Let me start by coming clean: a few weeks ago, researching upcoming shows in San Antonio, I came across In Beds. Sure, I liked what I heard, sunny pop with a layer of grime, old school R&B with a lo-fi punk ethic. It could be surf music, if the surfers were dropping in on flotsam-strewn backchannels instead of pristine open water. But, I was looking for San Antonio bands at the time, and all the online media on In Beds cited Austin as their hometown.
The thing is, San Antonians were claiming the band for themselves. And the band sometimes claimed San Antonio for itself, at least for the purposes of attracting local media coverage. After all, the four members each grew up here, and one still lives in San Antonio. According to SA-dweller and In Beds guitarist Travis Buffkin (“I live on E. Russell St., dammit!” he wrote via email) the band books the majority of its shows here rather than the live music capital of the world.
Buffkin himself isn’t a huge fan of our neighbor to the north. “I don’t want to go on a rant against Austin,” he said before his shift at Southtown’s Filling Station café, “but you have to look the part so much. Not only that, you have to know the right people. It sucks. San Antonio has so much more soul than that.”
So why try so hard to make it there, as opposed to San Antonio? “It’s like a big fish in a little pond thing,” said Buffkin, who lived in Austin for two years while starting up In Beds with longtime friend and bandmate Charlie Cruz. “In San Antonio, what are you going to do? There’s not a lot of people here … Bands are getting signed to what I think of as prestigious labels, indie labels, all the time there `in Austin`.” While a lo-fi garage band like In Beds may be “a dime a dozen there,” as Buffkin puts it, “everybody’s a small fish, yeah, but it just seems that once they start getting fed a little bit, then they get fed a lot.”
By phone from Austin, Cruz elaborated: “It seems like it’s a little more organized here. The pay sucks just as much as in San Antonio, but the good thing is that people come out to shows to find out about local bands. We felt in San Antonio that everyone goes out to shows just to see their friend’s band. After they play, everyone leaves. In Austin, it feels like everyone kind of wants to get the edge on you.”
It’s funny, then, that part of In Beds’ edge on other garage acts might spring directly from its San Antonio roots. First of all, even though it might boast pop hooks, In Beds’ aesthetic is pure DIY, a work ethic that is practically a prerequisite for startup rock groups in San Antonio. Even though Buffkin and Cruz, formerly of Make Your Own Maps, deliberately put their punk and hardcore roots behind them for In Beds’ retro rock, their kinetic, unpredictable live shows and sarcastic lyrics (song titles include “Kindergarten Communists,” “Dramatik Das Blutes,” and “Unchained Malady”) owe far more to those San Antonio-friendly scenes than to the precious indie pop that Austinites eat up. In general, In Beds’ deliberately low-tech approach, which shows in its locally-recorded Divorce EP, and gleeful embrace of stylistic fusion (home of the Chinese-Mexican restaurant, meet the blues-punk-surf band) make for an awfully San Anto experience, even as the group remains Austin-based.
That doesn’t mean In Beds sounds like anything else in San Antonio, just that the members internalized what could be San Antonio’s deterrents and made them sonically inviting. “I think the things that people don’t like about San Antonio, the things that don’t attract bands here, are what I like about San Antonio,” said Buffkin. “There are not necessarily a lot of garage bands, or whatever you want to say that we sound like, in San Antonio, and I like that.” •
In Beds with Mechanical Walking Robot Boy
10:30pm Fri, Oct 29
2423 N St. Mary’s