How the teens of Residual Kid earned famous fans and national tours
The members of Residual Kid (due Friday and Saturday, April 4 and 5, at the Hi-Dive) from Austin, Texas are all fifteen-years-old or younger. Despite their youth, it is impossible to ignore their sheer power of the songs -- they're something more than you'd expect out of three guys who have yet to get out of high school. Often compared to grunge bands of the early '90s, Sonic Youth or whatever shoegaze band a particular music journalist favors at the time of writing, the best way to say it might be that Residual Kid would sound at home on SST -- vaguely unclassifiable but with a footing in punk. The group made a big splash in 2012, and 2013 including a tour opening for Peter Murphy. Later this month the group is set to record at the Beastie Boys' Oscilloscope Studios with Andre Kelman, who is known for his work with Cat Power, The Julie Ruin, Phoenix and, of course, The Beasties themselves. We spoke with the band's winningly confident thirteen-year-old bassist Max Redman about how they came to work with people like J. Mascis and Steve McDonald.
Westword: Even though you're thirteen you've been playing music for a while. When did you start playing bass?
Max Redman: About four years ago. I started playing guitar when I was eight and branched off to playing bass from there. I think they're similar but just sound different. I like both equally.
When you were starting up the band how did you get into the sort of music you play now?
Our parents listen to that kind of music and we listened to their older albums. We started playing Nirvana when I was younger and then on into Sonic Youth and other cool bands.
Did a lot of people you went to school with into that stuff too or were you into stuff they didn't necessarily know?
Well, me and my brother are home schooled. But Deven [Ivy] does go to school. I don't think one of the reasons he's into that music came from school. But I don't know, really.
You got started playing pretty early. What was your first live show?
Our first live show was kind of at a rock camp. Our first show as Residual Kid was at Beerland a couple of years ago.
Was that a regular show or a SXSW thing?
It was just a regular show.
How did you get hooked up with that? In Denver and in a lot of other cities it can be challenging to get a show when you're under twenty-one.
I think we had a friend that was playing that night and they invited us to play.
How did it feel for you playing that first time?
It was pretty cool. It was interesting and an odd show. I was very, very nervous.
Last year some of us were lucky enough to see you open for Peter Murphy in Denver at the Summit Music Hall. How did you get on that bill?
My brother used to playing with a band called The Boxing Lesson and they played with Peter Murphy. Peter Murphy thought it was really cool that Ben was a kid drummer and that he was pretty good. My dad told him about Residual Kid and he got really interested.
You recorded with J. Mascis and your music is a little reminiscent of Dinosaur Jr--not that that band is an influence on what you do. What was it like recording with him? He's known for not being very talkative.
It was great. He's really cool and he's good with understanding our opinions and he was really nice.
Did he give you any advice or offer guidance in the recording?
No, he didn't. But he did give us advice on pedals to make noise. Deven would know which, but he did of course use a Big Muff and added something to it.
You also worked with Steve McDonald of OFF! and Red Kross?
I really got into OFF! They played the same year we did at Fun Fun Fun Fest. I started listening to them and really got into them. We played the show and I found out Steve McDonald was there, and I got super excited. We talked to him and he really liked the show and from there we recorded with him. When they came to Austin for SXSW we got to play with OFF!, which was really cool.
How was working with him compared to working with J. Mascis?
It was definitely a very different range. Steve is into grungy, really cool garage stuff. They both sounded like the people they've worked with.
Since you're on the road is doing the home schooling thing on the road easy?
It's definitely easier. We do classes but it's a lot easier than [going to a more traditional school].
Do you tour when Deven is out of school?
He has missed some school. Whenever we have a show on a weekday we usually have to work around [the school schedule].
Your music is described in a number of different ways from grunge to shoegaze to hardcore or whatever. But it doesn't sound like you're trying to fit into a particular style of music.
Our songs all sound different. Some sound cool and spacey and other sound really grunge. I kind of see where that's coming from but basically we're coming from all over the place.
Your EP from last year has some interesting artwork. Who did that?
We had a friend do it. His name is Kobe Shibe. We liked his work for a while and thought it was cool, clever artwork. We just asked him to put something together and he put the squiggly lines on the face.
You've had a good deal of relative success and attention. Has that opened any doors for you?
I think the more we've been touring we've had more opportunities to play music, which is great.
Has anyone tried to tell you what you should do with your music?
We've haven't had anyone come up to us and say, "Hey, you're pretty good but you should definitely change some stuff."
When you played the UMS last a lot of people who had no idea who you were commented on how incredibly confident and poised you seemed on stage. Did you consciously develop that capacity?
I don't know if I would really claim that. I knew I didn't move very much and I never really had super stage fright. When I played talent shows when I first started playing guitar. Then I did rock camp and never got super duper nervous. Over time playing shows -- it wasn't always full of people, that took time. Sometimes it was to twenty people.
There's a recent episode of Portlandia where some male character talks to Annie Clark of St. Vincent like she doesn't know anything about gear. Has that treatment been sent your way? Have people been pretty respectful?
I definitely know people have come up to us and said, "Oh, it sounded great! Was there something wrong?" Sometimes I'll be playing a song and I'll hear something that sounds wrong and I'll try to fix. When people notice that I'll tell them, "My pedal is messed up." They'll tell me something I should try but they usually don't tell me I should get better gear.
If you'd like to contact me, Tom Murphy, on Twitter, my handle is https://twitter.com/simianthinker>@simianthinker.
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