SXSW 2014 Interview: Mutual Benefit

473217_390909804286889_152677526_oOf all the names on the list for SXSW, perhaps none has had a greater run-up than Mutual Benefit.  The work of the band has surely paid off with the praise heaped upon Love’s Crushing Diamond.  The band make their way to Austin riding that wave, with promise to live up to, and beyond, the hype that’s been ascribed to them.  Here’s how they answered some of our questions on their way into our city. 

ATH: There was a lot of hubbub last year concerning corporate sponsors and pay to play and what not at SXSW. As a band, what’s your reason for coming to pay at the festival? What do you hope to get out of it?

MB: I lived on the east side of Austin for a while right after high school, so I’ve definitely seen the fest get a little yuckier each year, perhaps culminating with seeing a band play a set in a 10 story doritos stage/installation. I’m kind of into it though, it reminds me of the feeling of being on acid where everything is shiny and confusing. Advertisers imitating art so well that maybe it loops around and becomes art of a different kind?

ATH: For most SXSW sets, you get 30 minutes to leave a lasting impression. What’s your plan of attack? You have a set list mapped out yet?

MB: We are going straight from Europe to Austin so I’ve just started thinking about the set. We are are a pretty versatile band so we’ll probably just feel out the vibe. We are playing a lot so I think that it is important that we keep having fun or it won’t translate.

ATH: The festival caters to music fans, but food and booze are an important aspect of the fans and the bands. What’s your band’s food and beverage of choice?

MB: I’m living in NYC at the moment and can’t find anywhere that just gives you unlimited chips and salsa the way that everywhere does in Texas. I miss that feeling of edible infinity and will most definitely seek it out. Probably just some discreet spot on Cesar Chavez where no one is talking about Arcade Fire. As for question 2, kombucha and sake! Learned from Cheer Up Charlies last time I was in town.

ATH: There are tons of bands coming into town. Who would you ideally like to play with of the 1000s of bands gracing our city? Make your own optimal line-up.

MB: Ideally, maybe on Friday or Saturday morning, a guided breathing dj set on a sun-bathed patch near the town lake bike path with Julianna Barwick, Grouper, and Cuddle Formation

ATH: We are partial to SXSW obviously, but what festival do you feel is the best around?

MB: I’ve always been partial to FMLY FEST in Brooklyn and Total Bummer in Florida since it is very collaborative and sponsor free.

ATH: Let’s say your band has been booked an official showcase at a pop up venue somewhere in the middle of 6th street. The lineup features thrash metal, hip-hop, spoken word, and you. The sound is horrible, the lineup is not your style, and the crowd seems angry at the world. How would your band deal with such a situation?

MB: I did this thing when we played Knitting Factory where I felt weird on stage for some reason and asked the whole audience to scream as loud as they could with me, louder than they’ve ever felt comfortable doing in public, like a primal feeling that feels forbidden to express. It felt really good and I think it contributed to a feeling of togetherness. Maybe that would work for this situation? Especially for the thrash metal dudes.

ATH: What’s your favorite album to come out in the last year? What’s playing in the tour bus?

MB: I always have trouble with these questions. I’ve been kind of obsessing over the digital archive of Alan Lomax’s early American field recordings of folk music. It just recently became available to the public. The “tour bus” (lol) was mostly playing Worst Behavior by Drake

ATH: The digital age is upon us, like it or not. What are your band’s thoughts on streaming services like spotify, pandora, etc.? Blow em all up? Or embrace the future?

MB: My feelings are extremely mixed, both because it is complicated and because we are playing the Spotify show.

ATH: Day parties have replaced showcases for music discovery? Is the conference really completely upside-down?

MB: I think there are too many creative and talented people in one spot during the fest to not subvert a closed model in favor of more open, organic interactions.

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