Focus Group
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Focus Group

Austin, Texas, United States | SELF

Austin, Texas, United States | SELF
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"On Purpose For Money Tour Blog - 2009"

See Link - Self Published


"Texas Platters"

Unlike local contemporaries the Invincible Czars and Brown Whörnet, the Ritalin kids of Focus Group value consistency over compression. The surprisingly smooth instrumental workouts on the quartet's eponymous EP dabble in everything from glitch-pop and ragtime jazz to galactic funk and trip-hop, at times recalling early Drums & Tuba, only with heavy doses of trombone. - Austin Chronicle


"5 Austin Bands You Should Listen To"

Band #3: Focus Group

Why you should care: Focus Group marks a slight divergence from the standard conventions of the indie/hipster/nerdy scene and instead presents a thoughtful mix of live looping, dark electro, and sampling. Let's be honest, in the hands of amateurs this would make for a sleep-inducing live show. Happily, that's not the case here. Focus Group oozes personality and a desire to please. They've been known to take live samples of the audience and incorporate it into the current song. Cool stuff.
- Austin Indie Music Examiner


"Focus Group - Unicornography EP Review"

Anyone who has been involved in a focus group knows the look in the eye of the moderator – trying desperately to weave together useful information spit forth by rednecks, faux-intellectuals, and single mothers, he sweats and stirs. If he is good, he succeeds, boiling a pile of opinion into a useful whole. Austin’s Focus Group are good moderators. Knowing that it is the process and not the individual pieces of content, Focus Group reaches across genres and wrenches out of it compelling, unique tracks. If nothing else, their latest release, Unicornography, will make the listener reconsider whether Jazz piano really can go with industrial synth drums.

Starting it out in style with “Main Theme’”, Focus Group wastes no time, and quickly sets out their plan for the album. A clip at the end explains, “we test out the music, and this is really what people want to hear”. Both presumptuous and tongue-in-cheek, the statement constrains the group’s sound to the realm of both the experimental and the readily listenable. Horn sections flowing over synth drums and what sounds like an old dot-matrix printer head may sound odd on paper, but don’t expect Sonic Youth-like noises or tracts of empty space. Focus group, keeping with their namesake, maintains clarity.

Nowhere is this more clear than in their second track, “Albequerque Freak Out.” Starting with a minor-keyed classical piano buildup that is slowly accompanied, then overtaken by, fuzzed out guitar and bass, the song lurches to a fast pace and doesn’t relent. A trebly guitar riff squeals over a fast drum breakbeat as dark piano sounds loom in the background, making this the most traditionally rock-and-roll song on the Unicornography.

“The Proper Way to Fold A Map” starts with an awkward amalgam of piano, hand drum, and other acoustic instruments. The sampled vinyl static starts and stops somewhat irritatingly as the sample loops, but is only really evident at the start, before the track swings into gear. Seeing the quality in the rest of the work, it is safe to assume this was an artistic choice and not an oversight, but it detracts from the smoothness of the rest of the song. A somewhat Rattatat-esque guitar line plays over climbing piano, emulating the soundtrack to a tense spy-movie scene.

Similar guitarwork abounds in “On Purpose for Money”, but instead of staying melodic, a discordant bridge bounces back and forth haphazardly before fizzling out. Tracks 3 and 4 represent a somewhat safer route than the latter half of the album, and tend to suffer from sounding a bit similar.

The title track, “Unicornography,” signals the beginning of the true experimentation – of the medical sort, in this case. A heart rate monitor beeps along at a steady rate to set the pace of the track while piano, reminiscent of “Phantom of the Opera”, plays along. Uptempo synth drum and nonsensical (and eerily sensual) vocal sounds join in, summoning up visions of a swank but futuristic lounge, complete with low lighting and one too many sophisticated and pretentious drinks. “Great songs…for a price” the signs on the wall would read. And they are, to be sure. If the album started in rollicking late-evening, the listener definitely crosses over into the late night here, and the crazies are coming out.

“Beef Crepe,” despite sounding lighthearted, is surprisingly dark and tragic sounding. High, almost childlike piano lines ring out hollowly over humming bass. Reverbing metallic sounds clang around in the background, and fade to echoes before the song quickly picks up. A ragtime bridge takes over, then plunges into a fuzzed out bass beat that seems both warm and cooly dystopic at the same time.

The four remixes, which pull the trail end of the album, draw more in mood from the latter original tracks. Spacy and steampunky, they continue a theme, but fail to offer much original insight or surprise. They would place well on a LateNightTales compilation, but since Focus Group is all about originality, the tracks, “Midifister”, “Vladimir Computin”, and “Bender”, seem to be simply smooth. And simple is not the target.

