Dayglow, Sir Woman and More Cut through the Noise of the Austin Music Industry
From neo-soul to country, we catch up with the genre-bending artists making our city a true music destination
Words and photos by Bryan C. Parker
Torre Blake knows how to create a vibe. Neo-soul music was a constant growing up, and Blake remembers her family singing around the house, or cruising around in her dad’s Mercedes listening to Musiq Soulchild or Floetry. After moving to Austin in the fourth grade, Blake became the only kid in the adult choir at church, her first brush with singing and performing in front of an audience. Fast forward a decade and a half, and she’s turning heads in Austin’s music scene with her debut EP, “Love Is Real.”
From the brooding pulse of “Pipedream” to the breezy effervescence of “Topochico,” Blake moves easily between moods, and accompanies her songs with refined visuals. Her art emerges as a curated vision that Blake arrives at organically, rather than beginning with the end in mind. She spends weeks or even months collecting ideas, jotting them down in the notes app on her phone or in a notebook, before putting it all together with flawless execution. Blake’s greatest talent lies in her ability to harness emotion and translate it into song — music you don’t just hear, but feel.
Tori, Sophia and Tiffany Baltierra have played music since elementary school, but they’re ready to write an entirely new chapter for themselves. The sisters played Latin alternative music as Tiarra Girls for almost a decade but recently shifted to The Tiarras — leaving the “girls” behind.
Born and raised in Austin, the trio learned to love music from their father, Hector, who was a break-dancer and later a DJ. Years of hearing a wide variety of styles inspired the band to experiment with styles — pop, rock and reggae, to name a few. Tiffany, the oldest, plays bass and serves as the band’s foundation. Sophia defines herself as fierce and plays drums. Tori, the youngest, is the voice of the group and plays guitar.
Their latest single, “Soy Chingona,” translates to English roughly as “I’m a badass.” Tori says there’s a double standard around the word — that when applied to men, it has the connotation of a boss, but with women, it can be derogatory. The Tiarras are ready to embrace the boldness of being chingonas. Tori says, “Our message is to be a voice for those who aren’t heard and to express ourselves in an unapologetic way.”
Susannah Joffe’s tense indie pop is a neon sign flickering in the dark. Upbeat guitars, synths and percussion burn brightly but are undercut by an unmistakable ache in Joffe’s vocals. A life-long Austinite and a film major at UT, her songs have a cinematic energy that create narrative through lyrical hooks and evocative imagery.
Joffe began co-writing songs with her dad when she was just a teenager. Her boyfriend at the time, Brendan Whyburn, played guitar behind her singing. That relationship proved to be tumultuous and confusing, and fueled much of Joffe’s early songwriting. Even though the couple have called it quits permanently, they’re still collaborators, and Whyburn plays guitar on Joffe’s newest EP, “The Punch.”
In the spring of 2020, Joffe came out as bisexual, which also opened a doorway to expressing herself more clearly in songs and directly led to a flood of new material.
“I had this lightbulb moment, where I was like: This is what I was meant to do,” she says. “That’s when I really started making music.” Joffe plays SXSW this March and is already at work on her next collection of songs.
The band name Sir Woman came to Kelsey Wilson when she was wandering through a forest on a vision quest. Fittingly, Wilson, who grew up in Wimberley, has wandered through just about every music genre imaginable in her lifetime, but the genesis was starting to play violin at five years old. She later spent two years teaching violin in Barcelona, but she secretly loathed the instrument the whole time.
“I loved music so much, but I wanted to make it my own,” says Wilson, who felt smothered by classical music’s tradition and rigid rules. “Music doesn’t go on paper,” she explains. “Music is an ethereal thing that floats out in the universe, and songs just appear to me sometimes, because I was listening.”
Wilson formed folk pop outfit Wild Child in 2010, which gave her more freedom on violin, but even that felt constricting. So she left the violin behind entirely and birthed Sir Woman, a band that invites soul, funk and rock to the same party in a celebration of self-love, community and hope. For the project’s first music video, she constructed an apt symbolic figure — a newborn baby with a disco ball for a head. Let’s dance!
