Interview with Elliott Frazier of Ringo Deathstarr

SXSW finished not too long ago. Was it crazy?

Yeah. We played 12 times. Just getting from one place to another, having 3 gigs in one day, is kinda crazy. There’s traffic, and police everywhere. They don’t let you turn down many of the streets. I’m glad we made every gig.

Since you live in Austin, do you end up playing SXSW every year?

Yeah, there’s always somewhere to play. We never just play it one time. Last year, we didn’t even apply for the festival, but we still played several times.

I guess you don’t even have to play it officially, because there’s so much unofficial stuff that goes on around it now.

Yeah. And they try to make it more difficult every year for the unofficial stuff to happen. Who knows where it will go from here?

You can’t really stop that stuff completely — maybe to a certain degree.

Well, they’ll try. The police chief will try. They’ll get in cahoots together [with the SXSW organizers]. [laughs]

How much stuff goes down there that requires police involvement?

Well, this year there was some sort of miniature riot outside of Death From Above 1979’s gig. Now it’s all over the papers here. The police chief wants to put more restrictions on SXSW next year.

That’s crazy. Did you guys play with or see anyone who was really awesome?

Yeah, we played with The Megaphonic Thrift from Norway a couple of times. We played with Trail of Dead. [We] got to see No Joy, A Place to Bury Strangers and The Pains of Being Pure at Heart. That was pretty much all I got to see. There’s not a lot of time to sit around watching bands when you’ve always got to be [getting] somewhere else.

Of course. You guys have played with Trail of Dead and APTBS before, I believe.


Who are some of your favorite groups that you’ve toured with?

Well, The Wedding Present are probably the band we’ve done the most gigs with. They’re all pretty nice guys. [The Wedding Present frontman] David Gedge came out to see us twice during SXSW. That was actually pretty flattering, that he would search us down at some house party in East Austin.

That’s cool. What about Austin Psych Fest, are you guys playing that?

No, we’re actually going to be in Japan when that’s happening.

Oh, yeah. Is that your first time going to Japan?

No, it’ll be our second time. Seems like they’re getting things under control with the nuclear reactors. Everyone on the Japanese end is still really excited for us to come over there. So we’ve gotta go and support them trying to get back to their normal lives.

That’s amazing that they’re keeping it together.

They’ve been around a lot longer than we’ve been around. They’ve dealt with crazy things before.

That’s true. So no Austin Psych Fest this year — have you played it in the past?

Yeah, we played the first one and the third one. I guess they skip us every year — maybe we’ll play it next year. [laughs]

That works! Between that and SXSW, it seems like it must be pretty awesome living in Austin.

Yeah! It’s great weather most of the time, if you can handle the heat. Sunshine all the time. Lots of chances to be outside and go swimming and stuff. It’s really relaxing. The community is really supportive of bands. It’s kind of like being an actor in LA — everyone is in a band. It’s cool. I live pretty far away from downtown, so I don’t really immerse myself in that whole thing when I don’t have to.

That’s cool, because you can always go there when you want to.


Were you guys all from Austin, or did you just get together there?

We just got together here. I moved here almost 10 years ago from Beaumont, TX. Our [original] drummer had moved to Beaumont when he was in high school. I went to high school with him for a year. He eventually moved up here. After the band had already started, I met the bass player, Alex — she’s the only Austin native. She worked at a clothing store. Anyway, we started playing together and then our drummer quit. Daniel, our current drummer, moved here right at the right time. We were like, “Hey, we’ve got to go on tour, why don’t you join the band?” People always get confused and say we formed in Beaumont, but that’s not the case at all.

Let’s talk about your new record ‘Colour Trip’ a bit. When did that come out?

It came out March 8 in North America, Valentine’s Day in Europe, and February 9th in Japan.

How’s the response been?

Pretty good! There are people who say it’s derivative, but we knew what we were doing. We didn’t set out to make a new style of music. Some reviewers have reviewed it with that in mind: “They failed to invent a new style of music!” That’s not what we were trying to do. We were just trying to make a cool-sounding, kind of shoegaze but also late ’80s/early ’90s alternative-sounding record, with a more subdued vocal style. But, we were also trying to find a way to keep it exciting.

There are a lot of bands that play that type of stuff and stand around looking at their shoes while they play; motionless, playing long, drawn-out songs. That’s not what we do at all. Our shows are more like going to a punk gig when you’re 14 or whatever — you don’t know what could happen. Things get thrown, things get knocked over, kids are jumping on stage, beer is getting spilled on people’s faces — all kinds of stuff! We try to have all that come out through our songs, somehow. When we play them live, they could go either way. Depending how we feel, we could go nuts, or just play the song normally.

