Lonesome Rhodes is the lo-fi bedroom pop creation by Austin-based musician, Kevin Johnson. Johnson is a classically-trained pianist who began writing and singing during his freshman year at the University of Texas, influenced by a wide range of artists from Neil Young to Youth Lagoon. On a summer's eve, Johnson played at my friends' home called the Cheerywood house in the Cherrywood neighborhood of Austin.
HOCKEY DAD // Austin, Texas
Billy Fleming and Zach Stephenson are the two-piece band and childhood friends of Hockey Dad from New South Wales, Australia. Their indie surf sound celebrates youth and embodies the spirit of the summer. I was able to catch their set at Barracuda and ask about their lives touring on the road.
ET: What are some of your favorite souvenirs you've picked up along the tour circuit?
ZACH: Bucee's pants that I’m wearing I got here.
BILLY: Oh I got a four dollar pack of cigarettes in Virginia! Back home, it’s like 25 dollars. Insane. Last night in Houston, our friend brought us some football shirts and hot sauce. We got a skateboard up in Canada. For some reason, Zach’s wearing a bandana right now that someone gave him.
ET: Do you two listen to the same bands?
BILLY: Yeah, but we also listen to really different stuff. It kinda helps a lot with writing to have wacky, crazy stuff that we listen to inspire us.
ET: I have to know, but did you have a nod to the Talking Heads song ‘Psycho Killer’ in Homely Feeling?
BILLY: Oh man I want that to be true now. That’s sick. That is the first time someone has said that. I wish it were true. We went to a house party in New Zealand and there was a Talking Heads song playing called ‘This Must Be The Place’ and it certainly was the place to be.
ET: Have you had any moments that you’re like whoa I’m a rockstar? Or does it not really phase you anymore?
BILLY: Yeah we will look at each other and be like what’s going on. It’s so funny.
ZACH: Most of the time we look at each other and laugh like ‘how do people let us do this?’
ET: How is it being a two-piece band? How do you hold your own?
BILLY: In the early days, it pushed us to play and even better. You have to fill the space and play constantly. We came from a band of four or five prior, so we had that. Now, we have to pretend to listen to each other and really like each other.
ET: You also have known each other for so long too.. It’s probably like easy to pick up on?
BILLY: Even in our live set, it’s a split little difference of character. It’s weird.
ET: What have you learned from the other surf-rock garage bands you have toured with (Fidlar, Dune Rats, Skeggs) other than how to party?
BILLY: What not to do (laughs). Nothing on the instrument front truthfully.
ZACH: I learned how to kick someone out of the venue while still playing a song.
BILLY: Skeggs does their own security. It’s pretty fun.
ET: How was it working with John Goodmanson on this record? (producer of Sleater-Kinney, Death Cab for Cutie, Blondie, Bikini Kill, and Wu-Tang Clan)?
BILLY: It was crazy because we caught onto him because he produced the Cloud Nothings record. It was a good-sounding record. Once we figured that out and connected that John did it, we looked at his back catalog and were like so excited. He did Trains’ Christmas album too. (laughs).
ET: You recorded 'Blend Inn' there in Seattle?
B: Yeah we went to Seattle where John lived. He was like ‘we’ll just go down the road to the studio.’ It ended up being an insane studio.
ET: What cities have stood out to you in America now that you’ve spent some time here?
BILLY: Seattle now that we have spent a lot of time there.
ZACH: I love Austin and Vancouver. I’m a Canada guy.
BILLY: Denver is sick. New York, Los Angeles and Seattle we have probably spent the most time in those cities.
ET: Your birthday just passed right, Billy? What was the best present Zach ever got you?
ZACH: Have I ever got you a present? I bought you a huge bottle of Australian rum and it’s disgusting. I got it for you on your 21st. Walking in the Sydney airport I bought it. I’m pretty sure I drank half of it at the party too.
ET: Imagine you are putting on your dream festival. Pick the location and headliners.
ZACH: In my backyard and I’d like to get Parquet Courts for sure.
BILLY: Whistler or someone like David Guetta and make it a big party.
ET: Who’s the better parent, Hockey Dad or Soccer Mommy?
BILLY: Soccer Mommy would be way more supportive and responsible.
ET: I’m not sure how familiar you are with American baseball, but when each batter is up to bat you can walk out to song. What would yours be?
BILLY: Every time you go up to bat?! That’s sick. I want to play baseball not play music now.
ZACH: Van Halen “Dance The Night Away.”
BILLY: Zach, what was that song Steve sung at karaoke? Lenny Kravitz “Are You Gonna Go My Way.”
ZACH: Yeah we have never even been to a baseball game in the states.
BILLY: The thing is you just play shows, eat, sleep and drink. We haven’t had time to see sports.
ET: Which sports are big in Australia?
ZACH: Cricket. We are so into it. If I wasn’t doing this, I’d be playing cricket. Not professionally just because I love it that much.
ET: You guys surf a lot too? If you had to pick, surfing or cricket?
