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SXSW Q&A with Kid Meets Cougar, one of the best little bands in Las Vegas

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Image Credit: Corlene ByrdAnother SXSW has come and gone, and now that we’re all battling post-festival pneumonia, it’s time for one last post. Over the past five days, we brought you coverage of Muse and Smokey Robinson. We battled crowds and climate to see moonlighting Dixie Chicks and surprising visits from Snoop Dogg. We witnessed the returns of Hole and Stone Temple Pilots. But what about the other 2200+ bands playing in Austin without publicists or managers or major label deals?

Kid Meets Cougar is a lo-fi, high-tech duo from Las Vegas, with no publicist or manager or label deal. They drove to Austin in their 1995 GMC Safari conversion van, nicknamed “Yo Yo Ma,” which features a teal carpeted and wood paneled interior, complete with VHS player. They arrived in town with no badges or wristbands, and only one show to play. When I sat down with Courtney Carroll, 29, and Brett Bolton, 23, on Saturday and offered to buy them a drink, they opted to split a Guinness. They are, in a word, adorable.

You can visit Kid Meets Cougar on the web at www.kidmeetscougar.com, where you can stream their debut album, For Breakfast, in its entirety. I’ve also embedded their video for “Hey Hey” after the Q&A below. The first time I saw it was on a friend’s cell phone. I’d estimate I’ve watched it 40 or so times since. I find it freeing. Viva new music!

Entertainment Weekly: You two seem to be the poster children for the point of SXSW: to discover great bands and give them the chance to gain new opportunities and exposure. Do you think this experience was worth it for you guys?

Brett Bolton: Originally we were just going to come out here and have fun and check it out. But then we got on a showcase at the Palm Door, and then this Epicsauce.com/Neon Reverb show last night. It was awesome. We talked to Kevin from Epicsauce when we got there, and he was like, “Hey, if you want to play inside, there’s a PA in there.” And it was one of the best shows we’ve ever played.

Courtney Carroll: We got to do our own sound!

B: It was a small room. Probably about 50 people inside. It was packed.

C: It had a real house party feel. Everybody was dancing.

B: We had our videos going behind us. We were pretty much given free rein. It was one of the best shows we’ve done. The first couple days we felt kind of like little fish, you know? There’s this many bands, and you’re like, “How can I do anything?”

C: Yeah, how do you even go about it? But last night, there wasn’t anyone who knew we were going to be there.

B: We weren’t promoted at all. And we ended up getting there, playing for a packed room. C: It felt really friendly.

B: They took a lot of CDs.

C: We gave them out for free.

B: We want to be heard.

C: I would rather 100 people have our CD for free than five people have it for $5.

B: We have download codes, too.

C: We can sell our CDs later.

B: The show last night turned my world upside down. I have so much energy and so many good contacts now. I think SXSW has a certain magic to it.

Courtney, I originally know you from a great Vegas-based alt-country band called the Clydesdale. How did that band get started?

C: I used to work at a bar with an open mic night that I hosted, and when that bar closed, they moved the open mic night to a bar behind the Double Down. And Paige and Andrew, who are in the Clydesdale, used to come do open mic night there. They stole me from my old band, the Swing Bastards.

How did you and Brett meet? How long have you two been going out?

C: Two years.

B: She was in another band called Love Pentagon. It’s like an all-girl, tech-spacey-retro rock band. They were having a CD release party, and I had another band called Jr. Anti-Sex League, and we played the party. We kind of had a band date night, to hang out and get to know each other, and that’s where I met her.

C: We started hanging out all weekend and playing music together for fun, just to do something. I don’t think it started off as a plan to be in a band.

B: We’re both drummers.

C: He’s the really good drummer. I’ve learned more in the two years that we’ve been dating than I learned the whole other 10 years I’ve played drums.

B: But we started writing some beats, and then picked up some guitars, played some keyboards, had fun with it. Eventually we had enough songs to make an album. We recorded it pretty much over the course of a year.

Did you record it yourself?

B: Yeah, on LogicPro. It’s Apple’s version of ProTools. Learning how to play music, make music, and record it all at the same time is a really fun experiment.

C: That’s kind of how we make our songs. We record something, and then add stuff. And then figure out how to play it live. [laughs]

How would you describe your music to people who haven’t heard it?

B: [to Courtney] That’s you.

C: Someone told me that we sound like a mix between Dr. Dre and Belle and Sebastian. [giggles]

B: Like electro-acoustic…

C: I like saying we’re “organic electronic.” It’s organic because we’re still playing real instruments.All the stuff in our music that’s electronic sounding is stuff that he plays organic and records, and then chops it up.

B: I play guitar, but now I have 18 drum pads. I used to just trigger things with my laptop…

C: And if he would hit the pads too much, sometimes it would crash the laptop.

B: But then I was like, Hey, we’re drummers, we can have fun with this. So we got 18 drum pads lined up right next to me that I can sit there and trigger a song or a piece of a guitar part, and play it almost like a drum part. She plays keyboards. And we both sing.

C: The type of music we play is mostly the type of music we listen to.

B: Minus the Bear is one of my favorite all-time bands. We waited three hours to see them at the day party on Cedar Street this week. It was amazing. And there’s this whole label called Morr Music, based out of Berlin. Early in college I started getting into this label, and all the bands are so weird. They’re electronic-y, but they still have an organic feel to them. They’d take samples of like them hitting tables, or them snapping and doing stuff, and chop it up and make these electronic beats out of it. So it had this weird vibe to it. I really got inspired by that kind of stuff.

What were your plans for the record once it was done?

B: We didn’t know. We just liked doing it. We had a big CD release party at this warehouse.

C: That was crazy. It was a new place that no one had ever used for a show, because it was just a warehouse where his other band practiced. We named it “Whiskey Wolf Warehouse,” and I think just the name alone, people were like, “What is this ‘Whiskey Wolf Warehouse’? I’ve gotta go there!” We had like 200 people.

Do you think people know how big the independent art scene is in Vegas?

C: I was actually talking to a guy last night and told him we’re from Vegas, and he was like, “There’s a music scene in Vegas?”

B: Wasn’t that Paul?

C: Oh yeah!

B: We met the owner of Manimal Records last night. He was super cool. We were playing with [Vegas band] Afghan Raiders, too, and he was like, “What? Vegas? You guys are having a showcase here?”

C: I feel like our music scene is getting really friendly and tight-knit.

B: It’s exciting.

C: Everyone is supporting each other. I feel like it’s a really good place right now.

B: There’s a couple more scenes that we’re not really familiar with. Like the whole screamo scene.

C: One Pin Short is here. They’re from Vegas. But I think they’re ska. I don’t know anything about that.

Are you looking to get signed? Are any of your other bands on a label?

B: No. We’ve been close a couple times, but it’s kinda scary.

C: His old band almost got on Columbia. But there’s too much small print.

B: We have a good lawyer now. I’m not afraid anymore.