Austin’s music scene is in a golden era at the moment. While the mainstream chooses the safety of the blues rock like the respectable outfit Black Pumas and Gary Clarke Jr., or the confines of the dull neo-traditional stomp folk, there’s more vibrancy in the underground. Whether it’s the raw and raucous disgust of Tear Dungeon, the unhinged anarchistic beauty of FUCK MONEY, the raw diesel power of trash punk glam outfit Lord Friday The 13th, or the royal fucking weirdness that refuses to be contained in any form or fashion, which can only loosely be described as slacker noise of NECKBOLT.

I was originally out to see Glassing. It was Free Week in Austin’s Red River District, rainy and cold, but the show was free, showcasing a few acts before Glassing took the stage. First up, was a band I was never familiar with, but now will never forget. As they took the stage a wild haired man wearing a Garfield sweater started setting up a pitch shifter, along with the mic. I had no idea who they were, as I was only familiar with Glassing, but was eager to be surprised by whatever they were going to throw at us. What they threw at us was something that caught me entirely off guard, and cemented in my mind that this group of wild maniacs are at the cutting edge of what makes the underground local scene.

NECKBOLT are never afraid of getting messy. Everything equally blends together, yet fights for the spotlight. That contention leads to a thrilling ride that’s never unengaging. They play in colorful muddied waters, that usually ends in a thrill ride of left turns. This weirdness isn’t something that’s strived for, as vocalist James Roo explains:

‘Weird is something I was always drawn to. I read a lot of comics and watch a lot of cartoons, that stuff is always tinged with the weird. Like most parents of a certain generation my folks had a shelf of Stephen King and Anne Rice books that I was not allowed to read. I remember my Dad describing the opening scene of IT to me when I was pretty young, I was entranced by the terror of it. The natural fear of a dark drain, the uncanny nature of clowns. I would think about it all the time and eventually began to sneak them off the shelf to ruin my mind. Also, I was raised Catholic; the pageantry, violence, magic and high strangeness of it drew me in.’

His muses and inspirations seem swirled, and jumbled in id, much like the sound NECKBOLT generates. There’s a connective tissue that reflects more on the authenticity of the human condition, and the psychic fantasy that encompasses it all. Roo took the fantasy of it literally:

‘As a kid I took it literally, like all this crazy stuff used to happen in this miraculous war of good and evil and it doesn’t happen anymore. I really wanted to see the tongues of flames or plagues of toads or the seas part. I don’t go to church anymore but I am still fascinated by religion, the mystical holds me.

‘Maybe its the elusive nature of the weird, everything is really just a shadow of the actual thing; the bible is actually an allegory or is actually just a book, a clown is actually a giant spidery creature, music is actually noise.’ 

The idea of music as noise isn’t anything new to all us nerds at Everything Is Noise. It’s even in our name. James’ idea of noise manifests itself as slacker folk slathered in weird punk. Almost like Wolf Parade, but with less hipster swagger, and grittier fearlessness. A punkish nature that feels like tripping in a city alley.

Their debut album is a good proof of concept of how they operate. As Roo explains how Midwestern Drawl came to be everything comes into focus:

‘I met Ben (Krause) after Bill (Indelicato) and my previous project Oozer disbanded, we had been trying out playing with a few different people kind of figuring out what to do next and Ben had recently moved to Austin. Bill introduced us, and after we had been jamming for a while Ben approached me with some songs he had already been recording and asked if I would want to do some vocals. That was the first NECKBOLT album. I came up with some spooky lyrics and we recorded my vocals in like 2 days, it was sort if irresistible to be presented with a fully realized project and be asked to help take it across the finish line.’

Midwestern Drawl kickstarts pretty fucking hard. “The Saddle” doesn’t give much of an introduction, and immediately starts swinging for the fences. The jangly loop that Ben gets stuck in clears the way for Roo to freak the fuck out on the mic, as the keys reflect a dial up modem before everything fades away.

Those keys immediately connect to “Jawline” where the obscurity takes full stage, slowing down, getting some ballsy percussion injected for vitality before Roo starts his muddled rambling, and Ben indulges in his repetition with a riff that loops like a figure eight. Nothing stays the path too long, as the entire album finds weird hyper fixations, indulges in them, then easily moves on, like a group of kids playing with toys in imaginary scenarios before moving to the next.

