Ask any of the musicians in MidCentury what genre would describe their music, and you'll get a different answer. Eric describes it as Post-New-Old-Wave Indie Rock, while Alex says its uplifting, smart, adventurous, nostalgic pop/rock and Paul views their music as new wave, indie, rock, pop, blue wave. "I sit all over the spectrum when it comes to genre," says lead voals/guitarist Bruce. "I started out playing heavier music, gravitated towards soul, jazz, and psychedelic music. At heart I’m an emo kid trying to find the perfect combination of all of the genres" Then there's Butch who says: "Haha....uhhh.... For me personally, I'm going to quote Roger Waters when asked a similar question. "Rock N Roll" And finally Leslie says it can't be categorized: "I'm a musical chameleon."
Come listen to MidCentury to decide for yourself how best to describe the melting pot of their music, this Sunday, 4/22 at Kitty Cohen's from 3:30p-5:30p. An interview with the artists is below and you can listen to "Foul Play" (Song Link) to get a sample of what you'll hear this Sunday.
Bruce Allen Smith Jr. - Lead Vocals/Guitar
Eric Harrison - Bass/Vocals
Evan“Butch” Wade - Drums
Leslie Matthews - Sax
Alex Chod - Keys/Vocals
Paul Murray Guitar/Vocals
Where are you from? / When did you move to Austin and why?
Bruce: Originally from Massachusetts, but went to high school in Florida. Came to austin six years ago in search of better opportunities and like minds.
Eric: I came from the dusty West Texas town of Lubbock in 2008. I moved here with my then girlfriend, now wife, Hailey. I had just graduated with a sound technology degree and she was enrolled at the art institute. I wanted to work in a studio and get into the music scene.
Butch: Born and raised in Batesville, IN. Moved here after college to pursuit music!
Leslie: Nashville. I've been in ATX for about 8 years and I moved here for the best of reasons: young love.
Alex: St. Louis. Moved to Austin (by way of Bloomington IN) in 2013 to grow Wonderbitch and challenge ourselves, but also be surrounded by sun and avocados.
Paul: Santa Barbara, CA. Moved to Austin in 2010 to further music opportunities, escape the bubble of my hometown, and live somewhere new that gave me a different view on people/culture/lifestyle.
When did you start playing music?
Bruce: Ive been playing music in some capacity since I was 7 or 8. Been in bands gigging since age 15.
Eric: Brandon Bartee convinced me to play bass in french class in 8th grade. My mom was a teacher at the school; we went to her classroom to asked if she would buy me a bass. We went shopping that day after school. My mom is rad! Brandon Bartee was the best 14 year old guitar player you’ve ever seen. I haven’t seen him in 15 years.
Butch: Since I was 16 (2002).
Leslie: In the womb.
Alex: Like 5 years old.
Paul: Started classical piano/theory at age 6, guitar at age 13.
What are some bands you have played in over the years, and what are your current music projects/bands?
Bruce: My first band was called Fidelity Crisis. After that I was in a number of other bands: Episodes, Nine Tales, Turncloak, Empire Machines, and currently active with Wonderbitch and Midcentury.
Eric: The first band that I saw a lot of the country with was called Eighties Combat. We existed in the glow of the early 2000s emo-pop-punk craze. Moved to Illinois to join the band Punch Drunk. We toured and were generally a bunch of hooligans. Fast forward to Austin years later, Paul and I met in a band called Fine Lion(he didn’t mention it). We both ended up leaving for similar reasons. When Bruce and I started this project I immediately thought about Paul. Midcentury is my main squeeze now. I work with a wide range of artists in my studio. Mike, my studio partner, and I end up playing a lot of different instruments while producing and recording records.
Butch: Drunk Uncle Chuck
Western Kinsmen of the Sun (not the Aussie outfit)
Gardendale & Berkley
The Vorticists and a spattering of other original and cover projects. Currently working with Wonderbitch and Midcentury.
Leslie: I have played/done album work with local projects Sweet Spirit and A Giant Dog, as well as some other small gigs. Currently, I am 100% MidCentury.
Alex: THEN: Colorado Kind Band- high school stoner jams. Yeti Guru- a fusion jazz group. The Vorticists - trip rock. NOW: Wonderbitch, Midcentury, and The Clouds Are Ghosts.
