The Semi Supervillains just released the EP “Here Comes Trouble” in 2015, the follow up to their debut “Tricks.” The guys just wrapped up a wild two weeks driving over 1400 miles to Austin, TX with stops on the way to play some gigs, including Nashville. While in Austin the band made countless contacts, played 6 gigs, appeared on MTV and even recorded a new EP cleverly titled “Southwest,” all to rush back to Pittsburgh to be featured on Root Sports filming of “Friday Night Rocks” game night intro at Stage AE. Check out our interview with lead vocalist and guitarist Vinnie Longhi about his experiences below.
Sound Scene Express: For those that don’t know, what is SXSW?
Vinnie Longhi: South by Southwest(SXSW) is an annual set of film, interactive media, and music festivals and conferences that take place in mid-March in Austin, TX. SXSW Music offers unmatched access to ideas and global viewpoints on an increasingly borderless industry aiming to educate and inspire musicians and professionals. SXSW showcases over 2,200 acts ranging from the unsigned to the iconic.
SSE: Why did you choose to got to SXSW?
VL: It was a stride towards making music my career, instead of just a hobby. I thought that doing SXSW would help to get attention on a national level as opposed to a regional/local level. As a songwriter and performer there are so many opportunities in Austin especially during SXSW to get noticed by record labels, film/television, and music sync licensing.
SSE: What did you expect to gain from SXSW?
VL: I talked to a few individuals about going to Austin for SXSW and they told me that it is oversaturated with bands, really expensive to attend, and its “not the same as it used to be”. I also read a lot of online articles stating the same things as well as warnings to stay away from the dreaded pay-to-play showcases. Knowing this I knew going into SXSW that a major record deal wasn’t going to appear in front of me, at least not without some hard work. Realistically, I expected to make some networking connections and learn the ways of the music industry.
SSE: Did you gain anything from it?
VL: Absolutely way more than I expected. Simply being in Austin for SXSW is huge because the streets are crawling with hopeful musicians, promoters, and filmmakers. I got to be on MTV, attend the Woodies, and got invited to/attended a GQ Magazine party at a beautiful mansion on Lake Travis in Austin. At the Jam in the Van/GQ showcase it was really cool to be rubbing elbows with major record label bands like Blitzen Trapper, the Wilder Feathers, and Rayland Baxter. I also have a few deals in the works, but unfortunately I cannot talk about anything publicly yet.
SSE: What was your favorite moment?
VL: My drummer James Conley and I were about to be interviewed at the GQ Artist House then Wyclef Jean started playing a guitar & freestyling in the other room. All of the press and media swarmed around him and we were told to take 5 maybe 10. Say what you want about me, but I honestly never even heard of Wyclef until that day at the mansion.
SSE: What was the atmosphere like?
VL: Take 4,000 bands from all over the world and put them in a city a slightly larger than Pittsburgh all screaming and jumping for attention all at once. By the final days of SXSW the streets were littered with free demo CD’s and giveaways. Bands/performers everywhere no matter what part of Austin—in the streets, the bars, and on the rooftops.
SSE: Do you think you would go back?
VL: Of course! Now I have my bearings of where everything is and I made enough local connections to pick up all of the right showcases. Next year I will be able to think out of the box more for marketing, production, image etc.
SSE: How did you get selected for showcases?
VL: SXSW makes its official selections exclusively through sonicbids.com there are also a ton of unofficial SXSW showcases that take submissions as well.
SSE: How many gigs did you play?
VL: We did 6. Quality is way more important than quantity. When you get a Wednesday @ 3pm showcase you need to find ways to get people into your venue. Whether it is marketing prior to showtime or having that it-factor to draw in a crowd.
SSE: Is there anything else you would like to add?
VL: We recorded a new EP appropriately titled “Southwest” while in Austin! We will be releasing it via band camp shortly (this Friday)!