Sphynx

Today's feature? Sphynx. PEV's focus on this sweet 3-piece? That's a bit more complicated. There's so so so... so much we could talk about. They're out of Austin, Texas - a well-know breeding ground for absurdly talented artists representing every genre. We could talk about the fact that Sphynx is on the wave of innovation - creating new sonic pop sounds that's mixing some of the best synth styles of the past with beats of the future. But I'd rather focus on something else. Bromance. That's right - bromancing. Sphynx gets into how the band formed:
"Sphynx was conceived over three bottles of wine on a moonlit beach, and that's actually not a joke. It was winter of 2009 and Todd and I had rented a beach cabin for the weekend in Surfside, TX for Cory's bachelor party. We never stopped hanging out, but we hadn't been playing music together for a year or so. Anyways, we wound up having a very bro-mantic conversation that night about how we missed playing music together and how we wanted to spend our lives together writing songs. We started writing together again when we got back to Austin."

That probably deserves a collective "awwwww" - but we're pumped no matter the story that brought Cory "Can't Stop" Dennis, Aaron "Won't Stop" Miller and Todd "Might Stop" Harris back together. You'll be just as gitty once you sample the debut EP yourself, a collection titled "Human Beast". The band says "'Human Beast' is a crash course in Sphynx. Not many people knew we existed before that EP came out, so we weren't under much pressure to finish it. That was great because we were able to spend 7 months mixing the EP, which was crucial for us...We wrote as we went and played with a lot of different ideas. It was very laid back and very conducive to creativity." They continue on, about their sound: "I think the dynamic of Sphynx is a little more organic than lots of synth-pop bands. Todd uses a real drum set and the synthesizers and guitars play off of each other quite a bit. We also have two lead singers, which I think helps distinguish us synth-pop groups. Also we have lots of facial hair."

And facial hair is hugely important - just check out my mustache! Anyway, Sphynx is dropping a remix tape next month and will continue to take their energetic show to your face. Check them out and "Human Beast". There's a whole lot more to get into, so keep reading for all the answers to the XXQ's.
 
XXQs: Sphynx
PensEyeView.com (PEV): How would you describe your sound and what do you feel makes you stand out over the others in your genre?
We definitely get lumped in with the '80's synth-pop revival' that's happening right now and we're happy about that. It's an honor to be compared to bands like Chromeo, MGMT, Cut Copy, Reptar, etc. We're pretty much like those bands only better looking and cheaper to book. That's a joke (kind of). Really we all come from rock backgrounds, and though we are not a rock and roll band by any stretch, I think the dynamic of Sphynx is a little more organic than lots of synth-pop bands. Todd uses a real drum set and the synthesizers and guitars play off of each other quite a bit. We also have two lead singers, which I think helps distinguish us synth-pop groups. Also we have lots of facial hair.
PEV: Hailing from Austin, Texas, home, what kind of music were the members of the band into growing up? Do you remember your first concert?
There's so much music in this city that if you're at all musically inclined, it seems like you grow up and start a band. Cory and I (Aaron) met when we were two, so we went through all of our music phases together moving from country to pop-punk, to psychedelic (weird transitions, I know), to indie, and landing where we are right now. We met Todd when we were all 14 and shared a taste for punk.
Todd's phases were about the same except he had a post-hardcore phase while Cory and I were listening to psychedelic music. Cory's first favorite song was 'Hang in There Superman' by Hal Ketchum and his first concert was Shania Twain (which is where he got his stage presence from). Todd's first favorite band was P.O.D. and his first concert was Kutless (the only non-country boy in the band). My first favorite band was Simon and Garfunkel and my first concert was Jerry Jeff Walker (both of whom I still think are awesome).
PEV: What was it like trying to break into the music scene when you first started out as a band? What was your first show like together as a band?
Well with Sphynx it helped that we had all been in a previous Austin band called The El Guapos. We had a few good friends who book in town and it wound up being that our first show as Sphynx was actually the headlining slot at an Of Montreal after show. It was a ton of fun, but it made the next several months of shows a little underwhelming. Austin has a good music scene, but a lot of it is made up of blues, roots, and folk. There aren't many pop and electronic bands here and it's been difficult to find our niche and get on bills that fit Sphynx. We're still one of the few pop and electronic artists here, but we've found a really supportive community of people who listen to our music and come to shows and we're super thankful for that!
PEV: What can fans expect from a live Sphynx show?
As a rule, Sphynx shows are quite wild; some might even say they are buckwild. You can expect to see us in matching pants, gold chains, 80's track jackets, and flamboyant tank tops; the band dress code is 'tacky.' Todd stands on his drum set, Cory busts out some really vintage dance moves (shopping cart anyone?), and I do a little guitar playing with my mouth. It’s a giant party. Also, last summer we built a huge metallic sign that says 'SPHYNX' to hang above Todd's drums. It takes up a lot of space and it's tricky to bring to shows. We put it in hibernation because it was just taking too long to set up, but I think we might just dust it off for next time we play in Austin.
