The Austin garage trio Woven Bones make dark, fuzzed, primitive, foot-stomping garage rockabilly shot through with J&MC, VU, and the Damned. (And you can extend that list to include a number of “the” bands: the Gun Club, the Troggs, the Cramps, etc.) I say trio, but right now guitarist/vocalist Andrew Burr and bassist Matty Nichols are the only permanent members until they nail down a steady drummer. They’re here today because Andrew does freelance design work and Matty’s been waiting tables at the same Austin Italian restaurant for five years. When not working, they’re in the midst of recording their first album. After the conversation take a listen to the title track from their recently released The Minus Touch 12″ and revisit “If You’re Gold, I’m Gone“‘ and its grinding half-speed Stooges crawl.
STEREOGUM: You got fired after your last tour in September? Where were you? working at that time? ?
ANDREW BURR: Actually, I got fired before our first southern tour in June. I was working at a Bar/Restaurant here in Austin, washing dishes. I was booking our tour and had only signed on for 20 hours a week. I guess I excelled at scrubbing so they just gave me 40 + hours the next week, which was more than i expected. I had just gotten a phone with email and there was a lot of down time at the job and would use my free time when i was all caught up, leaned against the dish pit answering and sending emails that were absolutely crucial to our tour. I ended up getting seriously chastised for being on my phone. Real typical right? The same night I refused to cover another shift for the other dish washer and work a double because we had rehearsals that night. The next day, bam, I got fired. ??
STEREOGUM: You told me you do design work when you’re between jobs. How long does ?this sort of work pay the bills? Do you find yourself returning to a ?9-5 sort of thing after a while?
AB: Yeah, I do whatever design/art jobs I can to pay the bills and they allow me to focus on Woven Bones while being my own boss of sorts working at home. So far, things have been really going fast for us … and I haven’t been able to easily return to a 9-5 or convince someone to give me one.
STEREOGUM: What’s your background in graphic design?
AB: I went to design school for a year and a half, figured I was already getting work and knew my stuff, then dropped out to go to art school. Same thing happened in art school: I kinda learned the conceptual side then moved on before I graduated. I’d maybe go back to school to get a degree in Art History, so I could teach when I’m old. That’d be some time from now though.??
STEREOGUM: What are some recent jobs you’ve taken? You said it’s generally ?related to music or via someone you’ve met through music.?
AB: Well, I’ve done some pretty cool minimal web design for our record labels, and lately I’ve been doing these artist series T-Shirts for this clothing company that’s into the band and my designs. When on tour we’ve had people come up and solicit work to me and I keep up with it when I get home. It results in a lot of poster work, record covers, t-shirts designs, and weird odd design jobs for record labels. Sometimes it’s just 50 bucks to make an animated gif for some bands in store appearance or something.
STEREOGUM: There are countless musical graphic designers. Why the link do you think?
AB: Man, I dunno, maybe just the creative itch. I guess if your talented at both, you can kinda brand your band and really give it a distinct visual presence, like totally complete the whole creation circle for your records, audibly and visually. I personally prefer making music to design and would love to be able to just focus on music, but design pays my bills when it’s good and it is something I enjoy way more than many things I’ve done for work.
STEREOGUM: You told me that you “really only like doing design work for things ?that I’m down with…” Have you ever had to take a design job for?something you didn’t agree with/like? Or are you strict about this?
AB: I mean, yeah, I have, and I’m strict only in certain respects. I don’t really come across too many random clients, nothing totally wacked out you know, every client has got about 3 degrees of separation and I usually know the client somehow for the most part. There are, though, the bro deal clients that will bleed you dry and waste your time, and you gotta cut them off at some point. I know when a $50 favor is gonna turn into this never ending hassle anyone else would be charging for and banking on. I just realized I have to be upfront because it’s how I pay my rent and eat. I gotta screen those favors for vampires and go with the people that really appreciate my work and time. One reason I quit design school and went to art school was that corporate design just kinda turned me off in the end, I was just into the creative side of design.
STEREOGUM: What’s the name of the restaurant where you work? Can you give me some background on it?
MATTY NICHOLS: I work at Frank & Angie’s downtown, it’s off 6th Street in the warehouse district. It’s been around for a little over ten years.