More obscure tracks like “Half-Eaten” commit fully to pushing the boundaries of what’s considered a traditional song, and leans further into the noisiness they influence from. Although the track could be elastically stretched further, it ends abruptly after a minute and a half, as if snapping out of their trance, and back into their punk ideologies.

More aggressive tracks like “Sandwich” are a fucking romp. The noisy nature of the outfit stays heavy handed, and showcase the creative approach Roo takes to his vocal duties. Roo transgresses into a funhouse carnival barker, demanding your attention, but not trying too hard to obtain it, because his presence carries an odd natural allure that sucks you in. There’s not much to reference in terms of how they sound, because nothing sounds quite like them.

When shit chills out, like on “…Over the Lake,” The quintet allows themselves breathing room to explore whatever sounds they’re focusing on. The repetition stays, like mantra, but everyone veers out, and goes their own way, alone but together. It can be chill, and overwhelming in both measures, but always vibrantly engaging.

As the band creates a blender swirl of chaos in the background, Roo surfs above it. When ask how he developed his sound he explains:

‘I think part of my love for affected vocals comes from being into hip hop in high school. I would get really high and sort of marvel at the act of sampling or scratching and how unnatural a phrase turns when its being chopped up in a non organic way. Later a friend from a sculpture class showed me BoredomsSuper æ, and that sort of blew my mind, I didn’t really know that you could do something like that. Those are the two things I think of at first anyway.’

With both of us growing up in Austin, I was immediately prompted to ask if the hip hop he was referring to was the legendary DJ Screw, as Austin’s rap scene was Houston back then. His answer surprised me further: ‘Yea, Screw for sure, that stuff was everywhere! I was also into more nerdy stuff like kid koala and Prefuse 73. Stones Throw record label was booming around then as well, so I got really into Madlib and J Dilla (I still listen to Donuts and Further Adventures of Lord Quas often).’

It’s an interesting take on Dilla samples that stuck out to me the most. That DIY nature that drives a lot of what this band does well is a testament to unabashedly connecting your influences, and that punkish nature is rampant all over Dream Dump. The intro track “Sort Of” feels like a fist fight in slow motion while tripping, and that energy carries all the way through to “Goop Ocean”. The riff in “Fung Wah or Lucky Star” feels like ascension on a never ending staircase with every step accompanied by a low frequency anxiety until the solo. Which is really just a bridge that gets stuck on a loop, while the vocals reach an absolute fever pitch of exploration, before everything fades into a psychic simmer.

The weird messiness is at the heart of what works for NECKBOLT. Everything is loosely tied together with a sense of comprehension that’s realized and recognized, but also not strictly enforced, allowing each element to meander, wander, and deliver surprising unhinged glints, thrilling playfulness, and creative freedom. Much like a collective jam session driven by unfettered creative expression. Altogether the idiosyncratic fixations the quintet explore together engulfs the listener tenfold.

NECKBOLT is what one should imagine as a band on the forefront of a scene like Austin’s. Along with the rest of the underground acts, the band injects life into a vibrant scene that champions accepting individuality, like scene grandfather Roky Erikson intended. Austin has always been known as the weird city in Texas, usually due to the dull as fuck nature of the surrounding scenery (with some exceptions). NECKBOLT wears that individuality well, exudes weirdness effectively, and overall showcases why it’s easy to love our local scene. Together, the five have developed a uniqueness that’s not comparable to anything, routinely fresh, engaging, sporadic, and indication of what else can be offered. Here’s to hoping there’s much more, although, with the oozing creativity that’s spilt all over within their last two releases, it’s hard to imagine there’s not. I’ll be excited and impatient as I wait. Grab both their releases out now, on Born Yesterday Records, order some merch on their Bandcamp and give their socials a follow below:


James Roo – vocals
Ben Krause – guitar
Bill Indelicato – bass
Brent Hodge – drums
Kilyn Massey – guitar

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"I'm the Osiris of this shit" -Russel Tyrone Jones

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