Raw. Sexy. Visceral. Dangerous. All qualities that used to be synonymous with rock and roll. With bombastic guitar riffs, thunderous drums, and vocals alternating between sensual croons and carnal shrieks, iconic bands like Led Zeppelin, Aerosmith and Deep Purple rocketed themselves into the pantheon of rock royalty. In recent years, this convoluted genre has churned out a myriad of Top 40 darlings, from Fall Out Boy to Mumford & Sons, each considering themselves “rock stars.” But with fiery guitar leads and howling vocals, bands like Austin’s own Scorpion Child hearken back to rock’s days of yore. The quintet has earned widespread attention and critical praise for its no-frills approach, which could signal a forthcoming revival of the entire genre.
By Bryan Rolli
The denim-and-leather-clad retro rockers have been gigging around Austin in various lineups since 2007, says lead singer Aryn Jonathan Black. They got their break, however, when they left the “Live Music Capital of the World” on a 50-date, nationwide trek last October. By the time the tour ended in January, Nuclear Blast Records had heard the band’s eponymous debut album and signed them.
Since then, the road dogs have had nary a moment’s rest. The band took part in Rockstar Energy Drink’s Mayhem Festival over the summer to coincide with the June release of their debut, and is now on a national headlining tour with Kadavar, Gypsyhawk, Wilson and Mothership, which includes a stop at Austin’s Red 7 on Friday.
Despite living in a musical and cultural hotbed, these Austin natives don’t attribute this recent success to the music scene in their own backyard. In fact, as they continued to establish themselves, their local audience dwindled. “Austin didn’t help us get signed, I don’t think,” says Black. “We’ve been playing there so long, it’s just, people got tired of seeing us.”
Black notices a general apathy surrounding the whole Austin scene lately. “When I first moved here, there was a little more involvement… more camaraderie. And now, it’s just, so many people moving here, so many opinions about this and that, they could really give a shit about their hometown there.” Friday’s show will mark band’s first performance at home in about six months.
The group’s debut has earned mostly positive reviews – and a lot of Led Zeppelin comparisons. Black is quick to dismiss the notion that Scorpion Child are merely a nostalgia act, and says that the band’s influences are continually evolving. “Well, it changes, you know? We’re not specifically going for anything. It appears that we are, it sounds like we are, you know? We just make what happens when we get together. We create music that we want to create,” he says.
As for the current album, Black says the songs “are a bit dated. We recorded them two years ago; it’s taken them a while to be released.” The band has been incorporating new songs into their set, and will return to the studio at the end of the tour.
The group has found inspiration for new music by immersing themselves in their roots and rediscovering their past. “I started wearing shirts that I wore when I was a kid,” Black says. “If I didn’t have them anymore, I’d buy that old shirt that I used to have, just so I could feel that way again.”
The band will not be content to rest on its hard rock laurels, either. “Our next record could sound like Black Flag, you know? I’d be happy,” Black says.
In the midst of all the talk of change and evolution, Scorpion Child’s album does still “have a lot that heralds to bands like Led Zeppelin and Deep Purple,” Black acknowledges. Booking-agent-turned-manager Weston McGowen thinks this nod to hard rock’s heyday comes at just the right time, as the genre is experiencing a revival.
“I think it’s starting to be cool again. A lot of these new bands are real sexy, you know?” says McGowen, noting that sex appeal builds a desperately needed female audience. “Like, the guy’s got long hair, good figures. They’re stylish. They wear form-fitting clothes. They move femininely onstage. The girls are on board, which is a good sign; I think it’s the most important thing.”
Hard rock has been a tough sell for radio programmers lately, but that could change in the near future. “I don’t think radio is ready for such dark music yet, but I think in a couple years… maybe a year… I don’t know, I think they’ll be ready for it,” McGowen predicts. Given the cyclical nature of the music business, he anticipates rock’s return to former glory to come full circle soon. “There’s definitely a new scene happening right now, and I don’t think I’ve really felt that in music in a while.”
Although many critics consider the group firmly rooted in the past, Scorpion Child is more concerned with marching boldly into the future. As they say in the single “Polygon of Eyes”: “A time sent event horizon will leave our stories behind.”