• The Basement Tapes: The Sour Notes

    Local Austin band The Sour Notes, an official showcasing artist at the 2010 SXSW Music Festival, released their latest album Last Looks this past year. The band will perform at the 29th Street Ballroom this Thursday night.
    Local Austin band The Sour Notes, an official showcasing artist at the 2010 SXSW Music Festival, released their latest album Last Looks this past year. The band will perform at the 29th Street Ballroom this Thursday night.

    Local indie American band The Sour Notes are touring the country this summer to promote their latest album, Last Looks. Laced with singer-guitarist Jared Boulanger’s low-fi voice and somber lyrics, Last Looks is the middle ground between what the band is best known for (catchy bridges and female vocals) and inspirations from collaborations with fellow local artists, such as Mother Falcon. The band will be playing at keyboardist Elaine Greer’s release party for her new album, Annotations, tonight at Spider House.

    The Daily Texan spoke with the band during Basement Tapes about their upcoming tour, inspiration behind Last Looks and the ideal world of music.

    Flash Animation Harvest Moon (Neil Young Cover) by thesournotes

    Daily Texan: You were mentioning the disaster of your last tour when there was no air conditioning — have you prepared anything beforehand for this upcoming tour?

    Jared Boulanger: I guess we’re gonna have a tour meeting in the coming week and talk about everyone’s expectations of the tour.

    DT: What do you think is going to be the highlight of that meeting?

    JB: It’s probably not going to be pleasant.

    Elaine Greer: No farting in the van.

    JB: Yes, no farting in the van, which actually, someone in the band has a problem with. And also the shower thing. After you play a show and you get paid and out of the venue at 2 a.m., there’s not time for eight people to take showers and go to bed, so half of the band is going to take showers at night and half of the band is going to take showers in the morning.

    DT: [laughs] So the band is showcasing the latest album on tour. What was the inspiration behind Last Looks?

    JB: Last Looks is a scene from “Kill Bill: Vol. 2” where David Carradine is seeing Uma Thurman at their wedding dress rehearsal and she goes outside and she sees him sitting down playing his flute and she’s really shocked and scared because she thinks something’s about to go down and she’s like, “What are you doing here?” And he’s like, “Last looks, I guess.” That whole scene, that five minutes of black and white footage, is I think some of the best dialogue in the last eight or 10 years of filmmaking, for sure. The whole scene, you hold your breath through it and that’s the theme behind Last Looks. Not a massacre so much, but I really like how cool that scene is.

    DT: How do the songs correlate to that moment?

    JB: They actually don’t correlate that much, but the whole album has a theme. Like, there is only one synthesizer in the entire album, which is different from our other albums. And Mother Falcon played on all of the songs. They did string arrangements and horns and stuff like that, so it has a really different feeling than our other albums, especially with the synth parts. And Chris and I got a lot more into playing guitar on this album.

    DT: So what is the theme, then?

    JB: It’s the stripped-down rock album, I think. Just the time and place the band was in at the time and us making friends with Mother Falcon while we were recording just kind of defined the sound of the album. A lot of the other albums have direct correlation to scenes from movies and stuff like that. But for this one I can tell you a lot of the songs, I don’t know what I was thinking at the time — they just came about really fast. A lot of the songs do have to do with my distaste with the way the music industry is going; bands that are rising to the top and bands that are falling to the underground.

    DT: In your perfect world, what would music be like and what would artists do?

    JB: As this album was coming about, garage rock was really getting a lot of attention. Garage rock and I guess you would call it chill wave. Those two genres were skyrocketing to the top. And there are a lot of bands that I like that are really spaced out and ethereal, with girl vocals that are drowned in reverbs and there’s just only synths and drum machines and I like that stuff. One of my favorite albums from last year was that Beach House album Teen Dream and I think that album was amazing — but I wouldn’t consider it chill wave or anything.

    DT: You said “Hot Pink Flare” summarizes the whole album and is your favorite song?

