Break Not for SXSW

Written by Nathaniel Torres

With the temperatures this week you’d never be able to tell but spring is coming!  Bright, warm sun with just the slightest cool breeze is going to make for that beautiful, albeit short-lived Texas spring. We already had that spring fakeout week where even the foliage was fooled and started to bloom, so next time it should be here to stay.  At least temperatures aren’t colder than the arctic-like they were in the Midwest this winter. While waiting out this final cold front you may find it helpful to start planning your spring break. Keep in mind that this year, for the first time in several years, SXSW and local spring break holiday will not be matching up. AISD’s spring break is after SXSW.  There are some concerns being raised about traffic as the city will be bursting at the seams with the local students who usually try to escape the madness now being obligated to their class schedules. Surprisingly it is not mentioned that this will make for an interesting experiment on participation grades.

If you are looking for something different and exciting to do over break we compiled a list of events and places to visit that will provide adventure and rejuvenation, or at the very least, a unique story to tell.  We have suggestions for the older souls, the crusaders, and the staycationers. Be sure to read through and see what fits you!

If your first instinct is to get out of town on what will probably be Austin’s busiest, most crowded weekend, then the first place we suggest you go is right down I-35 to San Antonio to enjoy their 13th annual Fest of Trails.  You K-9 loving, outdoor, laze abouts will enjoy this. This event invites everybody to come out to McAllister Park with a kite, your dog, or just a blanket to spend the day petting 4-legged friends and watching a sky full of kites.  Early on there will be doggie contests including best-dressed dog and owner-pet look alike duo. Then at noon the pooches will be putting on a parade! Sometimes it’s about the simple things. San Antonio also has many other big city attractions.  The Pearl district is one of the newer parts of the River Walk that includes a variety of restaurants, local shops and the San Antonio Art Museum (SAMA) that has discount admission for students. Those who prefer a bigger rush can take advantage of the Six Flags that is also located down there.

However, if you were hoping for something a little more unconventional, then how about taking a hot balloon ride up in Georgetown?  The Georgetown Hot Air Balloon Festival takes place March 22 and 23 and you can be a spectator for as little as 12 bucks plus parking.  An extra 30 bucks will get you a ticket for a ride in the balloon. Different ticket packages can be purchased on the Eventbrite site  There will be food, wine, live music, and a polo match. This is definitely an experience that will stand out in spring break story swaps. You can hold your pinky on high while telling about how you took the opportunity to become more cultured.

Okay, so you’re young, you’re hip, and you want an adventure.  No problem! If you really want to get away and become one with nature then we suggest hitting up one of Texas’ State Parks.  If you have been in Austin for some time you have probably heard of Jacob’s Well and Hamilton Pool. These destinations have become popular and often close early due to hitting capacity quickly so we excluded them to make room for less ordinary parks around our state.  Be sure to take a second look at the State Parks website to reserve your spot and know the elements you will be in and as always take water!

If you could paddle up Lady Bird Lake and up our Colorado River, surprise! You would not end up in Colorado.  You would eventually hit Gorman falls in Colorado Bend State Park. Again, not Colorado. The park is about a 2-hour drive from downtown Austin where you can camp, paddle, hike and bike.  The trail up to the fall is not for the faint of heart but the falls is a rewarding sight to all who make it.

Enchanted Rock is also about 2 hours away.  Campsites are available along with 11 miles of hiking trails (no biking).  The “dome” was created by flowing magma about 7 miles beneath the surface and now sits 1,825 ft above sea level.  Don’t worry if you want to make it to the summit that is 425 ft for you from its base. This park may not have a water way for you to swim or paddle, but in trade it offers bouldering and lead climbing routes for all you rock climbers out there.

If you are committed to a further destination that is not Big Bend, then check out Caddo Lake.  Located five hours northeast, Caddo has 50 miles of waterway to canoe and kayak through. You can camp or you can take it up a notch and rent a cabin.  If fishing is how you find your zen then this may be the spot for you, with 71 species living in the lake. Just be sure to keep an eye peeled for gators.

Then, there is the grand Canyon (of Texas).  Palo Duro Canyon is the second biggest canyon in the nation – 120 miles long and 20 miles wide.  This destination is for those serious about getting away or who enjoy long car rides, being that it is a 7-hour drive.  You can take a horseback guided tour through the canyon, and both hiking and biking are allowed on designated trails. You can rent a cabin or reserve a campsite with water and electricity.  For those fascinated by wide views of rugged nature, this one’s for you.

