A group of students in Austin, TX have come together to create some truly remarkable music. They’ve been the talk of Austin, TX and now, thanks to a big win at the South By Southwest Austin Chronicle Awards, the band is getting recognition from all over the place. The group received four awards, including best “None of the Above” band and, well, you know you’re on to something when at a gathering as large and varied as SXSW you still remain “unclassifiable”.

Brad spoke with Nick Gregg (vocals, cello, guitar, mandolin, founder), Isaac Winburne (sax, drums, keys) and Tamir Kalifa (accordian, vocals) on the phone earlier this week as the entire band gathered together after their big weekend. (To hear what the interview sounded like watch this clip.)

This unique chamber pop project brings together seventeen young musicians in a way that still allows complete collaboration. “What I think separates this band from other bands we’ve all played in is that we all have equal share of what we create. We bring our own ideas to the table. It’s not dictated by one person. Sometimes a member will suggest a certain line for one part of a song, but then the musician will, sort of, take that and make it his or her own. So it’s a much more fulfilling and rewarding experience because we’re all creating something together.”

The band combines elements of music spanning various eras and sensibilities. “One of the original concepts of the group which still carries it now is the idea of bringing classical music, classical instruments – the old to the new.” This concept has led them to create music that goes beyond classification. “We’re trying to revitalize it for a more youthful audience. We want people to say, “Dang, I didn’t know cello could be cool.”

“Faint Green Light” is a song that perfectly sums up much of what the group is about. What begins as a simple song quickly evolves into a transcendent musical experience. After their performance of the song at SXSW, the band was granted a standing ovation from the audience of over 1,000. “That was the first time we ever experienced recognition like that on such a large scale,” said one of the guys. “We were all just freaking out and giggling like little girls.”

The audience applauding them was filled with respected musicians (ranging from Austin performer Bob Schneider to the Talking Heads), industry insiders and passionate fans. “Doors are beginning to open for a lot of exposure and a lot of connections that hopefully we’ll be able to make with our music. I don’t see any of us wanting to be pop stars or anything like that. We just want to create and get our music to as many people as we can.”

That’s not their only mission. “All of us are extremely socially aware. We all study things ranging from creative writing to architecture to film and photography.” One musician is a photojournalist studying with the purpose of going to the Middle East to hopefully work to create a different perspective on the conflict there. “We’ve played a number of benefit concerts and we’d like to use some of our momentum and, hopfully what will be success, to benefit certain social movements that need attention because music is such a powerful engine for change.”

See video of their performance at SXSW here.
Download their EP Still Life on iTunes.
Visit them at their site here.

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