SXSW 2018 is go, meaning the streets of Austin are teeming with bands new and established, all playing an ungodly amount of shows in the venues, bars, car parks and houses of the city over the next few days. We’ll be recapping our best discoveries, favourite reunions, and chats with some of the festival’s breakout stars throughout the week. Here’s the best bits NME has seen so far.
Of the scant Monday night (March 12) options, Our Girl are one of the best. The other project of The Big Moon guitarist Soph Nathan, the trio make overcast, shoegaze-indebted indie that whips and swirls with uncompromising force. They’ve quietly been building themselves up on Soph’s days off from what’s turned into her day job of sorts and, with their debut album on the horizon, now they’re ready to show what they’ve become. The likes of eponymous recent single ‘Our Girl’ and ‘Sleeper’ are heavy on the dynamics – big, loud moments shattering into quiet shards – while ‘Being Around’ is a bright, surging ode to friendship that’s probably Our Girl’s poppiest moment yet.
Hull’s Life are early contenders for most in-your-face band, even with a 1am stage time. During a set made up of tracks from 2017 debut album ‘Popular Music’, frontman Mez Green climbs monitors, prowls along the bar, and gets in the thick of things in the crowd. Their tightly-wound, social commentary punk is caustic and clattering, delivered with an eviscerating snarl and a sense of relentless fun that makes the likes of ‘In Your Hands’ and ‘Rare Boots’ both provoking and the perfect way to cap the night.
Suburban Living started a few years back as the solo project of frontman Wesley Bunch, but it’s hard to imagine the Philadelphia group’s songs as anything but the rich, full jewels emanating from the PA on Cheer Up Charlies’ patio. Now a four-piece, they do glittering shoegaze (or “shoeglaze” as they call it) that’s beautifully melancholy, driven by coiled post-punk basslines. ‘Video Love’ is just that – sophisticated in its sadness, at one point Wesley singing “I know it’s hard to be alone” – while a new song suggests the follow-up to 2016’s ‘Almost Paradise’ album will be an exciting next step on for the band.
In a condo complex populated exclusively by students, Hinds are playing the band in any number of on-screen, on-campus party scenes in American cinema. Outside, everyone is chugging beers by the pool. Inside, they’re crowd-surfing as much as the low ceilings will let them. The Madrid four-piece’s set feels like a celebration – of music, of community, of fun – even before they start singing ‘Happy Birthday’ to drummer Amber Grimbergen whenever a break in songs allows. “The microphone might stop sounding, but the drums always sound,” announces singer/guitarist Carlotta Cosials in tribute to the band’s pace-setter after co-frontwoman Ana Perrote has some technical difficulties.
The magic of old songs like ‘Chili Town’ has only grown stronger in the two years since the four-piece released their debut album ‘Leave Me Alone’, but its the new tracks that are the standouts tonight. In particular, ‘Tester’ seethes with the rage that comes from being fucked over by someone you once thought yours, Ana and Carlotta sneering: “Should I have known before you were also banging her?” Somehow, though, it’s also really gleeful and giddy, as if calling out this ex as a unit takes the edge off the pain. Or, maybe, it’s just the beer.