Meet the musicians among us: 9 bands in Austin tech

March 25, 2016

Any big plans for the weekend?

It’s a complicated question for some of us. Your co-worker is probably looking to chit chat about a new restaurant you’re going to try, or gripe about coaching little league games or in-laws coming to visit.

But if there’s a glib way to say you tirelessly sacrifice your free time for a passion project, we haven’t found one. There are lots of people in Austin tech with semi-pro and pretty serious hobbies, but still somehow this line isn’t a hit around the watercooler: “I’m going to spend four hours in a dank, windowless basement ruining my ears with my three best friends, then haul $10,000 worth of gear across town in a $1,000 van to play a $50 gig in front of 20 friends.”

But so it goes. Austin goes deep with tech, but its first love is music. These are the stories of people wired the same way.

 

Ashley Borrero, Angel y Vimana

Bio: I have been singing my whole life, but things really took off when I won the title of Tejano Idol in 2011. Since then I have joined a Tejano band called Angel y Vimana and together we performed at different event including the 2014 Tejano Music Convention in Las Vegas and the 2015 Tejano Music Awards in San Antonio.

What’s new: In 2016 I’m planning on venturing out on my own. Right now I’m searching and holding auditions for my own band and will be releasing my first original single in a few weeks. Although I had my start in Tejano I’m more of a variety singer and enjoy performing different styles such as Pop and R&B.



 

Mike Mears, Dawn Over Zero

Bio: Dawn Over Zero is a modern rock band, but a lot of folks like to label us as ‘aggressive pop’. We have been around for about 14 years and have toured regionally and nationally. We have been featured on over 50 TV show and commercial placements thanks to our distributor. We won the ‘Best Rock’ category in the John Lennon Songwriting contest in 2011. In 2010, Red Bull gave us the opportunity to be placed in Shaun White’s snowboard DVD special. Here is the link to that (song throughout called ‘ Circulation’) :

What’s new: In the past, when we were a little more active, it was every Friday off and 2–3 days of touring a week. We would usually do one or two two-week national tours a year on top of that. It was crazy exhausting! Currently we play once or twice a month, mostly weekends and practice twice a week, which luckily doesn’t interfere with our jobs. I can safely say that being in sales and being a musician can definitely tie together, especially from a PR perspective. You learn how to negotiate and work an audience. Big or small.

 

Alex Victoria and Marc Perlman, The Midgetmen

Bio: Our band is The Midgetmen, which is a really stupid name we picked as a joke and are now stuck with. Others have deemed us as slop-punk or fun-rock. I personally think of us as loud, guitar based rock. AKA hobby rock. This is a hobby. Some guys play golf and take it seriously. We’re in a band and take it seriously. We have been a band for 14 years, we’ve done several US tours though east coast, mid west and west coast. From the very beginning the band was an opportunity to learn new things. Some of us hadn’t played instruments in a band ever before. We learned how to play, write songs and play shows. We had to figure out how to book our own shows and tours (see every show we’ve ever played here). Our drummer makes and prints every poster. We built our own recording studio, and we learned to record and mix our own albums. We’ve released five albums on our own label (had to figure that out too). You can stream every record here.

What’s new: When I first joined the company, I didn’t want to tell anyone about the band. First day on the job, a friend of mine emailed this crazy picture of me screaming into a microphone like a wild animal to the whole team and outed me. I worried that people wouldn’t respect me or that it was somehow career limiting for me. It turns out that no one really cares you are in an abrasive punk band with a stupid name. What I eventually learned is that many people think it's cool when you are working hard to do something, anything really, even if they don’t get it. People can see that we are having fun, that we’re passionate about this thing we’ve created and that we’ve produced a long history of stuff that actually took a lot of time, effort and our own dollars. I am proud of it now. I actually think it has helped my career and the careers of the other people in the band (who are all tech execs, founders, and engineers now).

What is way harder to balance is family life, career and a serious band-addiction that requires regular practicing. Two of us have kids now and it was really rocky keeping the band alive, showing up for work every day, and not getting stabbed in our sleep by our significant others. My kids are a little older now so its easier. Jon, our other guitarist, (also a former VP of Engineering at Homeaway) just had twins, and founded a startup – so as you can imagine, his life is over for a while. We’re still kicking though and thanks to our careers we can afford the occasional babysitter.



[video:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f0fkEoXKkIY width:600 autoplay:0]

Erin Jones

Bio: I’ve played and recorded musical saw, cello, ukulele and clarinet with quite a few bands here in Austin, including: Balmorhea, Zookeeper, Alex Dupree & The Trapdoor Band, Sad Accordions, Moth!Fight!, Axe + Hammer + Saw, West Texas Freight and, currently, Carter Francis (of Play by Numbers & Stumbledrunk).

What’s new: The band I play with practices in the evenings, so it’s something I can do after work and on weekends. Recently a producer friend (Justin Douglas of Shine Studios) called me on the fly to record a musical saw track for a band (Plantation) he had in studio, so I ran over during my lunch break, laid down a couple takes, and was back at work an hour later!