Now, don’t let us tell you that you need to drive hours away to have a worthy spring break.  This is Austin, after all. Lady Bird Lake and the greenbelt running through the middle of our city is the envy of many.  Pinballz has 3 locations across the city for adult gaming experience- at least you could say you got out. iFly located in north Austin offers indoor skydiving, eliminating the height and hefty price tag of ordinary skydiving.  You can practice rock climbing indoors in the AC at ABP (Austin Bouldering Project) by Springdale and Airport. Then pick a board game and grab a frosty beverage at Friends and Allies right next door.

The important thing is that you enjoy spring because before you know it it will be summer and almost too hot to move.  Grab your friends and make some memories. Let us know what you plan to do this spring break and tag us #ACCSL.

Animation Biz

Written and Filmed by Nathaniel Torres[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]

These days access to our favorite shows is easier than ever. With a few clicks or taps you can open your preferred streaming service to binge your favorite shows.  Some may remember the days of on demand shows, back when DVR was spelled VCR. In order to find out what your favorite tv show characters were doing, viewers had to wake up for saturday morning cartoons.

Now, you might have an animated character dancing around your head, bringing back some childhood joy. Our favorite childhood characters were there to make us smile, but have you ever considered the hands that drew them?

This past Spring, ACC GDAMG & 2Design hosted a workshop on character design with guest animator, Stephen Silver, at the Northridge campus. Five minutes after the printed start time of his lecture he stated that anyone who was not there at that point was already not taking themselves seriously enough. He, then, pointed up at the collage of pictures that had been projected on the screen and reveals that it, in fact, was a test. Did anyone pick up their pencils and start drawing? Did anyone find inspiration from the peculiar human faces that were a part of the collage? Was the opportunity to fill in the blank areas of the sketchpad taken? One may not expect an animation creator to be so adamant, but as Silver continues he cuts through the mounted apprehension with direction. “If this is going to be your life’s work then you should always be refining your craft.”

Silver has contributed to series such as Histeria!, Kim Possible, Danny Phantom, The Penguins of Madagascar, and more recently the revamped version of Scooby-Doo “Be Cool Scooby-Doo.” Despite that many of these works are targeted towards children, animation itself is growing and becoming a much more regular part of adult lives.

In 2017 TV By the Numbers reported that more cable viewers, ages 18-49, were tuning in to Adult Swim programming than most late-night shows. According to a report by the Entertainment Software Association the average gamer is 34-years-old with 72 percent of the market made up of gamers that are 18 and older. The video game industry shows no signs of slowing. With the developments in VR and AR games it’s predicted there will be steady growth in the industry through 2020.

As it goes, the workforce is seeing an ever-increasing amount of technology involved with their work and the animation sector is no stranger to this. “Honestly, I can’t believe how much has changed in such a short time,” says animator Cindy Crowell.

Crowell has been animating since 1992.  She started at StarToons, an animation studio open from 1988-2001, working on Warner Bros. produced series such as Tazmania, Tiny Toons and the Animaniacs. “It was pretty amazing, this was back in the glory days of pencil and paper.  I’d get a stack of key animation drawings from the lead animators and sit there on the light table and flip the pages, do all the in-betweens and clean up. I absolutely loved it, I miss those days.”

Technology has changed the business since then. Computer animation has been a part of cinematography for over 40 years. Since the premiere of Toy
(1995), the industry began receiving  major investments and returns on Computer Generated Imagery (CGI) movies. Animation light tables, discs and paper have all been shelved in place of computers loaded with programs that allow the artists to explore their work on a screen.

As technology booms and the free market flexes, artists are finding themselves needing to be familiar with multiple software programs for various projects. Adaptability seems to be a fundamental requirement of artists right from the get go. Silver says, “The most important thing is versatility.  You want to show a range. You can’t just have apples and oranges and pears in your portfolio because all of a sudden they go, ‘Oh, he can do that but he can’t draw strawberries.’  You really want to make sure to show that range because the more versatile you are, the more opportunities you’ll get.” 

This point could not be stressed enough by both Silver and Crowell. Turns out, there are dozens upon dozens of ambitious students, eager to only show off their anime illustrations. “Everyone can draw anime these days,” says Crowell. “The call is really for people who can do it all.”  ce.

