The self-described “loud” Austin-based band, XETAS, is reminding everyone that punk is not dead. After the release of their latest album, The Tower, which has been described as, “an electrifying monument to distorted melody and verbal hooks brought to a full boil”, band members, David, Jay, and Kana, have only just begun bringing their heavy hits into the spotlight. Already a few shows into their three week west coast tour, from April 29th to May 19th, XETAS has not only been performing almost every night, but they have continued to blog about and film their experience along the way. You can find links to their full album, as well as upcoming tour dates/locations and XETAS official websites below. I recently had the pleasure of discussing all of this with David, Jay, and Kana themselves, and the full interview is as follows:
Erin O’Hara: How do you feel your band has evolved as a group over the years, especially after just signing with 12xu?
David: Well, we signed to 12xU after our third show so that much hasn’t really changed. I think we’re just more confident about who we are as a band and what our sound is than we were when we first started. Jay joining as our drummer when we began writing the new record definitely contributed to that.
Kana: Yeah, I have been playing music my whole life, but had never played bass in a punk band before XETAS. Listening to the early recordings now, I can hear how much I have improved in just three years, but that came with lots of practice and touring and playing shows. It’s only natural that things would change and improve if you put time and effort into it.
Erin: Other than a little ode to our home state, Texas, what does the name XETAS mean to you?
David: It’s a secret.
Erin: Paul Stinson described this album’s melodies as “dirty, distorted and delicious”, but how would you describe your sound?
David: Bittersweet? Loud, for sure.
Kana: Bittersweet is good. I hate having to answer this question.
Jay: Yeah, it’s kind of hard to articulate. When someone asks I usually just say loud then make drum sounds with my mouth.
Erin: After listening to The Tower, I would have to say my favorite song on the album is The Lamb. Which song(s) were you each most proud of off of the album? Which songs are particularly meaningful and why?
David: The Lamb is probably the most personal to me, lyrically. Musically I think I’m most proud of The Future. I think that song incorporates all of our strengths really well.
Kana: The Gaze really meant a lot to me to write, not just because of the lyrical content, but because the musical writing process was so collaborative-I feel like D and J understood that a song about the male gaze and a woman’s point of view couldn’t be dictated by a man, so when we were writing they allowed me to signal all the changes and structures of the song. Even though now we have comfortably assigned a length of time to play certain parts, having the power to say when and how we played empowered me a lot, and it meant a lot that the creative process of the song itself was also feminist in practice.
Jay: The writing process for The Future was very collaborative, so I’m stoked that one turned out the way it did. Plus Spibby’s solo at the end reminds me of Johnny Marr. Besides that, The Gaze, The Lamb, and The Jaws.
Erin: Was the creative process for this album any different from your previous album, The Redeemer?
David: We started recording The Redeemer when we were still really fresh as a band. We didn’t really have our sound figured out yet. We spent a lot more time working on the songs for The Tower and knocking them around live, working out the kinks. We had a lot more time to work on everything before we went in to record it. The recording itself only took an afternoon. We were just ready.
Kana: Yeah we are also lucky that we have worked with the same recording engineer, Ian Rundell, for the last three years so by now we know how to get what we want really easily.
Jay: I play drums on it.
Erin: When did each of you first become interested in working with music and what lead you to start playing guitar/drums/singing?
David: I always loved music and I used to beat on my grandfather’s guitar when I was too small to hold it. I got my first guitar when I was thirteen and immediately started trying to figure out songs and recording. I’ve known most of my life that this is what I wanted to do.
Kana: I took piano lessons as a kid and played in orchestra AND band in school. I recently found a notebook that my girlfriends and I would write in to each other, and I’m just talking about bands the entire time. I’m pretty sure I’ve always known I wanted to do this, like nothing else really mattered.
Jay: I always really liked music growing up and my parents would play a lot of it around the house. When I was thirteen I bought a drum set for like $50 from my friend and started playing all the time and haven’t really stopped since. It’s just what I am supposed to do.
Erin: Which artists and musicians do you draw inspiration from the most?
David: There’s always new stuff but the old standbys would be The Misfits, Big Country, Mission of Burma, Husker Dü, the Wipers, Leatherface…
Kana: Yeah, I like all that stuff. I like a lot of pop music like Shamir and Eliott Sumner, disco and funk when I’m feeling stuck. I have an unhealthy obsession with post-punk bands from the late 70s/early 80s so anything skronky or with a funky bass or saxophone and I am in.
Jay: Mostly rap stuff. I really like sample heavy stuff like Beastie Boys or Public Enemy. Also Miles Davis and The Jesus Lizard.
Erin: What artists are you each currently into, guilty pleasures included? What albums coming out this year are you looking forward to the most?
David: I loved the last Black Marble record. Always anxiously awaiting new Protomartyr, their last LP was incredible. Shopping, Chain of Flowers. A lot of new hip hop, that new D.R.A.M. single “Gilligan”, Night Lovell, anything Killer Mike or T.I. put out. I don’t want to like Rae Sremmurd as much as I do.
Kana: Shamir has been releasing bedroom recording artists on his soundcloud so I’m really looking forward to whatever our mutual friend Christina Thompson does. I love the band Male Gaze from CA, I would love a new record from them. Austin band Super Thief is going to release an album this year, also.
Jay: New K Dot is great and I really liked that new Priests record. Also I am usually very down with anything Death Grips or Young Thug put out.
Erin: You are going to be hitting some pretty major cities on your upcoming tour, are there any places you will be touring with special meaning to y’all or ones you are excited about visiting the most?
David: I’ve never been to the West Coast so I’m excited to finally see California. Visiting a lot of new places on this go round, I’m honestly just excited to be on tour!
Kana: Yeah, I’ve never been to the Pacific Northwest so I’m excited to see that.
Jay: Pacific Northwest for me too. Also very stoked to hang in Santa Cruz and Omaha.
Erin: Are there any bands in particular you are looking forward to performing alongside on your tour the most?
David: I’m looking forward to seeing all of the excellent bands we will be sharing the stage with. I’m not playing favorites.
Kana: I used up all my brain cells helping book the tour and make merch and can’t remember any bands right now.
Erin: You are also working on a documentary of this upcoming tour. What has the filmmaking process been like so far? Do you have any cool shots you have planned you could tell us about?
David: We just hang out and goof around. We just want footage of us being ourselves. The music can be so earnest and serious at times, we want to remind people that we’re not always like that. We take this seriously, but we’re still goofballs.
Kana: Yeah I grew up watching punk documentaries and the best parts are the bands being silly and having fun. So our goal is to make a movie that is mostly that.
Jay: So far it’s mostly been K filming D and I talking really silly after practice. I would love to get a cool shot of us surfing on a really long surfboard together.
Check out XETAS at:
Twitter/ Instagram: @xetasrule