Paul: Toured for 2.5 years after high school with a band called Holden, played synth in a Faith No More tribute band called Woodpecker from Mars, joined an americana/folk/rock group in Austin called The American Spirit, and currently play in Midcentury.
What are some of your heroes in the music industry and/or inspirations?
Bruce: Nina Simone, Lauryn Hill, Tom Petty, Thom Yorke
Eric: Geoff Emerick, - Beatles recording engineer at 19!
Alan Parsons - Pink Floyd, Beatles, Alan Parsons Project
Dave Grohl - Duh
Joseph Meldal Johnson - Producer/Bass for M83, Young The Giant, NIN, Beck
Butch: There's a lot to mention. This industry is full of heroes big and small. But just to name a few that stand out in my personal progression as an artist :
Dominic Howard (Muse)
Jason Lytle (Grandaddy)
Stewart Copeland (The Police)
Simone Pace (Blonde Redhead)
Job Theodore (Mars Volta)
I could go all day. There's a bunch I'm missing...
Leslie: Well, Bobby Keys, obviously. I'm also a part of the Cardi B train. She is so mega and confident. I feel the same way about Margo Price. There are some powerful women making music out there and just killing the charts. And then you have Rihanna who's slays on the charts AND created a huge makeup company. What a bad ass. I hate this question. It's so difficult to answer. I have a lot of inspirations. I listen to a ton of hip hop and deejays, but The Rolling Stones are my all time favorite so I'd say their sax player Bobby Keys is just about as hero as it gets for me.
Alex: I look up to artists in the 70s-80s that made smart pop and daring jazz excursions. Often they are British.
Paul: Biggest guitar influences would be the combination of David GIlmour and Jimmy Page, . Musical inspirations range from David Bowie, Talking Heads, Queens of the Stone Age, the Killers, Supertramp, the Band, and Tame Impala, to name a few.
What is your song-writing process like?
Bruce: Usually I write in clusters. I can go months without coming up with anything that i find to be quality, and then something clicks and songs just start pouring out. Mostly ideas start with a melody on guitar or piano and evolve from there.
Eric: Our songs usually start as some kind of demo from one of us. We throw them at the band and see what sticks. We then take the demo and workshop it in rehearsal or the studio. At that point it’s the band’s song and we try and do what it asks of us. As far as Midcentury goes just solid, good, relatable, clever, clean, timeless, beautiful songwriting.
Butch: Someone usually has an idea that is brought to a jam session and everyone puts their feel into it through improv and we build on that.
Leslie: On the sax, my style is play-as-it-comes melt face as much as possible.
Alex: I get a groove stuck in my head and I find myself beatboxing it as I go about my day. Then I'm like "Fine, brain! I'll make a demo out of it". Then I allow influences to come forth. Then I release it to my collaborators to see what sticks. Then we merge into one songwriting brain and allow more things to come forth.
Paul: Each band member is a talented writer; whether creating full rough structures of songs, melodic riffs, progressions, or lyrics. ‘Modern Nostalgia’ was heavily written by Bruce, but newer ideas have been the result of an idea being brought to the band and then tweaked and modified with all our different influences and musical tastes.
What lyrics, or songs would you like to be remembered as playing/writing? Or what have been some of your most popular songs over the years?
Bruce: The lyrics for the songs Invoke and Chariots off our our debut album are ones that i am most proud of. They exemplify the mostly optimistic message that I would like to convey, and when I wrote them I felt as if I was truly expressing myself. Some song lyrics start out as poetry that I have written and somehow magically fit into a song, these are great examples of that.
Eric: Bruce’s lyrics were one of the things that drew me to his music. We got to know each other while I was recording his previous project in my studio. I’m super proud of the whole record and most of the lyrics are Bruce’s. Foul Play has always been one that I feel like speaks for me.
Butch: I'm hoping people catch on to the social justice warrior themed lyrics in some of our material. Speaks volumes to me in this day and age. Social media sure is somethin else.
Leslie: Someone once told me I was female Bobby Keys. I'll take being remembered as that.
Alex: Any song or lyrics that made someone's life better/fuller when they listen to it or think about it.
Paul: ‘Fallen’ is a piece we all worked very hard to complete, and stands out as a very strong, melody-driven song. ‘Nah Ima Stay Here’ showcases the bands more upbeat pieces, and was the newest bit of material to go on the album. “Worlds Apart’ is a great spacey, melodic song that shows the variety of sounds and feeling the band is capable of.