STEREOGUM: What makes your restaurant stand out from other Italian joints in the city?
MN: Hah, I doubt anything really. Oh, they have a pretty outstandingly crappy mural of New York City on the inside wall and all the menu items are named after famous Italians. Hahaha, the Scorsese is our double pepperoni pizza. The food is actually really decent I can’t lie, but it’s just Italian food — pretty standard, you know?
AB: I bet the locals keep coming for that Lady and the Tramp vibe while feeding each other spaghetti next to the mural.
STEREOGUM: You’ve been at the same place for five years? How did you initially get the job?
MN: I actually walked in and got the job a little after I moved to Austin from Washington State. It’s been really flexible and tolerable the whole time.
STEREOGUM: Have any coworkers been there as long as you? Longer?
MN: I think one manager, one waiter, and a lot of the kitchen staff have been there as long or longer than me. Something in the cannoli mix keeps us around I guess.
STEREOGUM: What sort of changes have you seen since you started working there?
MN: Maybe a few different things have changed on the menu, but the work routine is this the exact same as ever. Oh yeah, and we lost our free shift meals a little while back, kind of a bummer but I’d had enough Italian to last a life time by then.
STEREOGUM: What are your duties?
MN: Wait tables and all the glamor that comes along with it.
STEREOGUM: What’s the best tip you’ve received? Worse?
MN: The best tip I’ve received — and mind you I’ve only waited tables at this one restaurant and it’s by no means fine dining or anything — I think was two hundred clams. Just for letting this rich, bohemian-looking woman from Dallas and her family sit on the patio when it was supposed to be closed. The worst is a stiff, which I’ve had a few, but not as many as you might think. That and those ridiculous “here’s a tip from Jesus” cards that Christians leave on the table. Those are kind of a let down. Funny, though.
STEREOGUM: If someone gives you a bad tip, do you remember their face the next time their in the restaurant?
MN: Yeeeeeeesssssssssssssssssssss. They’ve been marked and tucked away in my memory so that later I can invoke their image and stick pins in my voodoo doll. I don’t know, really. I guess it depends on how bad the tip is, or whether they don’t tip at all. Also how needy they are for their bad tipping. But yes, you do tend to remember these things.
STEREOGUM: Are you a jovial waiter? A more reserved waiter?
MN: Definitely on the reserved end of the spectrum.
STEREOGUM: Since you’ve been at the restaurant for so long have you ever wanted to ‘climb the ladder’ and move to a managerial position or whatever?
MN: No, to be honest, I haven’t. Where I’m at currently allows for a lot of flexibility in my schedule. I’m able to do the things I want to do outside of my day job, such as this band. There’s no way I could get time off to go on a three-week tour every few months or whatever and still have a job to fall back into if I was a manager. A “managerial” position is way more hours, and depending on the tides could actually mean less money. I sometimes wish I was back in the kitchen where I started in the restaurant business, so I wouldn’t have to talk to anybody, but the back end also has it’s own set of stresses I suppose.
STEREOGUM: There’s that stereotype/cliche about waiters and waitresses often being actors/actresses in training. You ever run into any of those?
MN: Actually no. If this were LA or New York I’m sure, but not really in Austin. At least not where I work. I guess here the cliche is the musician waiting to be discovered. You run into far more of that in the service industry.
STEREOGUM: Any interesting regulars?
MN: Well, lemme see…The ex-mayor, Will Wynn, used to come in and have breakdowns and yell at everyone. One of my co-workers told me Gibby Haynes from Butthole Surfers used to come all the time in and just get cannolis and go out and eat them in the parking lot, weird.
STEREOGUM: Have you picked up any cooking skills during your time there?
MN: Never even touched the kitchen, it’s a secret society back there.
The Minus Touch EP is out via Zoo Music. Woven Bones’ debut LP will be out in late April via HoZac. Before that, though, you can catch them on Matador’s excellent Casual Victim Pile, a New York Eye & Ear Control-nodding compilation that also made met think of the great Datapanik label for the first time in ages. The comp, which comes out via Matador on 1/26, features 19 Austin bands hand-picked by Gerard Cosloy. Woven Bones represent with “Spirits Roam.” Do more Woven Bones research at MySpace.
[Photo by Lauren Grant. Matty's on the left, Andrew on the right.]