For two years, Austin's Pure X (formerly Pure Ecstasy) have been diving into the slower side of life, their jams unearthing quiet rumblings from ultra-minimal melodies and caves of sonic reverberation. With a string of 7-inches, tapes, and EPs in the bag, the trio of vocalist/guitarist Nate Grace, bassist Jesse Jenkins, and drummer Austin Youngblood are set to release their highly anticipated debut LP, Pleasure, on the ever-amazing Acéphale Records. I recently chatted with the dudes over telecommunications about their origins, the skate ditch they thrash, and their infamous, former halfway house of a home.
AZ: When I first met y'all, all you could talk about was The Ditch you had just discovered in Austin. Can you take us there?
Nate: [Laughs] Well, The Ditch is a drainage ditch in deep South Austin that really is one of man's unintentional masterpieces. It's got these chill, four-foot side walls with drop-ins and surf walls on all four corners. Pretty much the perfect ditch and one of my favorite places on Earth. People have been skating The Ditch for a long time and are real sensitive about how the spot is treated. So if you go there, you gotta treat it right. There are old heads that have been skating there since it was built in like the late '80s/early '90s. It's definitely not the type of place where you do crazy flips or whatever bullshit. It's a zen skate spot. You go there to get out of step— to get into the right mindset.
AZ: How has skating influenced the Pure X groove?
Jesse: We all started skating and started this band as if we were 13 again. This time around, instead of saying "Fuck you!" to my parents and school, I'm saying "Fuck you!" to computers.
Nate: I tore my ACL skating a number of years back, and I had a really gnarly recovery period. There were all these complications with my surgery and I was sick for a while because of it. I couldn't skate for maybe a year-and-a-half, and when I did get back on my board I just felt totally depressed about the whole thing. I couldn't do shit of what I had been able to before. So I quit. I didn't skate again for like 5 years. Then for some reason my friends and I started skating again. It was right around the time the band started up. I had been living with a woman and that had dissolved into total insanity, so I guess I was looking for something new. We met some older dudes at The Ditch who were shredding with a style I had never seen in the magazines or videos I used to watch. Their shit was SMOOTH; it was all about STYLE and way less about technicality. Pretty much a slowed down, Dogtown sort of vibe. Seeing those dudes thrash like that really inspired me. It reminded me of shit that I used to know but had forgotten about.
Most people are conned by TRICKS, and I mean that in a few ways. They are duped by VANITY into believing that HUGE, VIRTUOSO, MASTURBATORY displays of skill (and technique) are powerful, and thereby meaningful. Kids see a 30-stair 360 flip and are all, "Ohhhh my godddd." Fucking guitar jammer #9743 rips some alien surfer shit and moms around the globe wet themselves. The White House moron machine spews out Hollywood fairy tales and the masses scream for more. I'll take one beautifully timed carve on a fucking driveway. One three-line poem that lays it out clean and with conviction. A single-note guitar drone with some GODDAMN REAL FEELING. One decent, compassionate ACTION in REAL, FUCKING LIFE to a whole VIRTUAL WORLD of TALKING TALKING TALKING.
AZ: Your home is sort of a communal bastion of musical hedonism. What's up with the Halfway House? How many people live there now?
Nate: Our house is sort of a revolving door for TROLLS BY TRADE. It's a haven for gays, goons, and gremlins. It's a CANDY-FLIPPED REAL WORLD. Before our group of friends moved in here, it was a halfway house called "Makin A Change." Supposedly someone was killed here. I think Christine [Silent Diane] has said she felt some kind of presence, but I've never seen anything but REPTILES creepin' around here. We still get letters from inmates looking for a home. At first I'd open them up. Some real sad shit. Most of the letters are scrawled in pencil on-blue lined notebook paper. Austin actually lives in a place down the street that is next door to another halfway house. These are the realities of living in one of the most incarcerated countries in the world, but we're breathing easy for the time being. Hungover family breakfasts. BBQ wastelands.
Jesse: We have a perfect human harmony going on right now, which is pretty incredible for six people. Total freak family forever. All we need is this: http://dvice.com/assets_c/2011/04/trnjczzi97022w-thumb-550x503-61060.jpg.
Nate: And this: http://blogs.houstonpress.com/hairballs/sexswing5.jpg.
AZ: You guys met in college in San Marcos, right? What's up with that town? Is that where [pre-Pure X band] Silver Pines first started?
