On any given night, fans of all genres have the opportunity of choosing among upwards of 400 bands playing the bars, nightclubs and dives that have made the Austin music scene one of the most vibrant in the country.
So to make a name for yourself among such competition is no small feat. Just ask members of Reckless Kelly, who have developed a rabid following of fans in their adopted hometown over the last two decades -- and haven't done too badly out on the road. Their latest foray from home brings them to Buck Owens' Crystal Palace on Saturday, where the band will showcase a rich discography, including their latest release, "Good Luck & True Love."
The band is led by Cody Braun on fiddle and his brother and guitarist, Willy Braun, who took time during a recent phone interview to offer some insight on the Austin mystique, where Americana music is these days, the Australian outlaw who inspired the band's name and more.
Give us a brief tour of the Austin live scene.
There's a ton of music out here. You can go out and see country, rock 'n' roll, hip-hop, blues, industrial, electronic, folk, soul, you name it. A lot of time you see that kind of diversity on the same bill. You can always find afternoon shows, but happy hour is usually when things start to kick off.
Your sound leans more toward traditional country, not so much the country jam psychedelia coming out of Austin. What influences are you pulling from?
We grew up listening to Texas guys like Steve Earle, Rodney Crowell, Billy Joe Shaver, Guy Clark, Willie Nelson, Waylon Jennings, but we come from all sorts of different places. Our drummer, Jay Nazziola, grew up on the East Coast listening to a lot of The Police. We're all huge Eagles fans. Our guitar player, David Abeyta, has bit of a jazz background. He went to Berklee School of Music in Boston.
Cody and I grew up playing honky-tonk. We all have a lot of similar records in our collections, but also a lot of diversity in there, too. We just throw it all together.
Is there a lot competition among local bands?
There's a certain amount of competition, but plenty of opportunities for people to go play. If you're willing to put in the time and the work, you won't have any problem finding gigs. That kind of works itself out.
After you formed the band in 1997, how long did it take you to finally perform outside of Austin?
It took a couple years before we decided to finally take Reckless Kelly on the road. A guy like Dale Watson tours a lot, but when he's in town always plays at the Continental on Monday nights. We tried doing that for a while, but our schedule was so sporadic and we were out of town so often that we did that residency thing all over for a while until we got too busy to keep it up. We used to do this thing called "Wicked Wednesdays," where we'd play for two hours during happy hour at Stubb's BBQ, then pack up our stuff and head over to another place called Babe's and play for another four hours. We definitely got our feet wet during those years.
Since the name Reckless Kelly was inspired by Australian bandit Ned Kelly, has the band ever thought about wearing the famous Ned Kelly body armor during shows as a costume?
It's come up, but we don't know where we would get it. One time we dressed up for Halloween as rodeo clowns for a show in Houston. It was really hot that year and two songs into the set, we were sweating so bad we looked like a bunch of murdering cheerleaders. It was gross and just really uncomfortable, but the photos were pretty hilarious.
What do you think of today's pop-oriented country scene?
We're not huge fans of a lot of the Nashville stuff on radio. There's a lot of good stuff coming out of Nashville that you won't necessarily hear on mainstream radio anymore. We're a little old school. There's always a trend that happens in Nashville. One moment someone writes a song about a sailboat, it becomes a hit and next thing you know everyone is writing songs about sailboats or songs about fried chicken with the same producers and writing teams. It is what it is. I'm still waiting for the path to changes towards more traditional country sounds, but I've been waiting for about 25 years now.
What about today's Americana scene crossing over into pop music? As well-versed musicians, do you find yourselves being critical over the purity of their music or can you just enjoy it because it's catchy?
It's a little bit of both. I do enjoy some of it, but it caught on really fast.
It's funny. On one hand you have people talking about how great and original some of those groups are when they're not really breaking any new ground. On the other hand, it is more traditional and honest, and there's really good musicianship. The songwriting is really great, so both of those things you have to take into account. I've seen a lot of bands just like Mumford & Sons who could have gotten the same lucky break they did. It really could have been anybody. Not to take anything from them, but it's cool to see something apart from the norm get so big. It gives hope.
What about the influence of the Bakersfield Sound on your music?
When I think of Bakersfield, I automatically think of Buck Owens and Dwight Yoakam. Dwight wasn't from Bakersfield, but he's got that Southern California thing for sure.
The 1986 crew of Dwight, Steve Earle, Roseanne Cash and Marty Stuart, all those guys made great records and we were listening to all of 'em. And Dwight was just so cool, kind of gave the finger to the standards of the industry at that point.
Buck Owens was just so unique and so cool. Outside of a Willie Nelson or someone along those lines, I can't think of anyone who has a sound to call their own that nobody's ever been able to rip off.
Will your Bakersfield show differ from a night in Austin?
The Crystal Palace gives us a chance to be able to scale back the show a notch from the usual rock 'n' roll. We can play a few more story songs, rather than blow faces off all night. It'll be nice to play some different types of material.