BILLY: If I had to pick, I’d be surfing. That’s the reason, I quit cricket. We have a cricket game we play once a year. The long ones are worth it.
ET: Tell us about your SXSW experience! Did any surprise guests make it to any of your shows?
CR: Hmmm, they all happened so fast, it’s hard to remember! A lot of musicians I really love came to a bunch of the shows. I think the Shakey Graves crew was at more than one, which was cool because I’m a big fan and can now say we are all in love. Our friends in Lucy Dacus and Liza Anne came out, as well as some really amazing musicians from the Brooklyn scene over there. Always nice to meet people whose work you respect.
ET: Who were you excited to see at the festival?
CR: We were all very excited to see Natalie Prass. We’d been jamming to her single, “Short Court Style” basically the entire ride down to SX. She’s also just a lovely person and I truly think she’s a living genius, so we made a point to see her show, even though we really didn’t have a lot of free time given our schedule. I was also excited to see Nathaniel Rateliff, who’s a dear friend. He and I go way back to when we both played folk music and no one came to our shows. It’s wonderful to see him crushing the world right now. Let’s see, oh and Hinds were KILLER. I loved their set so much, we fell in love with them pretty much instantly upon seeing them dance in unison. They are also very very sweet people!
ET: How do you wind down and keep sane on tour?
CR: Ha! That’s a great question. Well, we all really like each other, for starters. Everyone in my band and in the crew are very calm and level-headed, so when one of us is having a rough day we all try and share some of the load. I really really love my band, they’re just the best. Our tour manager, Emmett is also just a wonderful person to be around.
ET: Where is your happy place to create new music?
CR: Basically any place where there’s not music playing already, which is surprisingly hard to find if you’re in a public place. I travel a lot, so I don’t always have the privilege of making music in my studio or my bedroom, so I often find the nearest library and work via MIDI on my computer. Just to get the ideas down. Actually, I’m sitting in the library right now and am going to do just that right after I finish this interview!
ET: Tell us more about the visual and idea behind the red Adidas tracksuit and your band wearing blue? Why red as opposed to any other colors?
CR: This is probably a disappointing answer but I really just think it looks nice!
ET: I saw your Tiny Desk performance a couple of years ago where you had more of a folk sound. How did the shift to indie rock shift? How do you feel playing more of the high energy rock sound on this album compared to your past music?
CR: Well everyone’s gotta start somewhere, and I think when I was first starting out my lifestyle really reflected the type of music I was making, which was more stripped down and off-the-cuff. I still love folk music, and you can still hear a lot of it in the music I make now, I’ve just expanded my range sonically. I’m motivated, and will continue to be motivated, by different things, but I can say with certainty I feel more comfortable being able to stretch my wings a bit.
ET: What's your reaction or feeling of seeing your album get high marks alongside other great female artist albums (all released within a few weeks of one another) such as Soccer Mommy, Lucy Dacus, Liza Anne, etc.?
CR: I don’t want to speak for anyone, but I’d imagine Sophie, Lucy and Liza would likely agree that we’re grateful to receive positive response alongside all albums, in addition to those by other female artists. But I see your point, it’s nice that women and (when they’re represented in the media) nonbinary and trans artists are being fully recognized as valued creators.
ET: What artists have you been listening to recently? Any potential collaborations that you’d love to make happen?
CR: Yes, definitely! I’d love to collaborate with Shamir. We just met at SX actually! I’d also love to work with Mark Ronson and Rostam at some point. Really love their work. Been digging the new Shakey Graves album, Amen Dunes, Janelle Monae, Lana del Rey, Shame, Superorganism, SZA, Thee Oh Sees, Moses Sumney, U.S. Girls…There is so much good music, it’s so overwhelming!!
ET: What I love about LONER and seeing you perform, is how candid and satirical you are but also touching on real subjects. What events or people inspired the making of this album and your performances?
CR: Aw thank you! The album was inspired by a whole lot of things, but the short answer is it’s an amalgamation of where I was at in that time of my life. There are elements of frustration, sadness, humour, joy, etc…I like to think of it as if it as different elements of my personality that all summed together, sound like me. I’m a particularly candid and satirical person, so I’m glad folks are recognizing that in the music.
ET: What do you hope listeners and fans take away from LONER? How do you hope they feel when they listen to your songs?
CR: I hope it makes people come to a show!
Part II of Creative Conversations, a series featuring photographers, designers and creators within the music industry beyond the artists to share their stories.
Dondrea Erauw is a Music Supervisor at instinct entertainment based out of Toronto. She has worked on projects like The New Romantic, Firecrackers, The Cuban, Beauty and the Beast, and Degrassi using her talent and creativity to discover music and license songs for these projects. We recently connected as I was looking for recommendations for things to do in Los Angeles in January. Dondrea and I became friends on Instagram, and she gave me the low-down on all the cool things since she frequently visits. I also was able to go to the premiere for her recent film project at SXSW, The New Romantic.
