Scottish acts at SXSW: 'Fast-paced, chaotic, but it's really fun'

By David Farrell
Entertainment reporter for The Nine

  • Published
SXSW festival
Image caption,
The SXSW festival takes place across 10 days in March in Austin, Texas

The South by South West (SXSW) music festival has helped launch the careers of Katy Perry, The Strokes and Rag'n'Bone man.

Whether it's taking their musical career to the next level, selling their film or launching the next big tech idea, the 10-day event in Austin, Texas, is a chance for those in the creative industries to showcase their talents.

With music at it heart, every year it attracts a steady stream of Scottish artists across the pond hoping for their big break. And as it celebrates its 32nd birthday, this year was no different.


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Fatherson are a Scottish alternative rock band formed in Kilmarnock

"After our first South by South West we signed our first record deal and put out our second album," says Fatherson guitarist Marc Strain.

Along with bandmates Ross Leighton and Greg Walkinshaw, he's returning to the festival for a second time following the success of their debut trip in 2015.

And the Kilmarnock-born rockers say things are a little different this time around.

"Coming back this time feels a little less terrifying and we know a lot of people who work here who remember us from the last time," says frontman Ross.

Fatherson are now three albums down, and have clocked up a few more miles than before - however that all important leap to success on this side of the Atlantic is what they're here for.

"Everyone from the American, and indeed the world's music industry, descends on two streets in Austin for a week and that means it's a great place to come and be like 'hey this is our band, what do you think?' says drummer Greg.

"It's a great place to start because booking a tour in America would be quite a daunting thing to do. If you want to break into the states I would think this is the best way to start off doing it."

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Fatherson say SXSW is the best place to start for bands wanting to break into the US market

Playing a festival like SXSW is a little bit different from the venues they're used to back home - like the Barrowlands and the Usher Hall.

"It's a completely different ball game, it's so fast paced, running about, we play for half an hour, 15 minutes to get ready. It's quite high-pressure, chaotic but it's really fun," says Marc.

Flying 4,500 miles across the Atlantic to play a few gigs and hopefully get noticed by some industry big wig can't be a cheap task surely?

"There's lots of funding out there and information available, so it's not an impossible task even if you don't have loads of money," adds Marc.

However, he has a word of warning: "You can definitely come back and nothing's changed or come back having met someone where everything's changed. There's 2,000 bands playing, so not all of them are going to become crazy famous afterwards."

Lauren Mayberry (Chvrches)

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Chvrches' Lauren Mayberry says playing at SXSW in 2013 was an important moment for the band

Returning to Austin this year was Lauren Mayberry. She played here in 2013, not long after she joined Chvrches.

She says SXSW played a part in where the band are today: "We had already signed to a label, we had a little bit of momentum, so we were lucky enough to get some cool shows here and it capitalised on that.

"It was an important moment in the arc of the band."

This time in Texas, Lauren was sharing a stage with Garbage frontwoman and fellow Scot, Shirley Manson, who Lauren holds in high regard within the music industry.

Image caption,
Garbage's Shirley Mason took part in a Q&A alongside Lauren

"Shirley is great, I was lucky to have met her before today so I wasn't too nervous to meet her, but she's lovely and we come from similar backgrounds," she says.

"It's great to be able to learn from someone like that and share a stage."

Although before their Q&A together on stage, Lauren had an emoji mix-up during a text conversation.

"I think I was quite tired this morning," she admits.

"I was in a different time zone and I meant to use an excited emoji and an anxious one but instead I put in a shooting star & (fart) cloud one and she was like 'which one am I then?'

"She took it in good humour and laughed about it."


Image caption,
Hamish Fingland and Lucia Fairfull sold their EPs and T-shirts in order to raise funds to travel to the festival

A band making the trip to Austin for the first time are Glasgow rockers LUCIA.

Made up of frontwoman Lucia Fairfull, Hamish Fingland, Ally Scott and Christopher Ballantyne, they say they would love to have the success of Blondie.

They've been together for about three years and like so many others their aim, at SXSW, is to crack America.

"We've noticed we're getting a bit of traction in the US and we want to get an agent here - someone who can actually get us gigs in America," explains Hamish.

It has cost the band about £7,000 to get to the festival, so how did they pay for it?

"A lot of our own money, we've raised money selling our EPs and T-shirts. We've just accepted we're going to come back and have no money but have had the best time possible," says Lucia.

Image caption,
LUCIA are an indie rock outfit hailing from Glasgow

And when bands come here, sometimes a hotel is regarded as a luxury.

"We're staying with four young people in a house ten minutes down the road, in their music room," says Lucia.

"It's cool and comfy but we didn't pay for it which is the most important part."

What LUCIA love about this festival is that you can be who you want to be.

Hamish explains: "Nobody looks at you twice in the street here. You just be yourself, I love it, I don't want to leave."

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