PEV: What is the first thing that comes to mind when you step on stage?
I know we have always had a tendency to get pretty nervous just before we go on stage and I'm not sure if that will ever go away. However, the nerves disappear as soon as the music starts and I'm not sure if any of us are thinking very much during shows, which is probably what spurs the dance moves, head banging, and equipment climbing that usually takes place. I think it'd be difficult to act that way if we were thinking too much or taking ourselves very seriously.
PEV: Tell us the story behind the name of the band, Sphynx.
I wish there were a more interesting story. We were booked for our first show (the Of Montreal one) before we actually had a band name. I suppose that was poor planning because it resulted in a hectic scramble for a name. We were going to call ourselves 'Empress' until we found out an artist from New York was already using that name. That's when we decided it would be cool to name the band 'Sphinx' after the mythical creature, one of the most badass mythical creatures of them all, if you ask us. Our only grievance with 'Sphinx' was that the letter 'y' just looks so much prettier than the letter 'i,' so we wound up spelling it 'Sphynx,' the same way as the hairless cat species is spelled. I guess that’s what we get for being vain about the appearance of the word, but we're happy with it!
PEV: What was the underlining inspiration for your music? Where do get your best ideas for songs?
Sphynx was conceived over three bottles of wine on a moonlit beach, and that's actually not a joke. It was winter of 2009 and Todd and I had rented a beach cabin for the weekend in Surfside, TX for Cory's bachelor party. We never stopped hanging out, but we hadn't been playing music together for a year or so. Anyways, we wound up having a very bro-mantic conversation that night about how we missed playing music together and how we wanted to spend our lives together writing songs. We started writing together again when we got back to Austin. So I guess the underlying inspiration for our music would be our friendship? We write the music together and Cory and I split the lyrical duties:
I like to write lyrics about my girlfriend, my friends, my future and my past, and books I read. Sometimes I'll write lyrics on behalf of my friends too if they're in a dilemma or a strange situation, I've always got their backs. Lately I've been writing a lot about the struggles we face as an aspiring band and how difficult it's been to stay this busy with music while working day jobs to pay the bills and trying to wrap up college as well, I wouldn't trade it for anything and it's already been worth it, but it can be a stressful way to live.
Cory: My lyrics are just about how I'm feeling that day. I just have to sit down, turn off the lights and play. Most of them are written to my wife; a declaration of love, an apology, or something I've been trying to say but couldn't find the right way to say it. So my inspiration has come from as little as a short interaction with a stranger, to something huge that has been weighing on me for quite some time.
PEV: Thinking back to when you first started out do you ever look back at your career and think about your earlier days and how you've arrived where you are today?
We feel incredibly lucky to be able to play music together and have been treated very kindly by a lot of people. We're really happy about the opportunities we've had so far, but we don't spend much time looking back right now. All of us are 21 years old and though we're happy with what we've accomplished so far, Sphynx definitely has a long way to go. I'd say we spend more time thinking about where we're going than where we've been.
PEV: What's one thing we'd be surprised to hear about the members of Sphynx?
Cory and Todd are brother-in-laws. Todd is married to Cory's younger sister, and Todd's older brother is actually married to Cory's older sister. Naturally, people seem to find this interesting as well as confusing. Also, Cory broke my favorite rocking horse when we were four. He was demonstrating how strong he was by picking up the rocking horse and throwing it. It broke into several pieces when it hit the floor and I think I held a grudge about that for quite a while.
PEV: Was there a certain point in your life when you knew that music was going to be a goal for you?
Like I mentioned earlier, we all played in a band called The El Guapos when we were in high school. I'm not sure if any of us were thinking about the rest of our lives at that point, but The El Guapos got offered a record deal at the end of our senior year, which sort of forced us to think about our futures. We were all going to college the next year and the band split up during the label negotiations to pursue separate lives. We were pretty bitter about it at the time, but now we're all really grateful that happened. Once we actually stopped playing music together and started being college students with jobs in the real world, we realized how much we missed music. I think that conversation on the beach solidified that playing music would be the ultimate goal for the three of us. I don't know how that would have happened without The El Guapos.
PEV: What can fans expect from your debut EP, Human Beast? Tell us more about this album.
'Human Beast' is a crash course in Sphynx. Not many people knew we existed before that EP came out, so we weren't under much pressure to finish it. That was great because we were able to spend 7 months mixing the EP, which was crucial for us. We didn't have many live shows under our belt at that point either, so the sound of the band actually developed and solidified the most during the recording and mixing process. We wrote as we went and played with a lot of different ideas. It was very laid back and very conducive to creativity. Hopefully we can record like that again someday. As far as the sound of the EP, it's very danceable with big synths, big beats, and big guitars. I think the duty of an EP (especially a first EP) is catch people’s attention. It seems like that's what 'Human Beast' has done for us so far and we hope it continues to do that.
