By Whitney Pastorek
Updated March 19, 2007 at 12:00 PM EDT
Credit: Whitney Pastorek

I mentioned these guys in my Saturday wrap-up, but thought they deserved a little more time. America? Meet Attractive and Popular, hailing from Bathhouse Row, Hot Springs National Park, in the gorgeous state of Arkansas.

As I noted before, I decided to use the 8 p.m. slot on my final night to track down the most random band at SXSW, and I have to say these guys more than fit the bill. Aside from their eye-catching name (and hometown that’s close to my heart, which still partially resides down Hwy 270 in Mt. Ida), it was also their first South-by showcase, played on the day after their very first label-released CDs came in the mail. Money Equals Magic is out on Gold Standard Laboratories, a label partially owned by Omar Rodriguez-Lopez of the Mars Volta, and they were kicking off a night of GSL bands at Emo’s Jr. After a sweaty, glammed-up set (pictured) of their cacophonous songs, I cornered a couple band members for a quick interview. Read on to hear what playing SXSW means to a band that, while truly attractive, is still working on the popular part…

addCredit(“Attractive and Popular: Whitney Pastorek”)

EW: Are you guys the only Arkansas band here?
Zak Mouton, frontman: There’s a band called American Princess from Little Rock, and there’s a band called Wake from Little Rock. And us.

EW: When you’re a band from Hot Springs, where do you play? The only music venue I remember is Good Time Charlie’s, where they have those awful cover bands.
ZM: We play at our house! We moved into this building with an old restaurant and opened an indie venue downstairs. We have house parties. It’s downtown, right across from the bathhouses. Did you ever go eat at the Exchange?

EW: Yeah!
ZM: It’s the old Exchange. Our venue is the sweetest.

EW: What do you do to support yourselves?
ZM: I do like delivery jobs for all the art galleries and antique stores. I specialize in taking care of expensive stuff.
Bobby Missile, guitar: I kind of help out with that and do odd jobs and work at a coffee shop right across the street from our house.

EW: Why did you come to SXSW this year?
ZM: We got picked up by GSL, and it’s their showcase, and we love to be a part of it. They just treat us really great.

EW: How did you get picked up?
ZM: They came to Hot Springs. Sonny Kay, the part owner of the label, is in a band called Year Future, and they played at the Exchange, and we became really good friends with him.

EW: So what does it mean for a smaller band to be playing SXSW?
ZM: It’s definitely validation. We’ve been touring for two years, and we’ve played Austin six or seven times now, and we always play a place called Beerland. But Emo’s just rules everything, so it’s like, Oh, wow, we finally get to play at a nice big venue.

EW: But there were like 15 people here.
ZM: Eh, that’s how it goes. We opened up the show. That’s usually how it works. And the Buzzcocks were playing at the same time in the other room.

EW: How do you keep your energy up when you’re playing for 15 people?
ZM: We’ve done it so many times…
BM: We close our eyes. And pretend.

EW: How would you describe your music for someone who wasn’t here?
ZM: Futuristic dance rock. That’s what I would say. We’re trying to make music that’s just honest for us.

EW: Who were your big influences?
ZM: Any GSL bands!

EW: Nice.
ZM: Seriously, though. They put out the Locusts, Melt Banana, Mars Volta, Anavan, Triclops, 400 Blows — these are all really big-time West Coast bands.

EW: But you’re from Louisiana, how did you stumble into West Coast music?
ZM: There really wasn’t much of a scene in Louisiana beside, like, zydeco and roots music, you know, and we were kids, and that’s kind of what your dad listens to. So we were on the Internet, just looking around and being nerdy and finding really interesting music.

EW: Is there anyone you can’t believe you’re sharing a festival with?
BM: We’re excited about playing with 400 Blows on the same show.
ZM: Qui, with David Yow from the Jesus Lizard. Jesus Lizard was one of the biggest bands of the 90’s.

EW: Do you feel like you dwell in a different world from the people who are here to see, like, Spoon?
BOTH: Yes.
ZM: Totally. But it’s weird, because there’s a lot of kids all over the country that really know about us from just playing shows. We don’t even have a record out yet. Our first record just came in the mail yesterday, and we’ve been touring for two years. We had some little EP stuff we did ourselves, but nothing official, you know?

EW: So, MySpace?
ZM: Totally. Our band got its start at the beginning of the MySpace craze.
BM: That’s how we book all of our tours.
ZM: It’s crazy how that worked out for us. There’s kids across the country that are hungry for music, in smaller towns. It’s been great.