of rock, hip-hop, and metal in every show. Though pyrotechnics would also be cool.
HC: What are some of the local bands/musicians you enjoy?
TSS: I have recently become obsessed with Glasnost–those guys are amazing! Put on their music, and it’s an instant dance party. If there’s any justice, they should blow up. Devin the Dude is my all-time Houston favorite, but I’ve also been listening to a lot of Come See My Dead Person, and there’s a whole set of bands from the Montrose scene that I’m into, like I Am Mesmer, Buxton, The Sideshow Tramps, Benjamin Wesley, and Robert Ellis.
HC: What do you planned for 2010?
TSS: We’re working on a multimedia art piece/performance with Dan Workman, Wayne Gilbert, and a video artist from New Yorkm which is really exciting. Wayne created a series of paintings using cremated human remains, and the project is a sort of meditation on some themes and ideas that connect closely to our own musical sensibilities. We are planning on working with the Dominic Walsh Dance Theatre again, and performing at least one film score at Discovery Green. We recorded our Two Star interpretation of the Ministry song “Just One Fix,” and it’s being featured in a documentary about the group–we are looking forward to seeing that get released. We are also starting to have the opportunity to do some fairly serious horror film scoring, which we are trying to do more of, so hopefully this year we can take that to the next level. Also, we’d like Two Star Symphony to be nominated for a Grammy.
Here’s a video of Two Star Symphony live at Warehouse Live in Houston:
Two Star Symphony plays its official SXSW showcase on Wednesday, 3.17.10, at The Hideout in Austin at 8pm.