Latest Toughs: Vertical Vice, Max Wells, Bill Converse and More

by Nick Hanover

Latest Toughs

If you live in Austin then you already know there’s too much damn music to keep track of. And sometimes you just want to sift through it in bite-sized chunks. We totally understand. Allow us to introduce you to The Latest Toughs, five tracks from five bands to get you up to date and make each of your workdays a little easier.

Vertical Vice “Repetition”

People tend to overlook the Sisyphean elements of being a musician, the grind of playing songs endlessly, often only to yourselves or a bartender hating you for scaring off potential paying customers. But Vertical Vice put all of the least glamorous aspects of musicianship front and center in their new single “Repetition.” Jason Smith’s opening line “The secret to perfection?/I found it’s repetition” not only breaks down expectations of musical glamour but also sets up a mantra for Vertical Vice itself as they proceed to repeat phrases and riffs, the thrill coming from the hypnotic repetition and the slight variations that unexpectedly but subtly pop up. Mark E. Smith would certainly approve, but sonically there’s more Wire in the mix than The Fall, particularly with Orville Neeley’s exceptional drumming serving as the focus in the mix, a booming, tom-heavy contrast to the synced up harmonics of Smith’s guitar and Harrison Yeager’s bass. Smith’s demand that you “do it again do it again do it again” not only indoctrinates you into Vertical Vice’s Sisyphean life, it also mirrors what you’ll be shouting at your speakers by the end.

Loafers “Bobby”

The currently Dallas-based Loafers sound like any number of Burger Records-affiliated acts when you describe them on paper: Nerves-like breathless vocals, Thee Oh Sees stomp and holler, jangly, air-slicing guitar. But there’s an ambition and focus to their arrangements that sets them apart from other garage pop bands on the same circuit. The band’s new single “Bobby” is a perfect example of that, the ’70s power pop verse shedding its skin on the chorus to reveal an early rock ‘n’ roll skeletal structure, with hiccupy pauses and a howling plea for sympathy for the Grim Reaper, whose “job is never done.” Adding to that is the song’s exploration of someone trying to be good when at heart they know they’re bad, a theme ’50s teens were intimately familiar with. But it never sounds like a cliched throwback, instead it’s simply two minutes of fun, as timelessly stylish as a black leather jacket.

Wallaby and Bobbes  “Moving Forward”

All of Muggzy Flowz and Dr Bobby Banner, MPC‘s new project Wallaby and Bobbes is focused on balancing the past, present and future in some way, but stand-out track “Moving Forward” serves as the big beating heart of the project. Yielding a shimmery 8bit sample as its primary audio weapon of choice, “Moving Forward” can’t help but be playful, signalling the joy of creation that balances out the struggles that come with the territory. Flowz’ delivery is almost singsong, yet still rugged, promising he’s “never going back, always moving forward.” And that promise is as much about style as it is about personal growth; throughout the track, Flowz comes at the beat from any number of approaches, a more dexterous approach than he takes with the bulk of the album and its more laid back efforts.

Max Wells “Guidance”

It’s been an explosive year for Austin hip hop and the trajectory of Max Wells symbolizes that better than perhaps any other local act. The young emcee has been creating personal and moving work for a couple years, well below the radar, but over the past year he has started exploring a more commercial but no less dynamic sound. The result is a major escalation in attention, as his new single “Guidance” ably shows with its 14k+ plays on Soundcloud. That’s not too surprising, though, as “Guidance” is one of the best mergers yet of Wells’ new club friendly taste in production and his commanding delivery. TRWB’s eerie dub-adjacent production is a perfect fit for Wells’ chameleonic vocals, keeping the beat heavy but leaving ample space and drops for Wells to shift and morph his voice at his leisure. Big things are coming for Max Wells, and you’d be wise to get in early.

Bill Converse “Warehouse Invocation”

A veteran DJ and tape loop experimenter, Bill Converse is a sonic mad scientist whose work stands astride genres that might normally seem more at odds with one another. The title track from his new debut 12″ Warehouse Invocation is a particularly epic display of this, offering up a curious buffet of Detroit techno synths, Brian Eno-like ambient noise textures and exotic instrument samples. “Warehouse Invocation” is also surprising in its lushness, creating an almost tropical mood in its breeziness while also communicating the bustle and anxiety of a crowded city. Some of the other tracks on Warehouse Invocation are more disciplined and rhythmic, but the title track is the most alluring, in part because of how difficult it is to pin down its style.

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Nick Hanover got his degree from Disneyland, but he’s the last of the secret agents and he’s your man. Which is to say you can find his particular style of espionage here at Ovrld as well as Loser City, where he mostly writes about comics. You can also flip through his archives at  Comics Bulletin, which he is formerly the Co-Managing Editor of, and Spectrum Culture, where he contributed literally hundreds of pieces for a few years. Or if you feel particularly adventurous, you can always witness his odd .gif battles with his friends and enemies on twitter: @Nick_Hanover