2011 South By Southwest Supplement

Buxton takes its bump to the roots-rock big leagues in stride.

Buxton may be the hottest band to germinate along the Houston Ship Channel — Deer Park and La Porte, specifically — since Michael Haaga's deadhorse bit the dust.

Recently signed to New West Records, these eager, fresh, still un-jaded youngsters suddenly find themselves submerged in the business side of the music business. But that's a pleasant problem to wrestle with for a young band set to release its second album and heading to South By Southwest for some high-profile showcases.

"For a band used to doing everything for ourselves, having a label like New West behind us is a dream," says Sergio Trevino, the band's singer and primary songwriter. "Nationwide distribution through RED, a publicist, a radio pusher, publishing and licensing possibilities, it's like a new world for us."

The band just finished recording its first New West album, Nothing Here Seems Strange, at SugarHill Studios with John Griffin. New West is having the album mixed in Los Angeles by veteran engineer Jim Scott, who's worked with Wilco, Son Volt, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Barenaked Ladies, Sting and other heavyweights.

"We mixed it here, but Gary Briggs at New West heard some things and thought we ought to take another shot at some of the tracks. And them getting Jim Scott to work on it is tremendous," says Trevino.

Asked to describe the album, Buxton's second overall after 2008's self-released and folkier A Family Light, label head George Fontaine demurs. "I hate to pigeonhole their music, but I'd call it a rootsy rock album," says Fontaine. "It's definitely more rocking than the last one."

According to Trevino, that comes from the band's maturing and also from a change of focus.

"I had a breakup when I was 18, right about the time I discovered Elliott Smith, and that was my intro to what is not pop music," says Trevino. "I listened to him nonstop for about three years, so that vibe was all over the last album. But I'm over that now. Now I'm hung up on this old psych-folk guy, Michael Hurley."

But the band has worked consciously to refocus its live shows.

"Over the last three years, we've had time to figure some things out about live performance. Mainly we've learned to play better and, translated, that mostly means playing simpler. We realize we don't have to make everything complex for it to be cool. The other thing is that we may wish for people to be quiet and grasp every word and every thought, but at the end of the day most people just want to be entertained. And that means rocking more."

Both Trevino and bassist Chris Wise agree that Buxton might not have been the wisest choice of band names.

"Buxton was the guy who stole Pee-wee Herman's bicycle in Pee-wee's Big Adventure," says Wise. "Now it's the name people know us by.

"But our other choice was Listen to Reason," Wise explains. "Up beside that one, Buxton sounds pretty cool."

The band will stick close to home until the album drops, tentatively set for September 6. According to Fontaine, the label sees the album as a college radio back-to-school hopeful. Afterward, the plan is to tour heavily through the end of the year.

Trevino and Wise both seem awed by being on New West.

"We have this potential with New West, but a lot of times I feel like we aren't worthy yet to be on a label with all these amazing artists [Buddy Miller, Steve Earle, Old 97's, Delbert McClinton] they have," says Trevino. "We feel extremely lucky to be where we are."

Amber Digby & Midnight Flyer: When she's not co-writing with A-listers like Vince Gill, Amber Digby and her crack Midnight Flyers draw Houston two-steppers to venues like Blanco's, where the honky-tonk tradition runs deep and the beer runs cold. Last year the band released an eponymous live album, its first, under the aegis of Texas traditionalist Justin Trevino. C.G.

American Fangs: This year at SXSW, American Fangs scored a trill Saturday-night spot at Emo's, opening for breaking band Neon Trees. Easily one of the city's best-kept modern-rock secrets, the band tours relentlessly across the map, but still saves time for their hometown. Craig Hlavaty

Future Blondes: Long-running Houston art-noise collective Future Blondes are no strangers to the SXSW game, playing the schmoozefest more than a few times over the past years. The Blondes get a jump on the action by playing Tuesday night at Elysium, with the legendary and like-minded Psychic TV. C.H.

Robert Ellis: You know Robert Ellis is a star because he has a personalized guitar strap. So far this year, he's opened for the massively adored Lucero and signed a major contract with New West Records. A new album from Ellis and his crew is due in July, and some of the songs are already getting fine-tuned during the band's weekly Whiskey Wednesday slot at Fitzgerald's. C.H.

Indian Jewelry: Urban tribalists Indian Jewelry come on like a fever dream with leathery, swaggering riffs and strobe lights, leaving you wet on the floor. Last year's Totaled LP was just another piece falling into place in the epic Indian Jewelry story. Recommended if you like confusion, paranoia and noise. C.H.

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