The term “shoegaze” means almost nothing anyway. Some of the most interesting shoegaze bands are the ones who never look at their feet!

I mean, it’s hard not to look at your feet sometimes, when you’re pressing on pedals. I mostly look at my hands. [laughs]

Of course, with Alex doing vocals now, the My Bloody Valentine comparisons were bound to happen. The influence is apparent. I think it’s a great thing, personally — it should just be about making music that you enjoy playing and other people enjoy hearing.

When I was first starting the band, people would tell me, “Oh, you can’t sound like that. It’s too much like MBV.” But then I did it and a lot of people liked it. We’re kind of just seeing how much we can get away with it. The joke is on the people who say that it’s a detraction from what we are all about. At this point, who knows what we’ll do next? We’re going to try not to put out the same record again, but we’re going to keep using our influences, mixing them with new influences, and see where that takes us.

Where would we be without bands that sound like Jesus & Mary Chain? We wouldn’t have A Place to Bury Strangers, Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, The Raveonettes… We wouldn’t be able to enjoy any of those bands if one couldn’t sound like other bands.

There are plenty of other bands that rip off other bands from other styles. Plenty of classic rock bands ripped each other off. Apparently, it just matters who you rip off.

Yeah, and how you do it. You guys add your own flavor and your own vibe, and bring a certain energy to it. It’s still your expression.


Are you guys touring for the new album?

Yeah! We’re booking the tour right now, as a matter of fact. It’ll be for the summer. It’s going to get really busy for us towards the end of the summer. We’re supposed to go back to Europe for these festivals at the end of summer, so all the US stuff is going to be kind of based around that. It might be split up: one side of the US before we go, and one side after. Or, we might do the whole US before we go over there. I can’t really say.

Are you guys coming back to New York? I’ve only caught you guys once — I think it was a couple of years ago.

Yeah, it’s definitely been a while since we’ve been up there. We don’t have a vehicle. We used to have a van, but we don’t anymore. It belonged to our old guitar player. Without the vehicle to tour in, it makes it pretty impossible. To rent a van for three or four weeks costs way more money than it’s worth.

Well, you have to buy one!

Yeah. But none of us have good credit, we’re all in debt up to our eyeballs and probably will be forever. Whatever. We’ll get there somehow. It all just has to come together in the right way.

Yeah, you’ll figure it out! I noticed the videos for “Imagine Hearts” and “So High” came out quite a while in advance of the album. Did you have it in the can for a while?

Yeah, it’s been in the can. It was actually recorded a year before it came out, and it just kind of sat there, for reasons outside of our control.

I see. What else do you want to let people know about?

Today, I made a video for our song, “Kaleidoscope,” and put it up on YouTube. I edited it with some tour footage we had. It’s not HD-quality or anything, but it’s up there now. We’re trying to do as many music videos ourselves as we can. We have a couple more that are either shot already and being edited, or are about to be filmed. We’ve got lots of ideas. Sonic Youth had videos made for every song on ‘Goo,’ so we figured we could do something like that. We like doing that sort of thing.

And with technology now, it’s really easy to do it the DIY way.

Yeah, and you don’t have to worry about it being super high-quality, because most people are watching it on a tiny screen in the palm of their hand. You can shoot a video on a cell phone camera.

Totally. Another thing I was wondering: what’s your favorite guitar pedal?

Probably “The Rat” [by Pro Co Sound]. I have two of them. It has a pretty versatile sound. You can get it to sound almost like a Big Muff — really thick-sounding. One of them I have set to the maximum distortion sound, and the other one I have set to where it’s more like a boost. It’s definitely one of my most-used pedals. It works well with tube amplifiers. It doesn’t just do one thing and one thing only, like some of these newer boutique fuzz pedals. I have a few of those, but you can only use them on one or two songs. I like “The Rat” so much, I bought two!

[laughs] How many pedals do you play with live?

About 13. Most of them are fuzz pedals. I don’t really have delays or phasers or flangers or anything like that. I have two compression pedals and a bunch of different fuzz tones. Some are set to different volumes or what-not. You just have to figure out how they work with different amps.

I guess that’s everything!

Thanks for calling! Take it easy.

Pick up Ringo Deathstarr’s new album Colour Trip.

Be on the lookout for their upcoming tour dates — check out their Facebook page for more information.

  • strawberry wine

    ecstacy and wine… a great record. In Austin a new one we suppose.