From the Ashes
SXSW Official Showcase
Aryn Schwartz (vocals), Asa Savage (lead guitar), Chris Hodge (rhythm guitar), Shaun Avants (bass), Jeremy Cruz (drums)
Every once in a while you see a band live and know they are destined for greatness. When Scorpion Child took center stage at Austin’s legendary rock club Encore, they were bonafide rock stars. Their sound heralds back to early 70’s psych-rock with a modern twist and list Free, Sir Lord Baltimore, Lucifer’s Friend and BANG as influences. For the large crowd gathered to witness the band’s official SXSW showcase, words like Led Zeppelin, Deep Purple and James Gang were on everyone’s lips. Plucking their name from The Cult’s Electric “Lil’ Devil” lyric, the five piece have spent the last three years perfecting both their songwriting and stage presence. Layering high-energy, twin-guitar riffage over a pounding rhythm section with a singer that’s a cross between Robert Plant and Blind Melon’s Shannon Hoon has built the band a substantial fanbase. This night the throngs were there in full force, some to support and some to watch a phenomenon before their very eyes.
“How ya’ll doing Austin?” shouted lead vocalist Aryn Schwartz dressed in his buckskin fringed jacket and skin-tight jeans before launching into the killer “King of the Night.” Guitarist Asa Savage, in full beard and long flowing hair, tilted his head back, closed his eyes and let wail an old school blues chord with Schwartz caterwauling like a cat in heat. The bong-rattling, fuzz box riffs echo an MC5/Blue Cheer record collection well used and abused. Chris Hodge former guitarist of the Young Heart Attack and clad in vintage bell-bottoms added rhythmic support making the song twice as dense and four times as heavy. The long and lean bassist Shaun Avants hovered above the colliding guitar and dropped his thundering notes into Jeremy Cruz’s rumbling drum fills. The two are in perfect synch as the band etched out what can only be described as perfect sexed-up retro rock.
Scorpion Child are from lots of different places, not only logistically but musically. “We’re from St. Louis, Corpus Christi and Houston with Chris from here in Austin,” says Schwartz when we met later at a local café. “Our influences are diversified as classic 80’s thrash metal to old school southern blues along the lines of Blind Willie Johnson, Lemon Jefferson and Willie McTell.” The five-piece call Austin home since forming in the summer of 2006. “We came to Austin to form a band with a single vision,” continues Schwartz. “None of us knew each other. We’d all played in different bands with a range of styles but after jamming together found our footing in what we do now.”
Last summer, the five-piece took their show on the road to test original material in bigger cities like Manhattan, Washington D.C., Buffalo and even Minneapolis. The buzz generated a booking frenzy which has them playing a gig each day at this years SXSW - both opening and closing the festival. Balancing full-time jobs at hip coffee shops and bars around town has forced the group to be very disciplined. “Austin is a great city to develop and hone your skills musically,” says Schwartz. “We’re friends with a lot of bands here and have developed a camaraderie among them.” Though busy, the group has still managed to write an album’s worth of material with songs like “Million Lines,” “Antioch,” “Kings Highway” and “Heart Attack Thighs” (all can be heard on their myspace page).
“Asa and I started writing songs together almost right away after forming,” says Schwartz “He has songwriting in his bones, doesn’t even try, it just comes out. He has his own style that’s more Allman Brothers or Skynyrd.” The singer defines himself as a collector. “Shaun (bass) and I collect old heavy psyche blues records like Aphrodite’s Child, Night Sun and Edgar Broughton Band and Josefus. Whereas Chris (guitarist) has lived it with his previous band Young Heart Attack. He was on the road all the time. As for Shaun and Jeremy (drums), they’re on different ends of the book, but have similar chapters. Jeremy and I met working in a bar. We kinda came from the same foundation but he was more of a math rock drummer with this jazzy style. Believe it or not Jeremy, Chris and myself used to play in the punk/hardcore scene.”
When asked about the band’s comparison to Led Zeppelin, Schwartz explains, “We do have this whole acoustic side that sounds very Zeppelin II with a lot of gospel. Asa is an amazing acoustic guitar player. You give that guy and 12-string and he really shines. He’s somewhere out there like Jimmy Page, just as innovative, but can still rock out with doom riffs and blinding solos.” Outside of early Rainbow, Schwartz claims he came about his current singing style with a blend of influences. “Growing up in St. Louis I listened to a lot of rap, gospel, blues, R&B, classic rock and heavy metal. In my mid-twenties I discovered country and added that to the mix. I was a screamer in my other bands so this is the first band I’ve really tried singing for singing sake.”
The nuances each individual brings to the band seem to work extremely well, as Scorpion Child became the talk of the 2010 SXSW festival. “We’re still out there looking for a label,” says Schwartz, “but we’re in a real good place with some quality songs that have been road tested.” In the next couple weeks the band are off to Nashville for some writing sessions with Skidd Mills (ZZ Top/Robert Cray) and Chris Lindsey (Lonestar, Carrie Underwood). “I like drawing from someone whose work I admire,” continues Schwartz. “I don’t see limits to our sound. We’re reaching to create something that’s not really out there and give it our voice.” The music world may be crowded, but there’s still room for Scorpion Child’s crafted dynamic mixed with frenzied freakouts that flashback to the boneyard of classic rock history.
Website: Scorpion Child
by Todd K Smith ©2010