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- Posted on Mar 2nd 2010 9:20AM by Bethany Smith
Wrapping up the final touches of OK Sweetheart's debut album and preparing for her band's first SXSW performance, Austin is not at a shortage for positive energy. The singer recently spoke with Spinner about the group, their connection to fellow Texas act Midlake and plans for the festival.
How did OK Sweetheart form?
It started out as a solo project with me, and then we decided to do a live band thing because we had good people involved -- it wasn't just about me.
How did you come up with the name OK Sweetheart?
Someone Tweeted back in August about this competition I was in for Austin City Limits, and they said, "Oklahoma's sweetheart, Erin Austin ... blah blah." I thought that was a nice way to put my relationship with the area because I'd lived there for a little while, but hadn't lived there for two years. I liked the way that sounded. [I thought], "Well, OK Sweetheart sounds really nice, but it can also mean, like, 'OK, sweetheart.'" Have you done festivals before?
I played a competition called the Sound and the Jury this year for ACL. I played some parties, like before parties. This is my first year playing SXSW. I came back [to Oklahoma] in July of 2007 to do a festival in Tulsa called DFest. That was my first time playing a music festival, or even going to a music festival. I didn't play any fests in 2008. Then, last year, I did the Tulsa fest [DFest] again, then ACL and now SXSW this year. So, hopefully more. There's North by 35 and other Oklahoma festivals.
What would you pack in a festival survival kit?
This is going to sound hilariously weird, but I really get off on all the energy at fests. I went down last year to just visit during SXSW. Some of my friends are from there, and literally, I find friends from any city that I've ever lived in. They're all there. It is so much fun. You drink too much. You don't sleep very much. It just kind of keeps you moving. It is a weird thing. I probably don't get as much sleep as I should, and I probably drink too much caffeine. That's usually how those go for me. I like it.
Tell us about your debut album.
I'm recording right now. We're doing some finishing up on background vocals and finishing touches. It is going to be the first record -- well, my first record ever [but] not for the other people. They're all in different bands, incredible bands. This is my first time.
Do you have a release date planned?
We're still trying to figure out funding. After you're done recording, there's more. There's mastering and distributing -- stuff like that. We go into editing March 1 and 2, then mixing later that week. Once that gets done, it will probably be three to four months after that before release.
For people who haven't heard you before, how would you describe your sound?
There is a good synopsis on Myspace. We basically say [a] vintage '60s pop sound with a jazz/Billie Holiday sounding voice.
What are your musical influences?
I listen to a lot of Harry Nilsson, Randy Newman and the Beatles and stuff, for sure, to get the sound for this record that I want when writing. It's that '60s and '70s pop sound that I really like.
You have ties to another Texas band, Midlake. Want to elaborate?
Yeah! We were in their studio. A lot of the Midlake guys went to [the] University of North Texas and were in the jazz program there. One of the guys went there and knew both McKenzie and Rob -- McKenzie Smith [Midlake/OK Sweetheart] and Rob Gunger [OK Sweetheart]. Rob and I were in San Fran and got demos done, sent it to McKenzie, and he wanted a bigger role in it. He didn't want to just play drums on it. He wanted to produce it. Rob and McKenzie in June 2008 started -- well, Rob started -- going down from San Fran, and they started doing pre-production and getting ideas down. Then, in October 2008, I came down and we all lived in a house together and were recording during the night.
What was working in Midlake's studio like?
Midlake was in the studio from 9 to 5 working on 'Courage of Others,' which is their record that just came out. They were in [during] the day, and we'd all go get dinner. They'd come by the studio at night [while we were there]. Eric [Pulido] would come play guitar -- we had lots of different things. It was nice. Then McKenzie, Rob and I opened a studio three doors down from the Midlake studio, so we could finish our record there because Midlake started needing to record at night, too, to get their record done.
What are the biggest challenges being in OK Sweetheart? How does the multi-city thing work?
That's the tricky part. SXSW is going to be interesting. I'll have three guys. Well, Sean Barnett, who is my bass player, moved from San Fran to Brooklyn a few months ago. We're moving out of San Francisco come April. There are three guys coming down from Brooklyn to play SXSW with us. It will be a guitar player, a player I used for some shows in Brooklyn, a drummer from a band called Elizabeth and the Catapult, Patrick Ryan, then Sean Barnett. They're coming down the 10. They've been rehearsing on their own -- drums, bass and guitar. They'll come down, and we'll do a few days of rehearsal. We're doing NX35 first -- that's in Denton -- then SXSW.
What's the craziest thing that ever happened to you on tour?
We're really not crazy. I got in a really good snowball fight with the guitarist on this last tour. It was funny because neither of us are very good snowball throwers. We were drunk after a show, loading out. We were in Wichita, it was snowing and it was beautiful. We went on the deck of the place we were playing and got in a snowball fight.
The guys that play with us, well -- McKenzie can't tour with us because he's A) McKenzie and B) in all these other amazing bands. We have Patrick Ryan as our full-time drummer after SXSW. He was on tour with us these last couple of weeks. The guys we tour with are really wonderful and really low maintenance, so it's fun to be on the road with these guys.
Bethany Smith is a contributor from Seed.com. Learn how you can contribute here.