Austin’s the Hi-Tones stop in Dayton En Route to SXSW
By Kyle Melton
It’s not exactly a well-kept secret that Austin, Texas is one of the most affluent music cities in the world at the moment. From the Austin City Limits television program to the massive South by Southwest (SXSW) annual music festival right down to the vibrant local club scene, Austin attracts talent from across the world. The city is also rich with homegrown talent, such as revved-up garage rockers the Hi-Tones, who will make an appearance at South Park Tavern this week as they tour in support of their latest EP, “TransAudioStasis.”
Emerging from the ashes of Dans La Lune, vocalist Johnny Flores and bassist Gary Delgado sought out to create a new unit that drew upon traditional rock n’ roll values while continuing to forge ahead. After shuffling through members for a few years, they finally adopted the Hi-Tones moniker in 2009 as drummer Kurt Lammers settled in as permanent drummer. Over the past year, the band added guitarist Kyle Abrams and keyboardist Alyson Beaujon to round out their current incarnation.
“I guess we came together by chance, if you believe in it,” mused Flores. “It just feels natural to us. We couldn’t be more happy and confident than we are right now.”
While the band is currently hitting a stride with the new lineup in place, much of the Hi-Tones song-driven aesthetic comes from the time Flores, Delgado and former guitarist Steven Reyes spent working with music industry veteran Oscar Houchins, whose credentials include working with Tommy James & the Shondells. Under Houchins’ tutelage, Flores and co. learned about what it takes to better connect with audiences.
“Oscar is a professional and he pushed us to be more professional, to take ourselves seriously,” Flores recalled. “Songwriting is a process. There are many variations to that process. We can’t give away any secrets but he did introduce us to some of those variations. The listening audience is always something that we take into consideration. For years we kept telling ourselves ‘yeah, we’re going to blow everybody’s mind,’ but it wasn’t until we actually tried to create something that people can identify with or relate to that we started to understand the true craft of songwriting and storytelling. That is kind of what it is all about. Finding something in yourself that can be found in everybody, and then sharing it.”
In 2010, the Hi-Tones issued an eponymous five-song EP which showcased the band’s modern vintage sound fueled by growling guitars, swirling organs and propulsive rhythms. In January, the band returned with a new disc, “TransAudioStasis,” which serves as the first documentation of the new five-piece lineup. While the band continues to revel in the roots of rock n’ roll, do not mistake them for mere retro pastiche.
“’TransAudioStasis’ came together in a short amount of time,” said Flores on the new album. “We were booked to record with Frenchie Smith and were forced to kind of rush the process. We took a step in a direction that was a bit more explosively real. We took a step away from the retro thing and it gave us a path to follow.”
While the band is slated to release a single with Pittsburgh garage rock imprint Get Hip later this spring, “TransAudioStasis” is being released on Lucy the Poodle records, with which Flores previously served as CEO.
“With the digital music age upon us, the ability for a band to tour the world and release their art is at their fingertips,” Flores explained. “We plan to keep doing everything ourselves and at the same time work with various indie labels’ music persons.”
On the heels of the release of the album, the Hi-Tones are out on a midwestern tour. Upon the conclusion of this current jaunt, the band will return home to Austin and a showcase at the iconic SXSW Music Festival.
“We are very thrilled to finally be playing SXSW,” Flores admitted. “The thought of coming off of a long tour and right into a showcase makes me relieved because we know the band will be in a zone. Austin is our home. There are countless things to do in Austin every night. It is truly a magical place; we are surrounded by music, art, fashion, film. Endless inspiration and influence. The music scene is very grass roots and very supportive.”
While the Hi-Tones easily fall into line with many of the sonic aesthetics of garage rock, there is a level of sophistication in the writing and arrangements that add an additional edge to the their primal energy. Having earned a reputation as a must-see live band due to Flores’s unbridled stage antics, their stop in Dayton should be one of the surprises of the season.
“It is hard not to sound like your influences,” said Flores. “Some of us have been listening to older music since we could crawl. So these sounds are always going to come out in some form or another in our music. We are a hard-working band with an explosive live show that is the very essence of what we do.”
The Hi-Tones will perform on Thursday, March 3 at South Park Tavern, 1301 Wayne Ave. Also on the bill are Dirty Socialites and the Black Whos? Doors open at 9 p.m. Admission is $5 for all ages. For more information, visit www.myspace.com/thehitonesmusic.
Reach DCP Music Editor Kyle Melton at email@example.com and visit his blog at www.thebuddhaden.net.