Austin360 2017 Artists of the Month
Presented by TicketCity
In the national consciousness, Austin is spotlighted as a music city during our big festivals, but we celebrate living in the Live Music Capital of the World year-round. For this series, we search the clubs, the coffeehouses and the hundreds of random band houses scattered around the city to bring Austin's best emerging talent to your desktop.
Each month, we introduce a new artist, telling their story and sharing their sounds through audio tracks and video performances filmed in the Statesman Studio. Explore the artists we've profiled here and keep up with the latest news on Austin360 Artists of the Month in the Austin Music Source blog.
Related: Austin360 2016 Artists of the Month
The Digital Wild
Members: Chantell Moody (vocals); Chelsea Seth Woodward (guitar, vocals); James Blair (keyboards, drums).
New record: “Tall As Trees” EP, released April 14.
Prior recording: “Into,” 2014.
Chantell Moody’s eyes lock resolutely with everyone at Empire Garage as she raises her fingers and begins a count-off. “One, that is what we all should be. Two, fingers in the air for peace. Three, words that mean everything: I Love You.”
The onstage focal point of eclectic electronic-pop band the Digital Wild, Moody is an immediately engaging presence, with boundless energy and charisma plus a background in dance that helps make her a riveting performer. Those words Moody recited to introduce the song “Plume” also appear in its lyrics. They’re a good measure of the message the band sought to deliver on their new five-song EP “Tall As Trees.”
“We wanted to make music that had beats you could dance to that were catchy, but we could still sneak inspiring things into people’s lives and help people feel empowered,” Moody explains.
Chelsea Seth Woodward, her partner in the Digital Wild since the band began in 2012, agrees. “Chantell and I love all types of music, but we definitely want to play music where we get to celebrate life every day that we sing it,” he says.
New record: “Aguas Frías,” recorded at Level One Studios in Austin with flutes and drums added by Colombian musicians Elber Álvarez and Shango Dely.
Austin release party: Friday, April 21, at Empire. Part of the monthly Peligrosa dance party.
Prior recordings: “La Remolacha,” 2015.
Full-bodied and powerful, Kiko Villamizar’s golden voice aches, even as it soars, on his second album, “Aguas Frias,” which is scheduled to come out on local imprint Discos Peligrosa later this month. The title of the album translates to “cold water” and it’s the culmination of a harrowing year spent tracing waterways, from the Missouri River on the Standing Rock reservation in North Dakota, to Barton Springs in Austin, to the mountain springs outside Medellin, Colombia, where he grew up. Villamizar considers spring water his “medicine” and the album is a prayer for the water.
It’s late March, two days before he’s set to leave on the first leg of a national tour to promote the album. Space is tighter than usual in the cozy South Austin bungalow he shares with his partner, Natalie Lake, a midwife. A pair of international travelers, an Afro-Colombian bass player from Canada and a friend who flew in from Colombia to help with logistics and merchandise sales, are in town for the tour.
The album is ready, the gigs and a series of workshops are booked. Anticipation wrapped with anxiety seems to linger in the air, and Villamizar’s greatest challenge right now is to keep it together, to bear the emotional weight of the release without buckling.
Members: Brian Purington (electric guitar); James Alexander (viola); Christopher Hackstie (acoustic, electric and pedal steel guitar); Kirk Laktas (keyboards, vibraphone, percussion); Scott Telles (bass); Earl Edwards Bowers IV (drums); Skye Ashbrook (live visuals, design).
New record: “Schiphol,” out March 3; release show March 25 at Sidewinder. Also playing SXSW showcases March 13 and 14.
Prior recordings: “A Drink for All My Friends,” 2013; “Sunrise,” 2010; “Bad Vibrations,” 2008; “Moody Dipper,” 2006; “Italian,” 2005; “5 Popes,” 2004; plus several EPs, remixes and collaborations.
“Schiphol,” the latest release from Austin instrumental band My Education, starts out quietly and deliberately, fading into a short “Intro” track with droning strings, echoing guitars and the kind of spacious atmospherics that have been a hallmark of the group’s work since the beginning.
Over the next few songs, the music intensifies, pulls back, and swirls into psychedelic waves, traversing a dynamic range that makes the band hard to pin down to any one style or subgenre, much to their credit. It’s the kind of creative depth and adventurousness that tends to come only to musicians who have been doing what they do for quite some time.
In My Education’s case, that’s about 17 years now. Formed in 2000 after guitarist Brian Purington folded up another band with the same name that included a vocalist, the instrumental iteration of My Education quickly gelled into something that has lasted for the long haul.
Recordings: “Lost in the Sound,” out Feb. 17.
Members: Brendan Radomski (lead vocals); Nate Pozen (guitar, vocals); Eric Braun (guitar, vocals); Mat Onkst (bass); Sam Rich (drums).
It’s just past midnight at a Sixth Street rock club, and Later Days is taking the stage, the last of four bands on a Saturday night bill. This is still a relatively new experience for them: Formed less than a year ago, they’ve played only a dozen or so live shows.
You wouldn’t know it by the way they unleash their fury on the modest-sized crowd of fans and newcomers that have stuck around for the full night. Steamrolling through an eight-song set drawn mostly from their upcoming album “Lost in the Sound,” the five members mesh so tightly that it seems like they could have been playing together for years.
At the center of the sonic maelstrom is lead singer Brendan Radomski, a kinetic presence who uses the whole stage and puts everything into personal lyrics that often build toward a dramatic emotional release. He’s flanked by guitarists Nate Pozen and Eric Braun, whose chance meeting at a show about a year ago led to Later Days’ formation. Behind them, veteran Austin punk-rock drummer Sam Rich and bassist Mat Onkst, the group’s newest member, propel the songs with powerful blasts of steady rhythm.
Recordings: “Move Me,” 2014; “It Happens So Fast” EP, 2015; “MéVen,” 2016.
Producer: Kevin Hayden a.k.a. Pha the Phenom
“May I,” the lead track on “MéVen,” the new release from singer Mélat Kassa, is a sultry variation on the jazz standard “May I Never Love Again,” rendered with a modern feel and a mournful ache. Broken down, looped and laced with reverb and a harmonizer, the track clocks in at less than two minutes. It has feel of an invocation, a scene setter for the gorgeous collection of silky, mid-tempo R&B that follows.
“I’ve gone through these trials personally to kind of get where I’m at,” Kassa, who performs under her first name alone, said over coffee at Patika in South Austin on a chilly, wet morning in early December, a week after the album dropped. “That song with this project kind of made me feel like, ‘If loving you is wrong I don’t want to be right.’ This is what I love. It is what it is.”
Over the past few years, the singer with the haunting doe eyes, endless cascade of white-blonde curls and inexplicably large voice contained in a lithe, 5-foot-4-inch frame, has been slowly bubbling on the alternative R&B underground in Texas and beyond. Her quietly philosophical Twitter and stylish Instagram feed each have thousands of followers. Her 2015 EP, “It Happens So Fast,” earned her national looks from online urban music sources like 2dopeboyz.com and hypebeast.com and, in 2016, Essence Magazine featured her in their “New & Next” section.
With the new album, a fully realized collection rooted in a dark and moody alternative R&B sound that beautifully showcases her smoky pipes, she’s poised to push through to the next level, aiming for a national breakout in 2017.