Sir Woman releases its self-titled debut album this summer.
Think of Kevin Galloway as a tree on the edge of a river, its roots stretching down through the soil and into the water.
“The roots become driftwood and flow from that river eventually down to the sea, and who knows what they become?” says the country musician and former Uncle Lucius front man. Galloway’s songs are pieces of himself that float out in search of that note of universal connectedness, whether that’s bringing a child into the world or navigating a global catastrophe with your partner.
“As an artist you have to reflect the world as it is in the moment,” he explains. To that end, Galloway keeps a pencil in the front pocket of his denim Wrangler button up — a habit he developed 15 years ago working at Threadgill’s as a waiter, jotting down ideas for lyrics in an order ticket booklet.
Since then, Galloway has seen Uncle Lucius’ 2012 song “Keep the Wolves Away” certified Gold, and he’ll release his second solo album this summer.
“I’m starting to call myself an artist, and not just a beer-seller or entertainer,” he quips. Galloway’s driftwood has floated a long way, but still has a lot of river left before it meets the sea.
At seven years old, Jonny Jukebox discovered the video game “Final Fantasy,” and it changed his life forever. He fell in love with the concept of “leveling up,” and the impulse to constantly strive for the next goal still drives him today.
After playing in rock bands in high school, Jonny began collaborating with producers to merge his rock and pop background with hip-hop and R&B. He vocal produces all of his songs, often humming a melody as a starting point and building the track from that central theme.
“Hearing the song that’s not there yet is as much of a talent as playing piano,” Jonny says. He’s a pro at creating earworms — catchy tunes that get lodged in your brain — like his song “BetterThanDrugs,” which features rapper Cory Kendrix and has over 50,000 plays on Spotify. “There’s a special energy and magic when you make something with somebody else and your ideas come together,” he says.
Dayglow was born out of necessity. As a kid growing up in Aledo, an isolated satellite town of Fort Worth, Sloan Struble wasn’t surrounded by a thriving music scene. But his parents met backstage as country singers in Arlington, and his brothers turned him on to pop punk when he was a kid. He knew music was out there waiting to be found. As a pre-teen, he fell into a YouTube rabbit hole and discovered artists like MGMT and Phoenix, influences that bubble up in the shimmering indie pop tunes on his most recent album, “Harmony House,” released last year.
Struble began making his own music in GarageBand at age 10, and even now, he writes and produces all of his music from start to finish.
“I’m very particular with my vision of what Dayglow is,” he says. “I look at it all so holistically, where everything fits together.” The success of “Harmony House” prompted overnight recognition and a sold out tour, including performances at festivals like ACL.
“It recently clicked in my mind that I went on this whole tour,” he says, reflecting on his rapid rise to popularity. “
As their name implies, BLK ODYSSY is a musical journey. Essentially a collaboration between two producers, Juwan Elcock and Alejandro Rios, the project unites modern R&B, hip-hop and jazz in a cosmic fusion of sound. The group formed after Elcock became a regular customer at the pizzeria where Rios worked back in 2015.
“We always wanted to cross worlds,” Elcock says of the band’s musical mission. Rios, who was born and raised in Panama City Beach, Florida, brought a love of rock music and incredible guitar skills. “I never listened to Led Zeppelin — I’m from the hood,” explains Elcock. That hood is in Plainview, New Jersey, the same city that birthed legendary group Parliament-Funkadelic.
Lyrically, Elcock tackles heavy topics like drug addiction and the loss of his brother to police violence. BLK ODYSSY’s exploratory spirit manifests in layers of sound — vocals over brass instruments over ambient synths over reverb-laden guitar over a beat. These multi-dimensional songs feel immersive and powerful yet also feel like questions, shouted into a void, that continue to echo even after you’ve stopped listening.
BLK ODYSSY will release a deluxe version of their debut album BLK VINTAGE this summer.