We have flex time at Praecipio Consulting, which helps when trying to keep up with a band’s schedule. We also utilize the Atlassian suite of tools, which facilitates remote working and allows for us to mix travel and work.

B-Rob and the Backlog

Bio: The official company band of Praecipio Consulting.

Bands I’ve played in: Starlings TN (shown in the video above), Teen Noir, Beautiful Supermachines.

What’s new: Currently heading up our Praecipio Consulting band with Erin. We’re called B-Rob and the Backlog.

How they balance it all: You have to be able to turn your work brain off for a bit and shift your focus. The biggest challenge is playing happy hour gigs and getting from the office to the venue with all the gear.



 

Robert Gayle and Joseph Kim

The project: Joseph Kim and I are a two-man music production team. We work with different artists to create songs so they can perform them live. We work in many genres but focus mainly on Pop/R&B. We haven’t performed live except for a few Legalzoom events.

What’s new: Mychael Ball, a Legalzoom Agent, is an artist that we’ve worked with for a few months and now he does cover songs for the Hard Rock in Seoul, South Korea (through Joseph’s connection). Joseph and I have been working together for about eight months and we are currently working on our 100 song portfolio. Derek Noel is working with us to reach our portfolio goal and his professional goals. We have not released any records or videos publicly(yet) but will be launching a website that will allow people to listen to our songs.

 

Courtney Buhr

Bio: With recently moving to Austin last May, I have been working on a few different projects. I am not only a singer but also a songwriter. I have always loved power ballad type songs to sing. Strong powerful songs to push my voice to the top, but within the past few years the style I write is in the realm of a raw folk indie inspired genre. I’ve been singing for all my life, but started writing songs since 7th grade. I have performed at open mic nights in college, always wanted a band, but really focused on myself as a solo artist. I eventually opened up a business and barely had time to focus on my music and performing. This is when I decided to make the move to Austin.

What’s new: In just a couple months Jason Garcia had introduced me to a friend of his who had a gig at the Mohawk and invited me to perform with him and his band. Talk about an experience. These past few months I have really been in the beginning stages working on projects with Jason Garcia and another project with a few other friends of mine who are part of Austin bands: Cilantro Boombox and Grand Child. At the moment I am planning on working with Jason Garcia and Marvin Washington within their band Collabajamma. At the moment I have not released any records or videos online but I hope to have a completed album available by summer. We have currently had a few opportunities to perform for everyone who works at LegalZoom, which I have never worked for a company who has extended opportunities such as highlighting you in performances at your place of work! Incredible!



[video:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mNQx-_feNTo width:600 autoplay:0]

Brett Serrell

Bio: I have been lucky enough to have met so many great musicians since moving to Austin and working at OwnLocal. I moved here almost two years ago after the grind of being a full-time musician in Los Angeles for several years with a funk/soul/rock band called, “The Overeasy.” We have been together for roughly 7 years, toured all over California and the Pacific Northwest and have released 3 records in that span, most recently an effort called “Evergreen.”

What’s new: Currently I have been playing music with a group of co-workers here at OwnLocal. We don’t have a band name just yet, however it has been an awesome experience to witness such immense talents that are completely separate from our day to day office lives.

The OwnLocal band has not debuted our material in front of too many folks yet, but I have no doubt that if and when we have a show here in Austin, that our friends and co-workers would come out to support us, have fun, and probably have a laugh or two. I can’t wait!

How he balances it all: OwnLocal’s culture is one that allows, cultivates and supports creativity. It was one of the main attributes that attracted me to the company in the first place, and it is one of the values that has remained true in my time here. I have no doubt that if creative opportunities arose, musical or otherwise, that our team here at OwnLocal would figure out a way to rally around and support whoever wanted to pursue a creative avenue. Whether through a flexible time off policy, or the ability to work remotely, the leadership here at OwnLocal has created a work culture that provides opportunities for musicians to do their thing.



 

Christopher Marsh and company

Bio: We have a handful of great musicians at Modernize and employees can often be found jamming together inside an old bank vault in our offices. ‘The Vault’ is loaded with a drum kit, guitars, PA system, stage lighting - the works. It’s pretty neat that Modernize encourages its employees to play music at work - it’s an awesome perk.

What’s new: Several employees (myself included) have recently started a band, but we’re really just getting going at this point.

 

Justin Hanneman, Casino Clocks

Bio: "Code Warrior," as he's known to some around the office, is a lead product developer at Factom. He also plays guitar and saxophone in Casino Clocks, a rock band with a song about falling in love with a ghost, and whose very name is a nod to things that don’t exist.

The band recorded its first demo in 2010 and released an EP in 2013. Casino Clocks has performed around Austin at venues like the 311 Club during SXSW 2013 and Lucky Lounge.

What’s new: Hanneman enjoys a flexible schedule at Factom, which makes it easier to stay active and creative with music.

Some responses have been edited for length and clarity. 

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