Christian Sparks and the Beatnik Bandits play in Austin for fan exposure

Trinady Joslin

Folking around on Speedway, Christian Sparks and the Beatnik Bandits handed out flyers to promote their upcoming show. Strumming on guitars and drumming on a box drum, members played original songs and covers to attract attention.

In August 2016, Christian Sparks and Hunter Lenington formed a rock and roll folk band. From there, the two recruited Samuel Bassett and Will Clegg. They began trying to break into the Austin music scene by playing on high traffic streets around campus, such as Speedway.

“We were like, ‘Let’s just go out and play on the streets,’” Sparks said. “We went from there (and) decided to start busking together for fun.”

Busking, Sparks said, is using acoustic instruments to perform on the streets. The Beatnik Bandits have received mixed reactions from passersby.

“We’re out there playing on the street and people give us dirty looks and other people are like, ‘Oh my God, this is awesome,’” Lenington said. “You really don’t know what you’re gonna get.”

Clegg said the band works to find the balance between being courteous while still working to gain exposure and attention.

“We busk anywhere we (don’t) get kicked off,” Sparks said. “We would go to the River Walk in San Antonio or UT and play on campus.”

Lenington said while the band originated in San Marcos and has a fan base at Texas State, the Beatnik Bandits hope to expand and become an Austin band.

“We had such a good reaction in San Marcos that we kind of wanted to ride that wave as long as we could,” Sparks said.

While Sparks said their Texas State fans understand the band wants to perform more in Austin, Lenington said their Instagram page may say otherwise.

“Our Texas State fans comment on our photos and say, ‘Come back to Texas State, why are you at UT?’” Lenington said.

Fans aren’t the only ones missing the members of the Beatnik Bandits. Before joining the band, Bassett played in another San Marcos band, and they’re still waiting on him to return.

“I was like, ‘I’m gonna go play with (Sparks and Lenington) and try to learn stuff and bring it back to you all,’ and I just never went back to them,” Bassett said. “We had a few discussions that were heated, so we broke up.”

Calling the previous band his “side band,” Bassett said the energy and drive from the Beatnik Bandits was the deciding factor.

The group talks about their long term goals regularly, Bassett said. While they’ve achieved some of their previous goals, Basset said the band is still working towards playing a sold-out show.

“One of the silly things we say is we want to have Gucci belts,” Bassett said. “I want one for the heck of it, but I want to earn it myself.”

For now, Christian Sparks and the Beatnik Bandits will continue to folk around until they can flex in the big leagues.

“Even if it’s a tiny venue, the ability to make something and show it to someone is what I love about playing music,” Clegg said. “It’s your baby and you show it to other people and if they enjoy it, that’s really f—ing cool.”