Q&A with Austin Electronic Band Sphynx

Noah Brooks

Local electronic-pop band Sphynx is performing its first show at the Austin City Limits Music Festival on Friday. Sphynx, known for its energetic live shows and its mix of modern electronic and retro styles, is quickly becoming known in Austin’s music scene. The band will release its first full-length album in 2015 after the release of two EPs. The Daily Texan sat down with the three members of Sphynx — keyboardist and singer Cory Dennis, guitarist and singer Aaron Miller and drummer and bassist Todd Harris — before their debut ACL performance.

The Daily Texan: How did you guys form Sphynx?

Aaron Miller: We came up with the idea during [Cory’s] bachelor party in, like, 2009 to start writing music together again.

Todd Harris: Cause we had been in a band with three or four people called The El Guapos in high school, and we did that for four years. Before that, we’d jam together for a little while, and even before that, [Corey and Aaron] had been playing together since they were two-years old. So it was kind of like a progression of musical projects.

AM: We just decided that we would start writing music together again, just the three of us, because it seemed like we were the only three around out of our group of friends that really wanted to keep doing music. That was obvious to us at that point in our lives. Then, I guess, just by virtue [and] being fans of pop music and always growing up with that ‘60s and ‘70s stuff, we wanted to start pop music and writing music.


DT: For those who haven’t heard you before, how would you describe your sound?

Cory Dennis: Glam rock/desert noise to sum it all up. But to actually describe it, I don’t know.

TH: It’s throwback, which is in right now. A lot of people are doing retro stuff, and we really enjoy that. We’re hopefully throwing our own twist on it. A lot of modern production mixed with an older David Bowie, Prince influences.


DT: What are some of the influences on your work?

AM: I think kind of like a meld of some more, like, modern dance production influenced us, and we’re all big fans of, obviously, David Bowie, Talking Heads, Michael Jackson. We also really like ‘70s prog, hair metal stuff like Asia, and Yes and stuff like that. More so at later in the Sphynx history, I guess, we’ve gotten more influenced by that stuff. And as far as like production, Cory’s a producer, so he’s interested in a lot of different dance and sub sounds and melding the technique of retro influences with modern technology.


DT: How many albums do you have out?

TH: We actually don’t have a full album out right now. We have two EPs, at least a couple of singles too.

AM: We’re working on a full album right now.


DT: You have an album coming out, “Golden Garden,” in 2015. How would you describe it?

AM: You know, it’s the first full Sphynx album, so I feel like it’s kind of us settling in and identifying what our sound is as a band. When you make a full album, it’s kind of like a statement of experimenting with the other singles and be settled on this sound.

CD: The first two EPs were more development.

TH: This one is definitely more theatrical, a little more complex than the other ones. It’s still pop-y and dance-y, but it has a little more vibe to it. Not as party-dance vibe, but it’s still rowdy and fun.


DT: How did you get booked?

AM: Kind of just through a lot of years of gigging in town and getting to know people. It was something that had been a goal of ours since basically we started playing music. Growing up in town, it’s been the benchmark. It was just like, ‘Oh, if we could play ACL one of these days.’ We started doing shows with C3, who’s a company that puts on ACL because they book a lot of venues here in town, like Lamberts, Parish, stuff like that. Just kind of started a relationship with them and doing shows with them, and, basically, we asked really nicely if we could play ACL this year. Weren’t sure what’d they say, but we were, like, we have this new music coming out; 2014 has been the year that we’ve gone into doing the band full time, so we could do it this year.

TH: Didn’t expect the response we got by any means.


DT: How often do you tour and where do you go?

AM: Northwest, Midwest, Utah, Colorado

TH: We’ve done it two times now — up to Portland and back. It’s always been good to go through mountain towns and hitting up the different ski resorts and the different weird towns. We played Spokane for the first time, close to Canada. We played Whitefish, Montana. We’re going to go up to New York in a couple of weeks.

CD: We’re gone a little over a hundred days a year.


DT: You’re touring with Stepdad in the next couple of months. How did that get set up?

AM: We made friends with those guys about a year ago. We’ve opened for them in Austin, and we’ve been fans of theirs, so when we saw that they were coming through, playing at Empire, we sent a email about opening for them. Ended up becoming really good friends with the band, which is not that common actually, but we just hit it off with those guys. We kept in fairly regular contact with them. They set up doing their fall tour with them, which we’re excited about that. It’s a bunch of new cities for us.

TH: It’s the first support tour that we’ve actually been able to go on, with a band that actually has tour history.


DT: Overall, what’s it like being part of Austin’s music scene?

TH: It’s a mixed feeling. Right now, it’s especially really good. Just from being from Austin — it’s kind of rough seeing how many people are coming here and how big it’s gotten. But being a band in Austin, it’s awesome because Austin is on everyone’s mind across the world; everyone is looking at Austin. To be able to be a band that was born and raised in Austin, it’s actually helped us a lot. People will be like, ‘Oh, you’re from Austin’ and then they’ll check us out in different towns because they know the rep that Austin has.

AM: It seems like the spirit of the city is really full of bands right now because Austin has become more of a big deal than it used to be. On the other hand, the thing with the Austin music scene is that it’s also super saturated. There’s 30 really good bands, instead of three good bands, so it takes a while for people to know about you.