ET: So good to finally connect in person! I can't wait to hear your story and how your music journey began. Tell me about your background and entry into the industry.
DE: I was born and raised not too far from Toronto. I grew up in a music-oriented family, where my parents ran a church band, and my dad and uncle were the leaders. I basically learned to sing in the choir with my mom. I took some vocal lessons and stopped going to church to explore all different kinds of music. I started a band in high school, then wrote and recorded my own music. I also ended up being on a reality tv show, where I swapped roles with a music teacher. Since I grew up in a fairly small town, I wasn't super exposed to the entertainment industry as a teenager. I went to University for a media-type program and quickly realized that I didn't fit in there at all. I couldn’t relate to any of the students and they all had terrible taste in music.. I then decided to look into college , and that’s where I found the Music Industry Arts program at Fanshawe College. It was there that I learned about the ins and outs of the music industry. Everything from production to business to engineering. I also recorded my second band's EP there. We were very pop/punk, there was a lot of headbanging involved haha..
Also, I heavily watched The OC in high school and loved it, because it was a way for me to discover new music. I was obsessed with hearing and seeing songs to picture. When I was at Fanshawe ,I was trying to figure out exactly how graduate with a job, and it was there that I learned about Music Supervision. Instantly, I asked myself,'how the hell do I get into this world'? So I started from the basics of okay, I need to be skilled in licensing, copyright, etc. Where can I get a job and start there? So I sent my resume to a handful of labels and publishers. One of them reached out to me and asked if I could cover a leave of absence almost immediately. I remember I still hadn't finished my exams yet, and eventually lived on a friend's couch and started working at this publishing company handling copyright.
ET: Wow what a story.
DE: Yes, so long! About a year and a half after that, my boss now, (Michael, who started instinct) an intern. So I applied,chatted with him and knew I wanted to figure out how to get into the Music Supervision world. He was so confused though. 'are you going to leave your full-time job for an internship?!'. After I said yes,he hired me on full-time and I’ve been working with him ever since, which is about 6 years now.
ET: So awesome. I have always been interested to know what music supervision entails in the entertainment industry. How do you select the music for the movie/show?
DE: In terms of finding music, it's lately been Spotify. I go down a rabbit hole where I keep discovering new artists. I also receive music from indie and major record labels, as well as publishers. We get distribution emails from them and other licensing houses, and they provide us links to new albums/music. I also like to follow a couple of blogs etc. But Music Supervision is much more than just discovering new music and creatively placing songs to picture. There’s a lot of negotiating, paperwork and admin involved. We’re constantly having to problem solve.
ET: What project has been the one you are most proud of?
DE: The New Romantic! It was honestly one of my favorite projects to be a part of.
ET: In the film the music worked so seamlessly and set the mood of the scene and characters.
DE: I loved it because a lot of the music we licensed, is stuff that I genuinely listen to and I found most of the artists on Spotify. The opening track, 'More Romantic' by CLOSENESS was one that I randomly found. When I saw the first cut of the film, I was listening to all kinds of different songs, and it was one that really stuck out to me. So I ended up sending it (along with a hundred other songs), to the director and producer.
I also think the director & writer, Carly Stone, did an incredible job with the script. Her vision really came through. I also loved the sense of humor and comedy between all of the characters. The film was something I would have watched and loved even if I wasn't working on it. Also, this was Carly's directorial debut, and I think she outdid herself. Her and Kyle Mann (producer) put a lot of effort into this film and it’s so exciting to see their hardpay off.
ET: I really enjoyed the music in the film. I thought the song by Petit Biscuit fit super well into the whole idea.
DE: Yes, actually Carly really wanted to have that song in the film. It was originally in the first cut when I watched it. We were able to license it and we also referenced it as a creative pallet for the composer (Matthew O’Halloran).
ET: Did your career shift the way you listen to music?
DE: Hmm most supervisors would probably say yes. I would say,sometimes my supervisor brain comes on and when I hear a track,I might think, ‘this is too wordy’, or ‘this could work in one of my projects’ etc. But my love for music started when I was a musician, so I’ve always had an appreciation for it. A lot of people also ask if listen to music on my down time or not, and the answer is yes. Always..
ET: What kind of music really inspires you? Do you have any favorites right now?
DE: Right now, I am really into the new Kacey Musgraves album. It makes me feel good and sad simultaneously.
ET: Same! It's truly a beautiful album. It reminds me of Michelle Branch and 70's dream pop.
DE: Yes! It brings me back to this feeling like I'm listening to the Dixie Chicks with my friends in my friend's mom's car. (Laughs)
I am also a-die-hard Paramore fan. I always have been and always will be. That is the band I always go back to. I discovered them when I was 15, and I love how I’ve been able to grow up with them. Now, Now is also a band I listen to quite often. They have a new album coming out on May 18th, and I was lucky enough to get an advanced copy. It’s SO GOOD. I haven’t been able to stop listening to it. They’re constantly creating music that moves me.