PEV: What is the feeling you get after a song is complete and you can sit back and listen to it being played the way you envisioned?
Usually the first feeling that hits us is exhaustion. Cory owns a recording studio here in town, so we do the recording ourselves, which is really great because we get to be very hands on in every step of the process. We have a 'no settling' policy,  so we keep working until all three of us are completely satisfied with every part of the recording. This means we have to work pretty hard to finish a song, but it also means we're exceptionally happy when a song is finally finished!
PEV: With all your traveling is there one area you wish you could travel around and play that you have not yet?
Definitely! We want to play everywhere all the time. We haven't played the west coast at all yet, which we were talking about the other day. Hopefully we can get out there soon. Texas is just way too big and from Austin, it takes at least five hours to get out of the state in any direction.
PEV: How have all your friends and family reacted to your career? What's it like when you get to play at your hometown?
Our friends have been very nice to us and we're all really lucky to have families who support us in everything that we do, I don't know what we'd do without them. Lately we haven't been able to play Austin as much as we used to which has actually been a good thing for us. The shows we do play in Austin are usually with friend-bands and often put together by friends of ours. There are often friends in the audience as well. I think we tend to be a little more relaxed here and we usually work out new songs and stage ideas in Austin before taking them on the road. There are a lot of great people here. Our next Austin show is Wild Frontier Fest 2011, which has an incredible line-up of local and national acts, we’re stoked for that!
PEV: What can we find each of you doing in your spare time, aside from playing/writing music?
My friends and I play a lot of NFL Blitz on the Nintendo 64, we actually just upgraded to NFL Blitz 2001, so things are getting pretty intense. Cory is a computer nerd and a Mac fan boy, so he's often tinkering with a computer or watching Apple keynote speeches. Between Netflix and TiVo, Todd’s schedule is pretty tight; he actually just finished watching both seasons of Twin Peaks. If you think that sounds like a waste of time then you obviously have never watched Twin Peaks (it's my favorite show).
PEV: Name one present and past artist or group that would be your dream collaboration? Why?
Is it too cliché to say Kanye West? We're all huge Kanye fans and he is one of our favorite characters in the music business. Plus, I think Sphynx would go very well with a hip-hop collaborator and it's something we'd be interested in doing. Kanye; I know you're reading this and I know you “loft in Austin.” Email us. Also, does Prince count as a past artist? Am I asking too many questions? I mean, even though Prince is still touring he doesn't really do many collaborations or production projects anymore, so I'll go ahead put him in the 'past artist' category. If Prince ever wants to take on another project band, Sphynx would gladly be his next Morris Day.
PEV:  Is there an up and coming band or artist you think we should all be looking out for now?
There is a lot of great music happening right now and there's a ton of bands we know that we're really excited about. We met a handsome gentleman at our stop in Murfreesboro, Tennessee this summer on tour. His name is Jordan and his band is called Cherub. They just played with Yacht and they're play with Ghostland Observatory this fall. Cherub is extremely badass and their debut EP comes out this month I believe. Also, our pal Corduroi, who lives here in Austin and who we play with quit a bit just signed to Mush Records (Lymbyc System, Aesop Rock, Daedalus, etc.) he's awesome and you should definitely check out his music and his videos if you get a chance!
PEV: If playing music wasn't your life (or life's goal) what do you think each of you would be your career?
Aaron: If I weren't doing Sphynx I would be studying entertainment law and working on the business side of music. I'd like to help bands like us with management, booking, and affordable legal advice. I'll probably still look into law school later in my life once I've become super filthy rich from this band.
Cory: I would dive deeper into music production/recording. As Aaron said before, I own a studio called Indie Fort Studios and have been recording and producing local Austin acts since we opened roughly 5 years ago. If I ever grow tired of recording I might try my hand at sorcery.
Todd: Be a stay at home dad for a few years. Then start a synth-pop soda bar/club and name it The Juice Box Hero. Or do real-estate investing…either one would be fine.
PEV: So, what is next for Sphynx?
We are releasing our first cassette this October. It will feature a brand new single along with several remixes from some of our DJ friends. We've got quite a few regional dates lined up for this fall and continuing into the winter and there has been talk of a more extensive tour taking place in early spring. There's also a music video in the works! When we aren't playing shows, filming videos, or doing interviews, we are working on new music in the studio. There are some other exciting things in the works as well! We're active on-line (Facebook, Twitter, www.sphynxmusic.com), and we will keep everyone up to date on the latest Sphynx happenings. It’s about to get wild, America!
Your rating: None Average: 5 (4 votes)