    JB: I would say the lyrics on that song... even the opening line, “How quickly you confuse the thought,” that’s sort of me talking to a listener of music and being like, “You don’t know what you’re listening to, you’re confused.” Like, you are like, “Yeah! This is great,” but you haven’t asked yourself why it’s great. That song starts like that, with a little bit of hatred, and then ends with “this lonely little life is all you really deserve.”

    DT: So did you write the lyrics yourself or was it a collaboration?

    JB: I guess most of the lyrics came from when I was unemployed and had nothing to do. I couldn’t find a job for six months. As I was writing these lyrics I kind of had nothing to do but wake up and do that. I just sat around a lot and watched movies and it came to me.

  • Art in Translation: Fit to Print

    Bob Schneider’s “Today You Are Alive, Tomorrow You Are Dead,” is an intaglio print rendered on Asian paper. (Photo Courtesy of Bob Schneider)
    Bob Schneider’s “Today You Are Alive, Tomorrow You Are Dead,” is an intaglio print rendered on Asian paper. (Photo Courtesy of Bob Schneider)

    Okay guys, this week I have something a bit different to talk about.

    I went to Flatbed, a gallery and workshop for printmaking, off of East Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard on Monday.

    What exactly is printmaking, you might ask? Technically it is the process of making art by printing an image onto paper from a matrix (that’s the technical term for the wood, copper or other material they etch the original image into) using a printing press. The style is somewhat characterized by the capability to make copies, but we aren’t just talking about photographs.

    Intaglio is a printmaking process of creating incisions with a small etching tool (anything capable of carving into the matrix) on a metal plate (usually copper) and covering it with ink. The plates are then wiped clean of all excess ink, so that it remains only in the incisions. A damp paper is laid over the plate, and the print sandwich is cranked through a massive printing press, which uses pressure to transfer the image to the paper.

    The use of intaglio dates back to the 15th century. The invention of the process is generally attributed to German armor decorator Daniel Hopfer, who applied his craft to printmaking. The process is still the same today, as seen in this week’s art, “Today You Are Alive, Tomorrow You Are Dead,” by Bob Schneider. The piece is a testament to the continuity of printmaking.

    Although Texas musician Bob Schneider is more widely known for his music career, he has been a collaborative artist at Flatbed for 20 years. He takes prepared copper etching plates with him on tours and works on his pieces in the back of the tour bus. When he is back in Austin, he brings the plate to the studio and creates his print with the help of one of Flatbed’s master printers.

    The piece is part of “The Night Way: New Etchings by Bob Schneider,” a current exhibition at Flatbed. It might appear as a simple sketch on the computer screen with the infinite number of exposed black lines (they have a sharpie quality), but I assure you it is far more complex in person. At 44 inches tall and 32 inches wide, you can see each individual incision as a purposeful, separate entity from the others, but it still comes together as a whole.

    The print depicts a sharply angular electric chair. The chair itself looks so basic that at first glance, it almost seems like a blueprint or sketch of some kind. There are no spacial reference points, so the chair takes on a surreal quality, as if it is a metaphor for the inside of someone’s mind. Schneider used copper plates, which were distressed from use in previous projects to create a gritty background in his image. At the top, crooked block letters spell out the title, “Today You Are Alive, Tomorrow You Are Dead.”

    This particular piece was created for the group “Chairs” show at the Austin Museum of Art few years ago in which each artist was asked to render their interpretation of a chair. Looking at the piece as a whole, there is a lot of background noise, yet it seems hauntingly quiet.

    Possible political undertones about the death penalty aside, the piece seems like it could evoke a much more universal message of being present. Much like the gritty background of the print, I think I’m guilty of being swept up in the extraneous noise of past experiences. The piece proclaims “today you are alive,” something so simple, yet often forgotten.

    Personally, I felt it was a sort of warning — a much harsher way of saying “you only live once.” It shows the importance of living with purpose because time is limited. The second half of that sentence, the more gruesome part, “tomorrow you are dead,” is a lofty reminder that you can’t waste today. Otherwise, you might find yourself sitting in the wrong chair.