Oklahoma's Stardeath & White Dwarfs landed probably one of THE most awesome gigs at South By Southwest this year: warming up the Austin Music Hall stage for new wave legends Devo. Devo were at the festival to generate buzz for their first studio album of new material in 19 years, and Stardeath were there to generate buzz for their first studio album ever, The Birth. Both bands were very successful in their missions Friday night.
It would be easy to dismissively assume that Stardeath & White Dwarfs landed this prime opening slot because of band leader Dennis Coyne's family connections: He's one of the Oklahoma City Coynes--that is, he's the nephew and sometimes collaborator of Flaming Lips genius Wayne Coyne. But Dennis has genuinely inherited his uncle's immense talent and oddball aesthetic: The Lips' psychedelic influence is readily apparent in Stardeath's swirly, soundscapey, experimental rock (as well as in Dennis's raspy, dreamy falsetto and the band's stage show, which Friday night included walls of seizure-inducing rainbow lights and Dennis decked out in a Tour de France-style spandex bodysuit).
But Stardeath & White Dwarfs have a heavy, gods-hammering sound all their own, owing as much to sludgy prog-rock influences like King Crimson and Pink Floyd as it does to Uncle Wayne's oeuvre.
So, as creative and colorful as Stardeath are, it made sense for me to conduct my SXSW interview with them inside a Lego-strewn play area inside the Austin Convention Center. There Dennis, bassist Casey Joseph, and I chatted while sitting crosslegged on the floor surrounded by thousands of Lego bits and pieces. It was probably one of the most fun interviews I did at the festival this year.
Below is our interview, along with a genius Stardeath/Flaming Lips remake of Madonna's "Borderline" (from the Warner Bros. Records 50th anniversary tribute album), which went over quite well with the Austin crowd Friday night: