From the perspective of a music aficionado, the South By Southwest music festival would be paradise.
As more than 2,200 official artists and bands playing across 100 venues are combined with a constant flow of alcohol, fast food and party vibes, it’s no wonder that enthusiasts from around the world save up their dollars and make the pilgrimage to Austin’s favourite festival of ear and liver damage.
While some take it to the extreme, it is also interesting to observe this festival from the perspective of the less self-indulgent. Michael Crain, guitarist for power-violence/punk-outfit Retox, describes his experience as a little different from that of a mere festival-goer.
“That shit sucked; way too many f**king people and way too much going on. The highlights for us were getting to meet an awesome couple who put on one of the parties we played, Matt & Courtney. They totally f**king ruled. Another big highlight was getting to see our friend Gabe Serbian’s new project Wet Lung. They were so sick. That’s about all I can remember.”
Without doubt these are bold words about one of the most opportunistic festivals currently running worldwide- understandable nevertheless. Being able to standout as an act during a prestigious and heavily populated event like South by Southwest (or at all in the endless ocean of music) is impressive to say the least. But this is exactly what this quartet have achieved. Through constant touring and their prominent sophomore record Years Of Potential Life Lost (YPLL), the band have signed with indie powerhouse label Epitaph Records for it’s release.
Upon first listen of the LP, it’s understandable why a bigwig like Epitaph would want to back an outfit like Retox: their urgent, pummelling, powerhouse punk would entice a riot at any show (which is to be somewhat expected considering vocalist Justin Pearson is one of the geniuses behind grindcore post-punk outfit The Locust).
“There wasn’t necessarily a premeditated strategy writing the record- there was just an idea to make the songs simpler and a bit more linear,” Crain says. “Lyrically the theme of Years Of Potential Life Lost is touched on throughout the record and there are several reoccurring metaphors.”
“I think what influences us as musicians are the same things [that] influence us as people. It’s essentially life experiences and emotions that birth creativity. Retox is just a reflection of who we are. It’s our art.” Crain continues: “It is totally an honour to be on the same roster as certain other artists. I think how it came about was that Brett Gurewitz (Epitaph Records) heard the new LP and wanted to release it.”
Besides YPPL being an album that could incite one hell of a frightening reaction from fans and newcomers alike, it comes with a few special surprises. Famed guitarist Nick Zinner from indie rock darlings Yeah Yeah Yeahs leant his six-string skills to the song Congratulations You Are Good Enough.
“Aside from Nick (Zinner) and Justin (Pearson) being old friends and band mates, Nick was initially going to be a part of Retox. Unfortunately because of his schedule and where he lives he couldn’t do it. So Justin asked him if he wanted to play on any of the new songs and sent him over the tracks. Nick chose that song to play on; it’s as simple as that.”
Crain also clarified the message behind the gory film clip for Mature Science.
“Obviously nobody in Retox or associated with Retox advocates violence towards law enforcement,” he says. “However, growing up in Southern California, Justin and I were immersed in the punk and hardcore scene. We both were able to catch the tail end of the 80’s punk scene which left an indelible impression on us. In those days skateboarding and music went hand in hand and there was always this strong anti-law enforcement overtone with the culture. Chances were that if you rode a skateboard and went to punk/hardcore shows back then you have experienced being on the losing end of a billy club or a police officer’s shoe. The rest should be easy to figure out.”
Life on the road continues for these four passionate men; it’s something that the band are more than prepared for and very accustomed to. More important, is whether Retox will instigate rampages in Australia any time in the near future.
“We are actually already out on the road,” Crain sighs. “Sometimes it feels as if though we never stopped touring, just one long-ass road trip occasionally interrupted with visits to a place that’s been referred to as ‘home’.”
“We are hitting the States right now and hit them again in a few months. We depart for the Europe and the UK in June. I’m not sure about the rest of globe yet; we would love to play Australia though.”