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SLRPhoto.jpgI could not believe my eyes when I first saw SLR at the Old Settler’s Bluegrass festival. I think I said “what the hell” repeatedly with a tone of disbelief mixed with interest. Damn. They are good. Split Lip Rayfield owned a three night stretch on South Congress recently. These guys have an original sound, to say the least. They are difficult to class. I’d say they are somewhere around- acoustic/ bluegrass/punk with an attitude- a loud and fast attitude. Imagine Johnny Rotten or Metallica sitting in with Bill Monroe. I have not seen a faster mandolin player, outside of Grisman or Billy Bright. I managed a spot up front and their hands were moving at warp speed! It was mesmerizing to watch them play. My plans were made after the first night. They are four musicians with a guitar, a stand-up (gas tank) bass, a mandolin and a banjo. Did I say they were fast? On the third daze we sat down and shared some words. I could not believe that they were not from Austin. They seemed like Austin folk to us, but they’re from Kansas. They have a large following here which packed the house at the Continental. These guys were just breaking all the rules (and strings) with their sound. And that, my friends, is a beautiful thing. We talked with Kirk, Jeff and Wayne . We meshed all of their answers into SLR because I forgot who said what. These guys will hopefully do a DAZE party in the future.

Russ: How would you describe your music?

SLR: Mostly aggressive, acoustic music, kind of riding the folk rock wave sometimes, sometimes bluegrassy- it’s kind of hard to sum it all up into a category or anything, but aggressive, acoustic rock/bluegrass, I don’t know.
SLR: That’s my answer, too.

Russ: How did you start playing and why?

SLR: The first bands I was in, I was just singing, like in punk bands. I went to a bluegrass festival- I was not into that kind of music, and then I went there and I fell in love with it- I just wanted to become a better musician and start creating music.

W: How did your type of music evolve?

SLR: It really wasn’t planned that way; we’ve all been in bands- we were in Scroat Belly, which was kind of an electric country rock band, and then that broke up and then we started this acoustic thing. We really didn’t plan it. Jeff made the bass, and it kind of revolved around that, and just sort of took off from there. When he first made the bass, no one wanted to play with him.

SLR: It wasn’t always just like it is today, it took a long time- we’ve been playing for eight years, so it evolved from that. When Kirk and I started kicking out some songs right after I made the bass eight years ago, it was somewhat like this, but it’s taken a long time for it to evolve into what it is now.

R: How do people at bluegrass festivals respond to your take on bluegrass?

SLR: We don’t seem to play that many bluegrass festivals, every now and then we do, but we seem to get a better response from hard-rockin’ crowds. Bluegrass people enjoy the show; we seem to get a good response wherever we go, depending on whether it’s a bluegrass crowd or whether it’s a rock crowd, but it seems like it’s a lot more fun playing with other rock bands at rock clubs, you know.

SLR: A lot of the traditional bluegrass people hate us, though- which, I can see why, but at the same time, there’s lots of them that like us, too.

SLR: We’re a crossover crowd, you know, we can go on tour with the Ireverents, and their crowd loves us.

SLR: And we’ve had real good shows with Del McCoury, and his crowd liked us a lot.

SLR: We’ve played with sort of hippie bands like Leftover Salmon and their crowd liked us. A lot of times when you play cool shows, you got a guy with a leather jacket on, next to a girl standing in a skirt, and another guy with a bong….

SLR: And the bong’s there- there’s a pretty big spread, a diversity, and I like that a lot.

R: Have you seen what Peter Rowan is doing with bringing bluegrass into reggae?

SLR: Right. I saw his show at the Old Settler’s Festival; I like the no boundaries, you know, don’t limit yourself. I don’t think we’re a genre band- everyone’s put us in that alt-country thing, but that’s not us at all.

Russ: What other bands from Austin do you like?

SLR: I like The Damnations, that we played with last night, a lot. They were awesome.

SLR: I like Pong….they’re good, I saw them at the club that’s underneath the hotel, right down the street from here, you go down the stairs to the basement- Ego’s- I saw them there, it was a great show.

Russ: What’s the story behind the name Split Lip Rayfield?

SLR: It’s this guy my parents went to high school with, and whenever we were trying to get a band name, that came up….it was some guy from my childhood that stuck with me- his name’s Billy Rayfield, but they called him Split Lip.

Russ: How many strings do you go through during a show?

SLR: I’m getting a lot better.

Russ: Has there ever been a show where you haven’t broken a string?

SLR: Yeah, the last year’s been a lot better, I’ve been changing my technique a lot with my playing- I think the worst was 12 strings in one night….

SLR: Thirteen.

SLR: Thirteen.

SLR: I was fired up, I was excited….Two is an average show, two or three is an average show- one in five shows, I’ll go without breaking a string and then, one in every ten shows, I’ll break ten strings.
Wendy: You should get some string company to sponsor you.

SLR: It’s expensive. I try to put on a new set before every show, so they’re fresh- I don’t want to break strings, I’m not trying to do it.

Russ: What do you think of Bush?

SLR: He’s scary.

SLR: I don’t really think about him too much.

SLR: I try not to.

SLR: I’m scared.

SLR: No comment.

Russ: What is your favorite thing about Austin?

SLR: I love the food, and the people here are awesome. Just walking around today- I saw a killer band today, there’s a zydeco band right up the street, and I just love that, you know, everybody seems really positive and cares about art. Everybody in this town’s in a band, or a painter, or does dance, or a yoga instructor, or whatever….

SLR: It seems pretty non-stop, there’s always some kind of crazy business going down, especially here in the South Congress district.

SLR: It’s not like the rest of Texas, that’s for sure.

Wendy: There’s Austin, and then there’s Texas.

SLR: I’m going to start saying that.

Russ: Do you have any least favorite things about Austin?
SLR: Not really, it’s a nice town, got a good crowd here, we always have a good time when we come here. I don’t have any complaints about Austin. {fins}

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  1. Russ

    way back when