Alternative hip hop group The Chicharones, composed of Josh Martinez and Sleep, formed in the early 2000’s at South By Southwest and have returned almost every year since then- both as performers and as fans. I caught up with them at the Vevo TV Showcase where, rather than picking apart their music and asking how the group got their name, I tapped The Chicharones’ vast experience with the festival and asked them to unveil their collection of protips for South By survival.
Advice for music fans at SXSW
1. In your experience, what is the best venue to see a show?
SLEEP: My personal favorite venue is Emo’s, before it moved. It’s a nostalgic building for me. There’s a lot of history and it used to have a back patio where everyone would meet and greet after the show. Other places, like here at the Vevo Control Room, are not actually venues.
JOSH: It’s an abandoned building on the regular.
SLEEP: So it’s tough to call it, because they change so often.
2. There are also a lot of places to get good food. Where should someone who has never been to Austin be sure to dine?
3. What is something that every SXSW noob should know?
SLEEP: You’ll need a badge to get into most shows. You’re probably not going to get on a guest list or sneak into a venue at SXSW-although possible, very unlikely. Plan ahead. Get yourself a wristband. If you know a band, see if you can help out with their crew, get on the crew list and get a discounted wristband. Also, if you don’t have a wristband and you don’t have a lot of money, there’s tons of unofficial SXSW events that are happening. It’s also a really good place to network and sometimes people are trying to escape from the festival itself and they end up in those places. It’s still a good place to network on a grassroots level.
JOSH: IF you’re asking for advice for a noob, I would say very clearly, only one thing: baby powder.
Advice for bands at SXSW
1. What is the best way to get a gig at SXSW?
SLEEP: Social networks are the best way to reach out to people and find out what’s going on at a really local level. Find out of there are weeklies or mini festivals going on. See what’s happening at the same time [as SXSW] and do some legwork online. There’s always a contact number- send some emails, send some music. Reach out to these people. They’ll totally get back to you.
2. What is your best tip for networking with other musicians?
JOSH: Be approachable and nice. Assholes do not make it far. It’s such an irritation when you see people who are on the come up and have a bad attitude and are mean to people. You’re not the first person who wrote a single. You’re not the last. Be kind to people and be a good person and generally speaking thing will work out.
3. What’s a major no-no as a band or performer at SXSW?
JOSH: Don’t insult the sound man. He is the person who creates your environment and really who has all of the power. So many people make the mistake of yelling at the sound man if things are not working well and you end up with exactly what you get: terrible sound.
SLEEP: Yeah, and don’t finish your set with something like, “I’m the best that happened at SXSW.”
4. How do you find a place to stay on a budget?
SLEEP: Craigslist. People rent out their apartments; it’s like a hustle here in Austin. So right around the time that SXSW comes, people want to hit the road, go on vacation, and rent their houses and apartments out. It works out good for both people- you’re paying their bills for the month, they get to go on vacation, you get a cool place to chill. As long as you’re respectful, they’ll invite you back next year. That’s what we did this year exactly and it’s working out well.
JOSH: If you want to fight everyone for a hotel, it’s totally worth it if you get in… in November. But planning is everything.
5. What is something that every band that’s coming to Austin for SXSW should know?
SLEEP: From my personal experience, I don’t think this festival makes or breaks a lot of bands. I think it’s a great platform to create new friendships and relationships. You find out about all the latest things and newest developments. You can get some new tools for your job and it creates commerce and keeps you busy for the next year.
If people come here and expect to expand their network they’ll go home not feeling disappointed. I mean, who gets discovered anymore anyways, right? It isn’t the same industry that it once was. I think this is just a platform for us to network with each other and build and grow and take steps forward. I think if you come here expecting to get discovered it may happen- and it probably has happened- but it’s not likely that is the way you’re going to be discovered.
See more of the interview in the video below.