CoSigns at South by Southwest


    sxswfeatureedit 06 06 CoSigns at South by Southwest

    By now, you’ve already heard about how thousands of acts hit Austin, TX each March for South by Southwest. This is just a known thing. And while most of the head turners are established acts performing rare, once-in-a-lifetime concerts within intimate venues (y’know, like Bruce or Jack), it’s really about the young, budding artists showcasing “what they’ve got.”

    We saw those, too. We saw plenty.

    That’s why each CoS writer who hit the streets of Austin last week came back with two new favorite acts. These were ones that stuck to their shoes, their hearts, and now their iPods. We call ’em “CoSigns” because we’re all willing to “co-sign” on all of the talent here. Get it?

    Figured it was clever enough. Anyways, now that you’ve got all the necessary context, go ahead and check out what could be your next favorite new act. We’ve got 10 in all.

    -Michael Roffman


    cos chair 7 CoSigns at South by Southwest

    Photo by Heather Kaplan

    Mea culpa, guys. I really like Chairlift. So much that I saw them three times (two and a half, really) during South by Southwest instead of trying to discover a hot, new band. Why? Because Chairlift is that band. The band’s tight, lush, and bass-heavy live sound, signing with Columbia for its latest LP Something, and gigging themselves to the bone at SXSW (slap together Chairlift’s SXSW tweets together with Patrick Wimberly and Caroline Polachek’s individual ones, it reads like reports from a death march of alcohol, hangovers, and sleep-deprived exhaustion) could and should really get the band places. At each show I went to, “Amanaemonesia” got the industry-heavy crowd noticeably more hyped. Every time Polachek twirled herself around during the joyful “I Belong in Your Arms”, some of the crowd swooned with her. The band, and its music, belong in your arms. -Paul de Revere

    “I Belong In Your Arms”:

    Clock Opera

    picture 2 CoSigns at South by Southwest

    Photo by Chris Coplan

    London’s Clock Opera work within a pretty standard musical framework: synthpop with a side of varying samples, working in tandem to create anthemic, slightly ambient pop tunes. There is, however, a slew of X-factors regarding frontman Guy Connelly and company that make their sound far more transcendent than any of their counterparts. The cohesion of the unit is undeniable, with the four lads working like a seamless, well-oiled machine, crafting these songs live with lethal efficiency. And that unity is mesmerizing, a kind of silent wave of energy that pours over into the crowd, uniting hipster and bro alike in a round of rhythmic shaking and emotionally-charged chanting. It may also be Connelly’s gorgeous beard, their tendency toward Peter Gabriel-esque fusion of profound thoughts and quirkier instrumentation, or the band’s constant use of old silverware as ramshackle instruments. Whatever the reason, Clock Opera have established themselves as true synthpop sensations. -Chris Coplan

    The band’s debut album, Ways To Forget, hits stores on April 24th via Moshi Moshi/Island Records.

    “Once and For All”:


    sxsw conveyor CoSigns at South by Southwest

    Photo by Jeremy D. Larson

    That feeling when you connect with another human about something you think might be obtuse, or pastiche, or strange, but with Conveyor it was unobstructed joy. This intimate, acoustic set at the We Listen For You party was the only thing I could catch from the Brooklyn pop experimentalists, but they had me transfixed from note one until they shuffled off the stage. It’s the kind of band that wouldn’t surprise you if they kept a master score for each of their songs so that they could give it to a symphony conductor if the situation ever presented itself. Conveyor comes with time signatures that dart around songs, dense four-part harmonies that stretch around the guitar, and fully-formed ideas rush in and out of their indie-experimental songs (borrowing from my earlier write-up, “Grizzly Bear Collective” is an OK reference point). The glut of ideas that spark during a simple Conveyor acoustic set could fill out three entire LPs, and these guys only have a wonderful 7″ out so far. -Jeremy D. Larson

    Fort Lean

    cos fort lean 1 CoSigns at South by Southwest

    Photo by Michael Roffman

    Depending on the light, Fort Lean’s vocalist Keenan Mitchell shares the same hair with Sammy Hagar or Buzz Osborne. It’s enigmatic, it’s reckless, and it’s just the right style for the Brooklyn rockers. Crafting indelible indie alternative, Mitchell and the gang swing between cruise control shoegaze and mainstream indie rock, though with a tad more edge. At the sweltering Karma on Friday night, the photo-ready quartet chummed up murky ballads like “Dreams (Never Come True)” or sunny shades of poppy brilliance via “Beach Holiday”, which turned even the drunkest of heads at the nearby bar. There’s still some fine tuning to be had, but leave their future garage sessions to smooth that over. Right now, however, they’re working with something that could very well be an exciting flavor at a festival near you. In sum, if you want to listen to Kings of Leon without actually listening to Kings of Leon, here’s a band that takes that sound, runs it through the gutter, and tries to clean it back up for you. Enjoy. -Michael Roffman

    “Beach Holiday”:

    Hanni El Khatib

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    Photo by Harley Brown

    You don’t want to pick a fight with Los Angeles blues thrasher Hanni El Khatib, and that’s not just because he cites “knife fights and train wrecks” as his influences. When the heavily tatted, black-clad Palestinian/Filipino singer-songwriter (but if you called him that, he’d at least give you a dirty look and more likely punch you in the face) growled, “You need to fix this,” in response to feedback problems at his showcase at 512, I was a little worried for the sound engineer. Fueled by continually double-fisted beers, El Khatib and drummer Nicky Fleming-Yaryan yowled through the taut, sinewy rockabilly of songs like “Fuck It. You Win.” and “Dead Wrong”, whose Jack White-inspired guitar screeches fit the 512’s shotgun layout to a model T. It would almost be cliche if they weren’t so damn good. -Harley Brown

    “Fuck It. You Win.”:

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