Words and photography by Ryan McKeeman (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Small Batch Productions celebrated their one-year "annibirthary" (according to lead singer Trevor Scott of Malandros). And boy, do they know how to get down. Since a Eureka moment during SXSW 2015, founders Momin Ahmed and Augie Vanderford of Small Batch have been producing high-quality music videos in the living room of Momin's apartment for local bands in Austin. You've probably heard of some of the bands that have participated in the Small Batch Music Project. The Berkshire Hounds. TOMA. Girl Pilot. Sons of Santos. B.R. Lively. Ben Ballinger.
Small Batch arranged a full lineup of six bands they have worked with over the last year: B.R. Lively, Malandros, TOMA, Ben Ballinger, Magic Rockers of Texas, and super secret headliner Megafauna (who undoubtedly will join the Small Batch Music Project roster soon). The music ran the gamut from straight-up, unapologetic rock and roll to psychedelic sounds to sparse acoustic duets. Beer sponsor Brooklyn Brewery provided the libations and fans were able to listen to nearly six hours of music for just $7 cover.
Every set was worth a full writeup in its own right, but for the purposes of brevity, here are three bands that are making moves in 2016.
This quartet started in Dallas before relocating to Austin just last year. The band has great creative reach, equally mourning the losses of influences Glenn Frey (The Eagles) and Phife Dog (A Tribe Called Quest) earlier this year. Lead singer Trevor Scott has an inviting demeanor on stage, is quick-witted, and has a thing for 90's pop band The Cranberries. The band beautifully covered "Linger" in addition to performing tracks from Milk and Cereal, their 2015 release. Small Batch videographer Stijn Dobbelaere holds the group together as the band's drummer. In talking with these guys, their positivity is almost overwhelming. It just feels like they've got something big in front of them in 2016.
We have been following the band TØMA for over a year now. Honestly, though, with everything going on in the Austin music scene, we just haven't had a chance to hear them for several months. Drummer Jake Hiebert has now successfully pulled off the second annual West Campus Block Party with Big Yah Presents. And the band is wrapping up a new album in the studio with James Petralli (White Denim, Bop English). Will Jay and Waldo Wittenmeyer have both matured vocally as well as lyrically over the last year and the band recently added high-energy bassist Neil Byers into the mix, which really ties the room together. TØMA played tracks from the new record (release date sometime in the fall) as well as a brilliant cover of the Game of Thrones intro song in celebration of the hit HBO series season six opening episode on Sunday, April 24.
Magic Rockers of Texas
Magic Rockers of Texas lead singer Jim Campo is that guy. He's that musician friend that not only plays his instrument better than anyone you know...he also probably plays yours better than you do. He could just as easily play bass, keys and probably the didgeridoo if he felt like it. Jim has got that vocal scream that pulls from the ghost of James Brown. He gets people up and moving with his electric energy on stage and goes from the set list that starts with "why don't we play this one?" as opposed to a meticulously planned ordering. Before Magic Rockers, Jim led The Berkshire Hounds, a band many were sad to see breakup. Now, Magic Rockers of Texas are working on their first album together, likely coming out this summer - to be released on cassette tape. Because Jim only listens to cassettes. Rock on, Jim.
Quick sidebar. The Sound Floor partnered with Small Batch at West Campus Block Party to start The Sound Floor Sessions - adding an artist interview component to their already brilliant live video production and bringing the sessions outdoors. Look out for media from that project later this week. And don't tell anyone...we're planning to extend these sessions over the summer. Shh.