Finding a steady job in the animation business isn’t easy. The Animation Guild in California offers benefits, only to those working at a union member studio. Union members must accrue 600 hours (approx. 3 months) to qualify for a period of six-month benefits – if they continue to work at least 400 hours in one of those studios. Their benefits continue to cover them even if they are laid off.  The artist can also bank their hours in case of a prolonged period without work follows. This goes to show that in the state employing the densest number of animators, one of the largest unions takes into account that getting hired at a studio does not mean you get to stay there.

“A lot of times [a project] will start out with just a few people,” Crowell says. “Then, they hire on a bunch of people determined, flexible and familiar with rejection. “It’s so important to attend local conventions,” Silver says. “It’s like an artist’s market. It’s the effort. It’s knocking on one door after another. There’s going to be a lot rejection and you have to be prepared for it.”

Crowell has been at Powerhouse Animations for 17 years. She acknowledges it’s unusual for a studio to be around this long, but also knows there the mindset to have in order to work at a continuing business. “One thing that I really wished they would have taught me more of when I was in animation and in art school is that when you are a commercial artist you really have to have the ability to follow directions from your supervisors and make changes that they want or that the client has requested even if they seem dumb or pointless. You have to not take it personally.”

Animation is more than creating art. There is rejection, deadlines and the tedious details that are required to create the work seen on screen for a limited amount of time.

For those who are willing to endure such real job requirements and are lucky enough to land desk space in a studio know that there are perks of the job. Studios, like Powerhouse Animations have activities for their employees like arcade games, a big screen TV, couches, countless artwork on the walls and life size cutouts of video game characters. And there’s the seemingly obvious reward of seeing your artwork come to life in front of hundreds, thousands, potentially, millions of viewers.

Spongebob Squarepants singing “Sweet Victory” has millions of views on YouTube despite copyright. Peter Griffin fighting the Ernie the Giant Chicken has gone on to create posters, mugs, and action figures. There are countless cars with the Hyrule Crest stickered on their back windshields and bumpers.

It is all about knowing what you want to do in the industry whether it be background design, character design, storyboarding and being honest with yourself, according to Silver. Do you have the skill to do it and making sure you are getting opinions from more than just your family. “You have to not let things offend you or upset you and that’s the bottom line. You can’t be too sensitive.”

Silver also suggests that individuals be as plugged in as possible in order to benefit from networking.  Follow your favorite artists on social media to see where they will be exhibiting their work or offering critiques and check in to (Animation World Network) for information and job listings.  Make sure to take initiative and reach out to your local studios to find out what programs they are using but do not get hung up on them.  Both Silver and Crowell both say the programs do not fully rid the need of skill with paper and pencil.

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Q&A with Sego

Written and Photo by Nathaniel Torres

Sego, a Utah born and LA transplant band, was featured on NPR’s “The Austin 100″ and played their second official SXSW showcase this year.  The band was founded by members Spencer Peterson and Thomas Carroll and has since expanded to include Alyssa Davey (bass) and Brandon McBride (synth and guitar).  The band captures their audience by enveloping them in a groovy mirage. A sound I compare to a short-lived age of 90’s pop. A sort of mix between The Verve and Blur. Despite the older references, Sego stands on their own today while their crowds sing and dance to their tunes. If you needed any more convincing to take a listen just know the band’s cover of “Young Turks” was approved by Sir Rod Stewart himself.

How many SXSW have you attended/played?
Spencer: Second [as Sego]. We were here three years ago right after we started. Alyssa [bassist], this is her first time. She’s just getting acclimated to the noise.

Had you heard or known about SXSW before coming out?
Spencer: I’ve been here a bunch.  I was coming with different bands for years.  I’ve been to SXSW like 6 times maybe and it just continues to change every time I’m here.
Alyssa: I had always heard about SXSW. My dad actually was always pushing this other band I was in to go to SXSW. He was all about it.

Was it difficult getting an official showcase?
Spencer: It’s been relatively easy for us, in the past though. It’s interesting because you get one show and you are coming all this way for one show, but then within the month you end up picking up ten different showcases. As all these bands descend upon Austin there’s all this sifting and settling of the load. I feel like it’s hard because you have to put in some time, but once you’re kind of like in there, it really kind of pays off. You can find shows if you really push for it, even if you are not official. I’ve done SXSW [with different bands] three years in a row – not being official – and we played awesome huge shows. It was great.

