By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
By Alice Laussade
By Scott Reitz
With a giant Rock Hudson and Doris Day Pillow Talk poster on the wall and one of teen porn star-turned-celebutante Traci Lords on the door, the setting is an ideal one for Sincola, whose music embodies the torpid stew of sexuality, pop culture, and post-adolescent angst that fuels the alternative rock movement.
The Sincola personnel lineup seems not just politically correct, but all perfectly cast for alternarock stardom. Seated at the feet of the pretty and athletic (and recumbent) Lord is the band's burly, happy-go-lucky bass player, Chepo Pena, son of noted Mexican-American artist Amado Pena and also a member of the hellbent Austin punk rock trio Gomez. Seated next to Lord at the head of the bed, back straight against the wall, is guitarist Greg Wilson (a.k.a. Wendel Stivers), looking like so many other thousands of smart-minded rock geeks in hundreds of other bands.
Nearby is guitarist Kris Patterson with her ever-present baseball cap, bill backwards, atop her head, looking ready to rock with the best of the boys, yet still very much one of the girls. Singer Rebecca Cannon lies on the bed behind Lord, rolling from her side onto her chest and back again, burying her head into the mattress and then lifting it up to stare intensely at the interviewer with her doe-like, almost alien eyes as she offers an occasional comment.
Even though Lord's recuperation is the main factor for Sincola's stall-out at the starting gate, the band knows that it's now put-up-or-shut-up time, especially with Austin's fickle underground cognoscenti, who (in the grand Austin tradition) seem ready to slay their latest heroes as soon as they start to transcend the Travis County borderlines. Happened to the Reivers as soon as they signed with Capitol; happened to Poi Dog Pondering, which was dropped from Columbia, underwent major personnel shakeups, and moved away to Chicago.
"I think the Austin scene is healthier and bigger than it's been in a while, but it's still not the big scene," Stivers says. "Plus, we've been big in this town for a while, so we're not this year's new thing."
"It's like we've been pushed out of the nest," says Patterson, who grew up in Dallas. "I already feel like we've moved onto the national scene, so Austin's given us their all and pushed us out of the nest and we're out there...and we haven't quite done the national thing yet, so we're kinda like in that limbo, and Austin's focusing on new things."
"I have a different view on that," interjects Pena, opening up a recurring theme of friendly disagreement that seems to connect these bandmates. "I also play in another band that's more in the punk underground thing, and I hear so much crap, there's so much talk and gossip going on. One day, you're great and everything and you play a club and you pack it and you're the big thing, and then here comes this band with a buzz and..."
"It's the inevitable backlash," interjects Lord. "It happens to every band in this town." Last week, Sincola possessed the buzz; this week, it has already been passed to Sixteen Deluxe or Starfish. "Even they're already getting it," observes Stivers of the latest hot local picks.
"It's ironic," chimes in Cannon, "because once you move past the local factor, you lose your cool."
"We haven't played recently, but we still draw as well as anyone else," says Stivers, reeling the discussion back into the realm of sheer facts. "For me, I'm just looking forward to this tour coming up. Austin's treated us well, as well as we could hope for." And with much of the material found on What The Nothinghead Said being already familiar to Sincola's fans in the local club, radio and indie label scene, as Patterson points out, it's not like the album offers anything new to Austin audiences. Yet on one Chicago radio station, Sincola reportedly won its listener call-in contest for a few weeks running, beating out The Muffs and even Pearl Jam.
"I think that was just the reactionary vote," Stivers says of the victory.
Sincola's roots go back to the mid- to late-'80s days of the so-called New Sincerity, Austin's last great failed musical movement that spawned such local heroes as Zeitgeist, True Believers, Wild Seeds, Glass Eye, and even Timbuk 3. During that time, Stivers and Patterson played in the band 100th Monkey--best known for yielding Kris McKay to the Wild Seeds. Years later they decided to get together and jam, and happily found they both wanted to make music with "that sick guitar sound," says Patterson.
"We knew we wanted to do that," she recalls, "and have a female singer."
They discovered Pena through a musicians' classified ad in the Austin Chronicle, and found Cannon playing trumpet with punk revivalists Stretford, but were actually impressed by her manic caterwauling on the one tune the band let her sing. Sincola had already started making a name for itself in the clubs when they finally recruited Lord, an Austin veteran who has drummed with scores of local bands.