The South by Southwest (SXSW) Festival seems to grow larger each and every year. Every spring, hundreds of bands, musicians, filmmakers, and celebrities converge on Austin, TX over the course of two weeks for the largest and most diverse music and film festival in the country.

For many of bands that play SXSW, the festival is seen as an opportunity to try and network with other traveling bands. It’s seen as an opportunity for record labels to show a number of bands on their label. SXSW is largely recognized as a chance to expose yourself to people from all over the country that can propel your band’s popularity.

Virginia’s torchbearers for screamo, CAUST and KILGORE TROUT, recently returned after a week of touring and playing two shows in Austin.

Carrying the tradition of other Virginia screamo bands like PG. 99 and CITY OF CATERPILLAR and other classic screamo bands like ORCHID, both bands were invited to play two different screamo showcases at this year’s festival.

Just a day after returning from their trip to Texas, I interviewed CAUST’s drummer Will Neer and vocalist and Chris Morgan. KILGORE TROUT’s guitarist Brian Russo also sat in for our conversation.

Both of your bands just got back from playing a pair of shows in Austin for SXSW. How was the experience, and how did you get asked to come out and play one of the showcases at it?

Will: CAUST and KILGORE TROUT went on separate tours last summer and both ended up playing the same house venue in Austin called the Habañero House where this dude, Brian Cruz, lives and met a bunch of other people there. They told CAUST and KILGORE [TROUT] they do this SXSW after-show type thing called Meatspin. They jokingly said we should come out to Austin to play that year. Eventually, we got asked later, and we did.

Brian: With KILGORE [TROUT] it was kind of a joke. We had been told about it, but didn’t really think about doing it for real. There was a thread on Facebook about what bands should play, and our drummer, John Crogan, wrote KILGORE [TROUT]. It seemed kind of a popular opinion, so one of the guys putting on the show, Skylar, asked us to jump on.

Will: It also coincided with VCU’s spring break, so it made it kind of easy to do.

Even with people asking both of your bands to come and play, CAUST had two members leave in the last few months. Brian and Gus Caldwell, both from KILGORE TROUT, ended up playing with CAUST for this tour. How did that fall into place?

Will: CAUST had agreed to play Meatspin back in September or October. Our bassist, Alex, had just left, but Phil, one of our guitarists, was still in. Phil then later told us he was going to Europe for spring break, so he couldn’t. We still wanted to play, so we asked Gus and Brian to fill in because it was coinciding with spring break, and KILGORE [TROUT] was already playing, so we shared members and it made the whole ordeal easier. They were around to learn the parts and stuff too. It was just super easy, already playing in other bands with them prior.

Brian: Playing with CAUST was fun. It was a dream come true.

You guys played several shows on the way to Austin and then on the way back. How were they?

Will: A lot of the shows we played were booked by people we met over through touring last summer and this big Facebook group of screamo aficionados. A lot of the shows we were playing this week were put on by people booking other shows for other bands playing Meatspin. In Denton, TX, where we played one night, the house we played at said they had a show almost every night that week for other bands playing at SXSW.

You played two showcases in Austin—Meatspin and NNHO Fest. How was it playing those shows and being at SXSW?

Brian: Amazing.

Will: Both events were all day long with 15 bands each. It was the type of thing where bands were even getting added on last-minute, splitting sets and stuff. They were in big spaces that could accommodate hundreds of people. People were coming in and out—obviously not everyone was there to see a specific band. There was a lot of people just partying, but the sheer amount of people makes for so much traffic and energy at any show. The first show we played was free for the whole day, so you could come and go as you please.

Both of your bands play a very specific style of music. For a band from Virginia playing screamo, do you believe it was worth it for you guys? What about other bands thinking about making the trip to SXSW in the future?

Chris: I think it’s awesome that such a smaller genre can have a big fest like this, and people will drive to it from around the country. I think it’s awesome. I got to meet all these people I’ve met through the Internet and finally meet them in real life. I also got to make a lot of new friends and had lots of people who’ve never heard of us see our band.

Brian: I think it’s totally worth it if you have a good reason to go. If you were going to go just to hopefully get a show, then I’d say it’s probably not a good idea. There are just so many shows that happen. When we played Meatspin, we were on a popping corner with lots or bars and venues hosting music that day. In a two block radius, there was probably 4 or 5 clubs hosting bands while we were playing.

Will: Meatspin was actually in the backyard of a venue that was doing a separate showcase inside the whole day as well. Brian’s right, you definitely need a specific reason to go out there. You should have a show you know will be worth your while. If you just go in with the influx of every other band that’s going to play SXSW, you’re going to have a mediocre experience. I think we got super lucky that there’s this tight knit community that was able to receive us and were very hospitable. We actually did run into another Richmond band, TEEN DEATH. They were playing a showcase for the label they just signed to, 6131 RECORDS, so they were doing the same thing. They were saying it was worth it too. It depends on what showcase you’re playing, where it is, when it is. Like, the first fest we played, people were coming to it late at night because they were coming back from LADY GAGA.

Chris: It also depends on how drunk people are.

Speaking of LADY GAGA, did any of you guys see or hear about how she had someone vomit on her during her performance?

Will: No, I didn’t hear about it. There was enough vomit at the venue we played at that night.

Chris: I definitely did see people who were coming back from LADY GAGA, because they had a bunch of face paint on and were really fucked up.

Talking to CAUST guitarist D.J. earlier, he said playing two screamo festivals in Austin was like time traveling back to the early 2000s. Would you agree with that?

Chris: It was like traveling back to Cornerstone 2006 seeing THE DEVIL WEARS PRADA. Lots of kids wearing their mosh gear, spin-kicking and cartwheeling through the pit. It was awesome.

Will: Lots of neon colored shirts, white belts, and headbands.

Brian: Two [of the] greatest things from tour was seeing Will getting air and D.J. yelling ‘Go!’ before a few GAS UP YR HEARSE songs. D.J. had this thing the whole week where he was talking in a screaming voice. He’d say dumb shit, but it was rad.

Chris: The craziest thing I saw was D.J. spin kicking through the air and colliding with another kid spin kicking in mid-air and fell down, but got up and embraced each other in a screamo brotherly hug.

Thanks for doing this interview. Anything else you want people to know?

Chris: #Cryptid.

For more updates on these bands, be sure to like CAUST and KILGORE TROUT’s Facebook pages.

Chris Suarez

Chris is a staff writer at BH Media and a government reporter at The Daily Progress in Charlottesville, Va. He graduated from Virginia Commonwealth University with a bachelor's degree in print journalism. He has covered a number of shows and bands coming from Richmond, Va. Having gone to all sorts of shows and playing in several bands while going to high school in Northern Virginia and living in Richmond for the last two years doing the same, Chris has been involved with the DIY music scene in Virginia for almost seven years.

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