Photo: Paul Archuleta/FilmMagic
Dorothy To Brandy Clark: What 11 Artists Have To Say About SXSW
Each year, SXSW brings thousands of artists to town — from artists on the rise to big names at the top of their game. We had a chance to sit down with a handful of these musicians and find out what their SXSW 2018 experience was like.
From the bands they enjoyed the most to why this festival is so special, sampling Austin's cuisine, consummating social connections, and more, check out what 11 artists dug about the annual music festival in Austin, Texas.
Frontwoman for the Los Angeles-based rock band Dorothy, Dorothy Martin, expressed her appreciation for the sheer volume of music SXSW offers those looking to discover something new.
"SXSW has been crazy and fun," Martin said. "There's so many people here and so much music. You can just go see three different bands if you want every night, or more. It's been a lot. Everyone's tired but it's totally worth it and really eye-opening."
2. Grupo Fantasma
One of the hottest funk bands on the scene, the GRAMMY-winning nine-piece Latin orchestra Grupo Fantasma found themselves onstage following a legendary band.
"Last night we played after Preservation Hall Jazz Band at Mohawk," Grupo Fantasma said. "It's rare that we're concerned about going on after a band but that was definitely impressive. … I'd never seen them and that was really incredible."
As Austin natives, Grupo Fantasma have seen SXSW change over the years, and though they have some reservations about the festival overrunning their town every year, ultimately the music makes it worth it.
"There's great new talent coming into town and Austin, of course, is being exposed to the world," they said. "Every time it comes around there's some apprehension. … But then you get down here and you see some great music and you get inspired, and you're like, 'Yeah, let's run around and see some bands.'"
Australian pop singer Mallrat intimated she and her friend were chasing after some specific acts during SXSW, including rapper Smokepurpp and pop singer/songwriter Billie Eilish. But her favorite part of her busy festival experience was taking part in her own show.
"The other day we played a show with a few other Australian acts, and our friend Stella Donnelly was on just after us and she's a really fantastic songwriter from Australia so it was cool to finally see one of her shows," Mallrat said. "Otherwise, it's been a bit busy. We haven't had much time to check things out."
4. The Mrs
Four-piece pop/rock collective the Mrs brought a special mission to SXSW this year: kindness. Unsurprising, their Kindnesspalooza Music Festival to support drummer Andra Liemandt's charity The Kindness Campaign was top of mind for the Austin natives.
"We've been really excited about Kindnesspalooza and talking to all the other artists that are going to come and play," they shared. "[We're] just trying to build it up and bring awareness to The Kindness Campaign and just have fun."
5. Amber Rubarth
Singer/songwriter Amber Rubarth happened to be in town to help support the 2017 film American Folk, in which she starred. While she's been in a filmmaking frame of mind, SXSW stands out to her because it really beings the arts together in a meaningful way.
"I went to the documentary shorts in theaters," Rubarth said. "We walked all the way across the river and just hearing bands in all the different places and then going and seeing these short theater documentaries and how music moves through all of those also. I love how it ties all the worlds together. I think with music festivals you see all the bands and everything but I actually really like that it has all the different worlds — it has the film, it has the multimedia, it has the music — and just how those all tie in and they overlap with each other."
6. Demo Taped
Demo Taped, a producer/rapper from Atlanta, was attending SXSW for the first time. Not only did he enjoy seeing acts such as Duckwrth and playing his own showcase during his time in Austin, he felt right at home in the city.
"It's my first year. It's been very positive," Demo Taped told us. "I've been walking the streets and smiling at people and getting the smile back. Just like Atlanta, I realize we're in the South — you get that Southern hospitality and that's really sweet."
7. Deva Mahal
Daughter of the inimitable bluesman Taj Mahal, blues/soul singer Deva Mahal traversed quite the SXSW journey. She had the chance to visit Willie Nelson's ranch and performed a headlining set at the Miles Davis House. But at the top of her to do list while in Austin was discovering something new.
"The most exciting thing for me is to go and be surprised, find somebody that I've never heard of or never seen before and have a really true and natural experience with what I'm hearing," Mahal shared. "I don't like to be told about it before or told how to feel about something so I feel the same way about artists. I'm excited to discover something I've never heard before, which I think is what [SXSW] is all about."
8. The Marìas
Psychedelic soul duo the Marìas certainly were at SXSW for one thing: the music.
"It's cool to wander around and walk into different venues because you never know what you're going to see," said drummer/vocalist Josh Conway. While Maria added, "And then just seeing all the different genres of music coming together and just mixing."
But they may have left Austin with a more permanent souvenir than just happy memories.
"We have another show, a Doc Marten's show. That'll be super fun," Maria said. "They have free tattoos so I think we're all going to try and get in on that."
9. Aisha Badru
New York singer/songwriter Aisha Badru brought her ethereal vocals to the SXSW stage in advance of the release of her debut full-length album, Pendulum, which drops April 27. As for her festival experience, she looked forward to supporting a friend.
"I have a friend that I met on Instagram," Badru said. "She has a band called LANNDS and she's playing tonight at The Sidewinder and I'm really looking forward to checking that show out."
10. Brandy Clark
Country singer/songwriter Brandy Clark is a seasoned pro on the festival scene. While she had just flown in to perform at the Recording Academy Texas Chapter Block Party, she hoped to find something new during SXSW. And barring that, she had a solid plan in place for Austin cuisine while in town.
"I hope I stumble onto somebody I've never heard that blows my mind," Clarks stated. "Other than that, I love Austin and I might stumble into some tacos later."
11. Vista Kicks
Indie rockers Vista Kicks — Derek Thomas, Sam Plecker, Trevor Sutton, and Nolan Le Vine — spend most of their time in the Highland Park area of Los Angeles in their own studio pumping out tracks. So their SXSW sojourn was all about seeking new inspiration, which they found in spades with bands such as Lukas Nelson, Hinds and Low Cut Connie.
"We've seen an inspiring amount of good bands here and it's been really refreshing and really cool," they said. "People have been getting up there, getting on their instruments and just going. … This is where we're going in music now. There's no tricks. It is looking really good for music right now. The bands we've been seeing have been fantastic and inspiring. That's something that's really unique and cool about SXSW too."