How was your travel out here?
Spencer: We are trying to make a loop of it. A lot of out-of-state bands will try to make a route into and out of SXSW; which makes it tough touring in and out of SXSW because all of a sudden it means every band is routed on the same timeline and the same place.
Alyssa: I found that with a friend of mine; their band played here. They did the same thing and made a tour out of it. You’re already going out there so do some shows on the way and do some shows on the way back.
Spencer: It kind of creates a weird road culture where all these little towns that normally don’t get big bands are overwhelmed. All these bands need a place to play. Places most people haven’t heard of get decent shows leading up and coming away from SXSW. This place moves like a small little economy outside of Austin just because of so much cross traffic.

What are your feelings on the atmosphere? Were you well received?

Alyssa: The people here are into music because clearly they’re at a music festival but in a different way. It’s an appreciation. Here it’s a little different because you’re seeing so many bands that you don’t know that you’ve never heard of, so it’s like new ears every time.
Spencer: Yeah the whole attitude is different. It’s still cool.

Badges are quite expensive and the word is that artists do not really make a profit.  What are your feelings on this?
Spencer: I think everybody treats it like a loss. I knew one band that actually made money on a show…and it blew my mind. We pay out just to get here, just get the opportunity. Personally, I go into it assuming that it’s just a wash. You can offset the loss a little bit by booking some shows in and out and making it more purposeful.

Does the festival open doors? What are the benefits of getting out here?
Spencer: Yeah and close some. Most people here are here with a purpose and have some industry clout. We had a crappy show and it turned cool people off on us. They were at that show and they were actually kind of high rollers. So, we learned the hard way you should never mail in a show, ever…especially at SXSW because you never know who’s out in the audience. It’s not like a random tour stop. Whether [it’s a] label or PR people, I feel like every time I’m out here I meet people I forge friendships with and relationships with.

What were some other things you got into while you were here?
Alyssa: Barbecue!
Spencer: I feel like I got to get some barbecue while we’re in town.

Will you be doing SXSW again or coming back our way sometime soon?
Alyssa: I hope.
Spencer: We have nothing in the books as of right now but I feel we come out here about every once a year, year and ha alf. So yeah, we’ll be back soon.

Sego is well on their way making the tour back home where the brisket is lacking. They are making sure to stop in their origin city of Provo, Utah where they say they always receive the warmest welcome. Sego’s music can be found on Spotify where you can also listen to their Audiotree Live set. They are also on social media if you’d like to give them a shout out. Just don’t expect it to compare to acknowledgment from Sir Stewart.

Q&A with Bad Pony

Written and photo by Nathaniel Torres

Broadening the scope internationally I spoke with Bad Pony, a five-piece from Down Under. Bad Pony has now traveled to North America twice and is the recipients of Australian Music Week’s prize of 2017.  The band is the result of Jarred and Sam’s need to break out of their previous band’s bluesy genre. Searching for their own sound, they poached a few other front men from different bands, divided the percussion responsibilities, and now showcase their individual talents as Bad Pony.  They brilliantly stitch together an array of genre sounds and tempos within their music, dropping bass and transitioning to a bluesy upbeat one song and then exposing their Aussie roots and relating it to a funky soulful chorus the next. I had the privilege to speak with the entire band which along with Jarred on vocals/percussion and Sam playing guitar/percussion also include Mark on bass, Cron on guitar and Isaac on synths/percussion.  This was the band’s first SXSW appearance.

Had you heard or known about SXSW before coming out?
Mark: Of course!
Jarred: It’s been a dream of mine just to come and see music here. When I was growing up I used to see bands who were quite low-level, then they’d come here and they’d blow up. It seems like a whole world of promise and potential.
Sam: The idea of SXSW in my head is I get to see all these bands that I’ve dreamt about seeing for so long and then walk into a random pub and stumble upon something brilliant I’ve never heard before.

How was your travel out here?
Isaac: We flew into LA. That was killer.
Mark: It’s about 24 hours, in transit, to get from home to Austin so that was two days of our lives spent super excited and anxious.
Jarred: If we could have come straight here that would have been amazing. LAX is like my idea of hell. It’s my least favorite place in the world.