Jesse: San Marcos is a mostly typical small college town south of Austin. But it's way more awesome than say, Denton, because it has an amazing river and a heavy Curanderismo culture. I've heard several Owl Lady- and La Llorona-esque stories from people who grew up there. It also has several abandoned Victorian mansions. Supposedly the area surrounding the springs at the mouth of the San Marcos river is the oldest continually inhabited site in North America. And, yeah, Silver Pines started there in this old, two-story triplex house where Stefanie (Sleep Over) and I were living (and Nate was crashing). We thought the place was haunted 'cause we'd always hear whispering, but when the upstairs neighbor moved out she was like, "I'm really gonna miss running around inside the walls of this place." We waited until she left for the last time and went upstairs to see what the hell she was talking about and sure enough, there was this tiny doorway under one of the windows that opened up into a 2 ft. wide crawl space between the walls that separated her apartment from ours. Apparently she had been cruising around in the walls doing God knows what the entire time we lived there.
Nate: That house had some creepy vibes. You could always hear that girl puking through the walls too. Like seriously every day. I haven't really hung out in San Marcos for a few years but from my experience, it's a cheap, chill place to live. Shows are a completely different world down there compared to in Austin. People are stoked to get trashed and dance around all wild. Way more receptive to anything that's happening. That period of time was pretty fun.
AZ: The front cover of Pleasure really goes into the Pure X as a sexual expression vibe. How'd you select that image?
Nate: Our friend Chris went to Japan like six months ago, and came back with this mail order bondage mag from the '80s. He saw that pic in there and showed it to us. He's a real genius with images. We were just like, "SHIT. THAT'S IT." He also had this amazing pic of these rats devouring a birthday cake in an alley that we were hoping to use as the back cover, but it didn't work out. The image that's on the back now is way more subtle anyway.
AZ: Let's take at take a step away from Pure X and chat Brain Club for a minute. Jesse, as one-half of the label, can you take us into its formation/philosophy? Plans for the future?
Jesse: We're putting together BC000002 right now. Hoping to have it in hand sometime this summer. Basically, my homie Kyle Dixon (Survive) and I both have office jobs and therefore GChat and conspire about shit all day everyday. We're filing for several patents. For Brain Club, we were just talking about all of the jams that people we know have recorded that are just sitting around. It was a super quick decision to gather some of these rarities/outtakes/b-sides/etc. and put out a compilation. Then we realized that we could keep doing this forever because we know so many people who will forever writhe in eternal jamnation. RIDE ON TIME.
AZ: Too many good ATX bands that y'all rage with: Survive, Silent Diane, Sleep ∞ Over. Who don't we know about?
Jesse: People are about to be annihilated by Troller. They are one band capable of eradicating the 1,000 saccharine, cat-doting, cutesy, white bread, husband/wife, weak-sauce blog-cloggers.
Austin: Right now I'm working on getting a label together with Adam Jones [Survive, Troller], Mty Tmy, and a few others. We'll be pushin' out hot new Austin shit this summer. Be looking for Holodeck to drop a limited run of the Troller LP, as well as a batch of tapes from Silent Land Time Machine, Lumens, and Smokey Emery. Also VC Childkraft is tight. He just moved to Upstate NY a few weeks ago, but I'm still countin' it.
Nate: Everybody on the Brain Club record and How I Quit Crack. Thousand Foot Whale Claw. And for real, Silent Diane are straight up SOUL WARRIORS. Ummm, I wish Ged Gengras lived in Austin.
AZ: Pleasure was recorded live, with no overdubs. I hear you are already at work on a new album which will definitely have overdubs. How has the writing/recording process changed as a result?
Jesse: When we started, Nate had some fully formed songs, so we just started out playing those with the idea of keeping them sparse and straightforward, and letting them flow. We were adamant about recording live because we were having a lot of fun playing the songs and didn't want to kill that by strapping on headphones and trying to play to each other through glass. I personally fucking detest wearing headphones while I play music. By tracking stuff for this new thing we're working on, we're just trying to keep it fresh. We're jamming in a new studio where we can record live as a band in the same room but still achieve some isolation and have more freedom to mix. I think now we're more in tune with each other's style and more interested in improvisation and rhythm as the basis for building songs.
Nate: A big part of why Pleasure was recorded live was just to make sure that shit got to tape. There wasn't an attitude of "NO OVERDUBS DUDE." It was more about getting that shit raw and getting it onto record. Not to mention the omnipresent "motivators" of TIME, MONEY. Now that the record is actually getting pressed, I think we all feel more free to do whatever we feel like.
Pleasure LP is out July 5th in the US and August 22nd worldwide via Acéphale. A new pressing of Pure X's You're In It Now EP, remastered and featuring an extended version of the title track, is out now via Light Lodge/Acéphale