Do you have advice for other musicians who are just starting out?
Bruce: Don’t try and force it. Put in your time and never stop. It’s best to set realistic goals for yourself so you always have something to work for that can be achieved in a measurable amount of time.
Eric: Learn piano, be a good hang, write music you want to listen to, don’t sweat the small stuff, call your mom, wash behind your ears.
Butch: Network your ass off. Be true with yourself and always with your art. Don't forget to practice. Always have fun with it.
Leslie: Keep at it. It took me years to meet the right people and get playing.
Alex: If you want to do it, make the decision. You have to decide, not just fuck around and hope. And get as clear a vision as you can of what you want to be doing, so your subconscious can work on it.
Paul: Listen to any/all music and take notes as to what they play, how they play, and what they are trying to say. Practicing alone and with other musicians is vital to musical growth, and should be done as often as necessary.
What is your favorite place to eat in Austin?
Bruce: Taqueria Jaliscenses #6
Eric: BBQ - Rudy’s (Yah Rudy’s!)
Tex Mex - Trudy's
Mexican - El Borrego de Oro
Tacos - El Taccorido
Sandwiches - Tucci’s
Thai - Tuk Tuk
Noodles - Michi
Pizza - Via 313
Butch: Most recently one of the best meals I've ever experienced happened at Uchiko. I felt amazing afterward.
Leslie: Threadgills. They give you seconds on sides. What is better than bottomless southern food? As a native Tennessean, I am all about my meat-and-threes.
Alex: La BBQ or Curra's.
Paul: Anywhere with a good burger, sandwich, or tacos.
What is your birthday/zodiac sign?
Bruce: I got pretty deep into astrology as a self-improvement tool when I was in college, going through some intense changes in myself. March 29th, 1988. Aires in the exalted position, Moon in Leo, Gemini Ascending. Capricorn heavy chart.
Eric: Jan 1 1985 - Capricorn
Butch: April 4th, 1986. Aries
Leslie: July 31st- the same date as the Harry Potter character. It's true- in the first book he gets picked up to go to Hogwarts on his birthday, July 31st. We are Leos.
Alex: Nov 9 - Scorpio
Paul: August 2nd, 1985. Leo
Where do you see yourself musically in 5 years?
Bruce: I see myself fully immersed in my creative process, traveling the world in a self-sustaining band. Recording music constantly.
Eric: We’re working on our 4th album, “9 Days a Week” I’m producing music with all kinds of folks, trying to find a space for the latest Grammy on the shelf. So many stupid Grammys in the way!
Butch: I want to expand my knowledge by picking up multiple instruments, learn more about production/engineering, and dive into other genres in hopes of creating my first solo record. I just want to always progress, explore, and discover.
Leslie: Casually playing the sax wherever possible and still singing my heart out.
Alex: Going on live and studio adventures to give people more of my gifts. Really having a sense of what I can offer people and be hammering it out as my craft.
Paul: At the most experienced and seasoned level of musicianship of my life, ideally playing original songs to enthusiastic fans, getting song placement in different forms of video media, and not working a side job at a local bar/restaurant.
Anything you want people to know? Album coming out? Cool folks you've recorded with? etc.?Bruce: We put a ton of work into our debut album Modern Nostalgia. Give it a listen!
Eric: We’re working on new music! We also have some big shows coming up.
Butch: Keep on keepin on! Love ya!
Leslie: My freshman year of high school I met and studied under Jeff Coffin (Bela Fleck and the Flecktones, Dave Matthews Band) and he basically taught me all of my tricks in just a few sessions. I actually still play on the mouthpiece he let me "borrow". Don't tell him that.
Alex: Wonderbitch and Midcentury have begun to write our next albums!
Paul: The best folks I’ve recorded with/played music with have been in THIS BAND. Listen up, people.
Give it all one last breath
Before all you own is on the curbside steps
You watch developments safely in your bed
And cry to yourself
Pretend it never happens
It’s deafening, and callousing
Close the shades
You cared enough to form an opinion
But have given up on all the opposition
You suffer quietly again,
“who am I to do anything”
The time will come, but until then
“Ill pretend its not happening”
You’d throw the first stone you could find
If the conditions were right
You feel the most in bed, at night
Safely out of sight
All you have is sympathy
To lend to all this tragedy
All you give is sympathy
And never act
You never act