What are your feelings on the atmosphere? Were you well received?
Isaac: The crowds here are just so welcoming. Just really, really up for a good time.
Jarred: Everyone has been so nice to us and looked after us.  Even the accommodation we stayed at, the dude gave us a great deal.
Sam: He just wanted Australian beer.
Jarred: He gave us three extra units in his house for a six pack of beer!

Badges are quite expensive and the word is that artists don’t really make a profit.  What are your feelings on this?
Isaac: We are just artists man. We just play. We don’t know the business side of it.
Jarred: We’re happy to be here – we didn’t have to pay a $1,000, so we’re happy.
Sam: I did.
Jarred: No, we did. We did.
Mark: Much more actually.

Does the festival open doors? What are the benefits of getting out here?
Sam: We had people see us two days ago who were just walk-ins and that’s one of the biggest benefits. They have no idea that you’re about to play and catch your set. Then, 15-minutes later they’re organizing an interview with you.

What were some other things you got into while you were here?
Sam: Everyone I worked with was like, ‘Man you’re going to Texas. It’s all about the barbecue sauce and the meat. And it was absolutely about the barbecue sauce and the meat.  It was everything I hoped it would be and I fell in love

Will you be doing SXSW again or coming back our way sometime soon?
Isaac: In a heartbeat.
Jarred: No brainer.
Isaac: As soon as possible.
Sam: All it takes is an email.

Bad Pony, who easily spent the most time and money (out of the bands interviewed) to get out here, expressed extreme gratitude for the opportunity not just to play but to see other bands performing.  They were recently picked up by Arow Agency and say they never take too much time off from touring stating that they easily become bored when not on the road. The band is high spirited on and off stage expressing there’s nothing better than getting to tour around the world with their best mates. Bad Pony’s music can be found on Spotify but make sure to check out the acoustic videos on YouTube made during their stay here in Austin. For a more in-depth interview including Mark’s SXSW reaction story and Isaac’s PSA keep a lookout for the full video interview.


Q&A with Löwin

Written by Nathaniel Torres
Photo by Sarah Vasquez

I spoke with Sara Houser (vocals) of Löwin, an Austin band that debuted SXSW in 2014.  The band regularly plays at establishments such as ABGB, Hotel Vegas and Barracuda. They feature a female vocalist who’s soothing croons accompany a unique blend of guitar melodies and hooks over a solid low end.  Löwin played seven shows this year and their members have been performing unofficial shows for the festival every year since they started calling Austin their home.

Was it difficult getting an official showcase?
Sara: I’ve played SXSW [unofficially] pretty much every year that I’ve lived in Austin, but this is the first year that any of the bands I was in actually made it as an official artist. I think [unofficial shows] are the case for a lot of Austin-based bands. From what I understand Austin-based bands are kind of last to be considered. We were lucky that we fell into a booking agency that helped usher us into SXSW as an official artist.

What are your feelings on the atmosphere? Were you well received?
Sara: All the shows we played were amazing. The crowds at SXSW are always refreshing because people are engaged and they’re moving around and dancing – not like your typical Austin crowd who have seen and done everything. People are generally out to enjoy themselves. It’s not their run-of-the-mill show.

Badges are quite expensive and the word is that artists do not really make a profit.  What are your feelings on this?
Sara: I think a lot of show-goers maybe don’t take into consideration that most of the shows that we’re playing that week are free; meaning we don’t get paid to play. We had a couple of shows that did pay us…not a lot. But all four of us had to ask off work, which for Chris and I…SXSW is a huge money-making week. We didn’t go into it hoping to make a lot of money.  We were just hoping to reach a fan base that, otherwise, wouldn’t have seen us…and that’s what’s cool about it.

Does the festival open doors? What are the benefits of getting out here?
Sara: Exposure for sure. We used it as kind of a testing ground for all of our new material that we’re going to be releasing, shortly now that SXSW is over. We connected with lots of great photographers and lots of new fans – but as far as did we have anybody walking up to us after a set waving contracts at us, no. Being an official SXSW artist is a great thing on a resume for any band. There is a level of legitimacy it brings to the table.

Even for the local veterans of SXSW there was more to learn about the festival stating that reaching out to the industry side of the festival could unlock further potential for the band.  You can catch Löwin at Barracuda March 30 and keep a lookout for that new material to be released. Until then, they have a few singles available on Spotify. Just hold down the “o” on your phone keyboard to get “ö”.