Free Press Summer Fest 2012 is finally upon us, and my does the bill look amazing! When looking at the schedule, I always like to divide the music between what I call “The Show Boats” (well-known bands and headliners like Willie Nelson, The Flaming Lips, Afrojack, etc) and “The Little Engines." The Little Engines are really what Summer Fest is all about.
These are bands that most likely are local, are operating on a small budget, and are making some of the best music you’ve never heard. When you’re walking past the smaller stages on your way between The Budweiser Stage and the water stations, The Little Engines are the ones you’ll hear singing their siren songs and steering you towards the heart and soul of Summer Fest.
When looking at the schedule, I divide the music between what I call “The Show Boats” (well-known bands and headliners) and “The Little Engines." The Little Engines are really what Summer Fest is all about.
I recently had a chance to talk a little bit with two members of one such Little Engine, Austin-based band, The Sour Notes. Featuring a rotating cast of musicians but always including founder Jared Boulanger, this year will be the first time the band is playing Summer Fest as a six-piece. Expect a rotating set of male and female vocalists, three synths(!), and lots of summer-y sounds.
These Houston natives know their hometown well enough to know that you can’t restrict yourself to one genre when putting on a festival in Houston, which is why they are so excited to be playing in front of the open-minded crowds at Eleanor Tinsley Park on Sunday.
CultureMap: You guys reference some respectable international film directors in a few of your song titles such as the Jean-Luc Godard nod, “One Word Emotions” and the Ingmar Bergman nod, “The Distant Knell." Can songs say as much as films? Can they say more than film?
Jared Boulanger: The beautiful thing about film is that it encompasses all the senses and helps you escape for a couple of hours. They exist for the time you're watching it and it never change. With music, even though the recorded product is the same forever, live shows leave a lot up to the artist. You can go to a Lou Reed show and he's playing all your favorite songs in some new weird version.
People listen to music differently [than film], too. When you watch a movie, you're not going to fully appreciate it if you're not sitting still and focusing on it completely. I think it's hard to ask people to do that with an album. Whatever your emotional state is, those things are going to influence how you receive a new piece of music. So when our songs reference Bergman and Godard movies, it's coming from a more personal place because we really love those films.
CM: With the premiere of Houston native Wes Anderson's new film Moonrise Kingdom coming up, what would you say is the best film made here in Houston?
JB: I know it wasn't completely filmed in Houston, but Wim Wenders' Paris, TX is definitely one of the most haunting movies I've ever seen and that definitely comes to mind immediately. Robert Altman's Brewster McCloud & Wes Anderson's Rushmore are also awesome. Excited about watching Moonrise Kingdom!
I think we're just going to beat the sweat by dumping ice cold water on ourselves before we play and hoping our gear doesn't melt this time.
CM: How are you going to cope with the heat this weekend?
Amarah Ulghani: Dude, I don't know! This is our third year playing Free Press Summer Fest and we just try not to think about the heat and focus on the fun. Definitely douse ourselves in sunscreen. It just sucks because we always get really excited and want to run around catching all these acts, then of course we get super heat exhausted. Is there some kind of secret? I think we're just going to beat the sweat by dumping ice cold water on ourselves before we play and hoping our gear doesn't melt this time.
CM: I find your brand of poppy feedback to be the perfect complement to the sun's pounding rays. Do you conscientiously make music to fit any particular season? What would a Free Press Winter Fest set sound like from The Sour Notes?
JB: Haha, thanks! Never really thought about that. We don't really take that stuff into account when we write our songs. It would probably sound the same but less sweaty and more shivery.
CM: What is a Sour Note, anyway?
JB: A sour note is a note that you write to yourself as a criticism, to correct your behavior and make yourself a better person. And it's a dumb thing you shouldn't do, because you should just accept that you are the way you are. Life's too short.
CM: The Sour Notes are one of the most fan-friendly bands I can think of. You guys are incredibly active on Instagram and Twitter (both can be found through @thesournotes). Has social media taken music to a new era?
AU: Just as we are grateful to be able to record at home (thank you RockNRollrentals.com) that means the ball is in our court to get in touch with our fans and we are very grateful that they are out there. We don't have the money to pay a publicist $2,000 to talk us up.
As a music fan and a pretty shy person, I know it can be hard to reach out to people in person and sometimes you can break the ice on the Internet. We've met so many wonderful amazing people in the music scene that we're friends with now in person, and hang out in person, that we met first through emails or twitter or facebook.
I don't think Twitter has changed music, because one day Twitter and Instagram won't exist and there will be some other thing. But I do think with the world being the way it is and technology moving so fast, my personal philosophy is to be humble and appreciative, so if Twitter/Instagram/Facebook help with that, so be it!
The fans are amazing, they really care. That doesn't happen in Austin.
CM: Houston's music scene seems to be as hodge podge as it's urban landscape. FPSF is a classic example of the random diversity that comes with this city. What are your thoughts on the music scene here in general?
AU: Houston seems to be a lot more laid back about the whole diversity in music thing. It's really awesome that you can see a bill with Fat Tony, Wild Moccasins and Buxton, and it wouldn't be a weird thing, everyone will come out and show support because that is a SOLID bill.
The fans are amazing, they really care. That doesn't happen in Austin. Austin is a great city, it's just bursting at the seams with music. Every night there's tons of shows going on. But again, that comes at a price. There are SO MANY bands, there's no way you could ever know all of them.
On top of that, it forces this oppressive genre categorization because the press and media have no idea how to handle so many bands and bands respond in turn. All the folk bands stick together, all the garage rock bands stick together, all the psych rock bands stick together, all the chillwave bands stick together, etc. What happens when you're a band like us that doesn’t affiliate ourselves with any particular genre?
We don't care about what type of music it is, we just want to play with good bands and a lot of times it's hard to get that to happen because "we don't fit musically" which basically means we're too loud or too quiet or we don't incorporate a stand-up bass or banjo somewhere. So it's really awesome that Houston is open minded in that way and more accepting of that and that's why we are excited to play free press and catch some amazing bands!
The Sour Notes are playing on Stage 7 of Free Press Summer Fest at Eleanor Tinsley Park on Sunday at 5:30 p.m. For information about purchasing weekend passes, click here.