AMA #6: Speak

When I moved to Austin last August, I didn’t know much about the Austin music scene. No White Denim, no Black & White Years, no Scabs. I knew Stevie Ray and Spoon. I’ve come a long way since then, but I had to start somewhere. And that was at Antone’s on August 13th with Speak headlining. In the front row, I was immediately impressed with their ear for melody and their tightness as a band. Their debut EP, Hear Here, released early last year, is filled top to bottom with amazing tunes. This is definitely a band to catch live, and we will be sure to let you know the second any new material comes from them. In the meantime, enjoy this recent interview I had with Speak frontman Troupe Gammage:

Speak - Carrie (Mindfull)
I think the question on everyone’s minds is: When can we expect to hear some new recorded material from Speak? Have you all been writing/recording/etc?
We’ve had a record done (which includes the tunes on Hear Here) since… late 2009. I wish I could say it now has a definitive release date, but details like that seem to be mysteriously fleeting. All I can say is that we’re waiting for the right time to put out the full record, but we’re really, really excited for it to come out as soon as possible!
Your songs are so damn catchy; do you ever worry about being too catchy or poppy for “indie rock” either locally or nationally? Is there some other way you’d categorize yourselves? Do you even worry about categorization?
I think catchiness often results from originality, so there’s no real distinction in the creative process between indie and pop in my mind. Imogen Heap is on the radio — apparently her music is so catchy it needs to be the chorus of a Jason Derulo song! The idea of any particular scene or genre being immutable is silly to me. Michael Jackson and Eddie Van Halen!  Aerosmith and Run DMC! We just like to make music, and we like other people who make music! Although we like Imogen Heap more than Jason Derulo…
How has the Austin scene influenced you – as an individual, and the collective you as a band – in your songwriting/performing/and general career? You were in LA for a while, right? Why did you opt to set up shop here in Austin instead of there?
I was only in LA for a brief stint and a lot of things contributed to me coming back home, but ultimately I had no real intention of leaving Austin permanently. There’s way too much great stuff going on here, and it feels more manageable than LA or NYC. We just spent a month living in Brooklyn, and it was really incredible but it’s no place I’d like to live for the rest of my life. We all really know Austin and feel comfortable here, our families and friends are here, most of the people we’ve grown up with and played in bands with. My parents have been playing music here for at least 30 years and I know first hand that there’s no better community of musicians to be a part of. I’d like to be a part of the next generation of that community and I really love all the music that’s being made by our friends, many of whom I’ve had the pleasure to work with in various studio and live contexts. There are so many deep roots to so many different cultures here, and I’m excited to see how those things come together as even more influences are added to the pot. I do wish there were more hip-hop and electronic artists here though! [We’ve got you covered, Troupe! Stay tuned to Ovrld…]
I get a real 80s vibe from you all. Who is your favorite 80s band? Are there better descriptors/examples for your influences?
I always like to say that we’re a combination of 60’s, 80’s, and 2000’s. Of course that eschews my favorite album, 1997’s OK Computer, but it roughly covers the decades which I think had the most brilliant melodic music of the past century. I was really raised on Motown and the Beatles, so that forms the core of my songwriting, I think. The 80’s introduced the elements of “electronic” music that we’re all so fond of, and a whole slew of genres that have been a big influence on us, with synthpop, punk, new wave, etc. Plus PRINCE AND MICHAEL JACKSON. Holy crap. The 2000’s is just where everything kind of music became democratized; most of the music I listened to as a kid was made by people who ended up becoming friends of mine, and the music created by all these people who were so inspired by new technological possibility was really exciting to me. The idea of using all this insanity to create songs that would be at home in the Brill Building is a great prospect. I think Prince is probably my favorite 80’s artist, but there are seriously too many to list.
I hear that Talking Heads (minus David Byrne) presented your award for Best New Band at last year’s Austin Music Awards. That’s a pretty high-profile group [and my all-time favorite band!]. How was it getting love from such rock luminaries?
That was a really huge deal for us, and for Nick especially (being the #1 TH fan in the band). Speaking in Tongues has been a reference for us for years, so knowing that these people had actually heard our music was a huge deal. Their influence is really hard to overstate: I remember singing along to “Psycho Killer” at the top of my lungs with Cage the Elephant at an empty Beauty Bar after we played with them one night. That is NOT a band you’d expect to be rocking Talking Heads from a production standpoint, but if you listen with that in mind you can really hear that sort of quirkiness that I think is unique to both bands.
When are you all next sharing your musical talents with your adoring public?
We just confirmed June 2nd at Stubb’s Jr. with Mother Falcon, so that should be a hell of a show! Then we’ll be in Amsterdam and Germany later in June, in case you were referring to the adoring European public 😉 It’ll be our first time playing in Europe!
What group would you most like to share a bill with?
Our friends Tigercity, who are currently on hiatus.  Hopefully, if we mention them enough they’ll have no choice but to come back and do a world tour with us. Although the bassist Joel is now in the successful group Ford and Lopatin, which is hurting the prospect of a Tigercity reunion. 🙁 If I had to choose a well known act, it’d definitely be Cut Copy. Or Foster the People. …Or MGMT.