While at times faltering beneath the weight of their compositions, Focus Group assembles a solid set of instrumental tracks that do well at keeping the listener up and moving. While neither as mystical nor profane as the album name professes, the interesting juxtaposition of sounds and rhythms on Unicornography makes this an album worth investigating. - AustinSound.net


"Past, Present, Future: Focus Group"

We’ve got a very special edition of Past, Present, Future for you today: Austin’s own Focus Group.
This quirky group is all over the place during SXSW; check them out tomorrow at their boat party. The first 220 get on board, the rest of you are stuck on dry land. Their live show is great and well worth paying a cover, let alone free. While you’re in town for South by Southwest, be sure to sneak a peek at Focus Group.
Members/Instruments:
Andrew Brown (aka Soundfounder) - live MPC2000
Donald Gallaspy III- guitar & bass
Michael Dymowski- drums & bass
Seth Munson Williams- keys & trombone
Year Formed: 2006
1. Past: What is your musical background? What has led you to this point?
Focus Group originated from a cast of eclectic friends making music on a whim together one fateful night. It grew organically into weekly play/practice sessions where we really just experimented and amused ourselves. We were never thinking it would evolve into anything past the room we were playing in. But after a while we felt something special was happening and decided to make a project out of it, something we could get serious about and eventually share in public. Now Focus Group has grown into something bigger and better than any of us initially conceived, which we really value and I think keeps us excited and motivated for even more.
Andrew and Donald are completely self-taught musicians, never taking formal lessons for their instruments, while Seth played in school-bands and developed a keen sense for jazz and classical idioms. I, Michael, had years of private lessons for classical guitar, but then decided to play instruments that I had never had lessons for, the bass and drums; so we vary widely in our musical backgrounds and tastes. For instance, while all of us share very wide and ranging tastes, Donald grew up listening to lots of rock, Radiohead and Tool, stuff like that, while Andrew listened to music that catered more to a sampler-based music- DJ Shadow, Wu-Tang Clan, The Automator, and early electronic music. Michael grew up listening to Pink Floyd, Mississippi John Hurt, Townes Van Zandt, but also stuff like Astor Piazzola and Eric Satie, and Seth was inspired by stuff like Tom Waits, Talking Heads, and video-game music in addition to his formal training.
2. Present: Where are you at now in your career? What are you currently working on?
We are students of sound, constantly trying new writing methods, new field recordings, novel ways to play our instruments. We love experimenting. While the song writing process varies from song to song, we’ve slowly developed a liking for certain sounds in our music: bells, chimes, hand-claps and traditional pop samples, mixed with ambient noises, vintage analog synths, field recordings and other unusual sounds. We are all still so young and have so much to grow into, so it’s a very exciting time for us! We’ve got our debut EP for sale, we’re playing around town a lot and getting to meet really great people. We’re working on more recordings, and possibly traveling on tour this fall, all while trying to keep our music constantly growing.
3. Future: What’s coming up for you? Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
Hopefully, we’d like to be making even better music. It seems like every new song gets closer to the sound we hear in our heads, and as we write we’re learning about ourselves as well as how to compliment each other’s styles. Writing music the way we do, democratically, can be very tedious and at times frustrating. But it always works out in the end and I think it’s what gives Focus Group its style. There’s not a main writer in Focus Group, all of us contribute equally to every song. That means for each part of each song, all four members agree this is where the song needs to be dynamically, melodically, and in general. Since we all have such different backgrounds and tastes, but have played together long enough to have cohesion in the group, songs continue to surprise us. We just hope to carry on learning, growing, and sharing our music.
4. Where can people find more of your music?
The best place is at our shows or on our MySpace. We can offer our merchandise cheaper since no one else is taking a cut, and more of the money goes back into the band. We press our own t-shirts, pay for our own albums, and do everything ourselves without a manager or publicist. We try to sell everything as cheap as possible, but that gets hard when you start adding middle-men to the equation. It’s great to have control over what we do, but it’s also very time consuming, so every purchase helps. We have records at Waterloo Records, End of and Ear, DJ Dojo, Backspin and Cheapos, and on the web on CDBaby.com, itunes and Amazon. The t-shirts are for sale only through us, at our shows or via email.
5. Anything you’d like to plug?
Check out Myspace and Facebook. This is the best way to stay connected with us, to find out where we’re playing next, and also to purchase merchandise directly from us. We love to hear from our fans and hear what they’re into and where they found us, so if you’re not a member of those sites, feel free to drop us a line at focusgroupband @ gmail.com. And also make sure to check out Andrew’s solo project, Soundfounder. Focus Group is also a member of a growing artist collective here in Central Texas, called Candy Camera Collective. It’s designed so that creative types can help one another out by pursuing their own self-interests and is open to everyone creative, so if you have the interest check that out too on Facebook.
- Twogroove.com


"Texas Platters - deEP end Review"

Why hasn't the record industry sued Girl Talk? No one at the South by Southwest 2010 panel had a definitive answer, and Freshmillions couldn't care less anyway. The local trio distorts its vintage jazz-funk samples beyond recognition, mashing them with squiggling classic rock riffs, cascading synths, and throbbing beats into a thoroughly addictive electronic art. Its debut for Insect Records sounds like it was hatched in Octopus Project and Black Moth Super Rainbow's The House of Apples and Eyeballs, only more aggressive via production arrangements by the Sword's Bryan Richie and robotic vocals in "The Helicopter." Focus Group treads similar territory on Unicornography, skittering around snippets of found sound like a manic, prog-rock version of Negativland. Instrumental chase "Albuquerque Freak Out" and "The Proper Way to Fold a Map" are dense and diabolical, while the guitar-based elixir "On Purpose for Money" wouldn't be out of place on Ratatat's Classics. Here's hoping Royal Forest takes a cue from the success of the group's last EP under its former name, Loxsly, and that this eponymous debut serves as a mere teaser to a more fully developed LP. These four songs, anchored by keyboardist/vocalist Cody Ground, sound like extracted chapters from a larger narrative, with the moody and conceptual indie pop of "Courtesy in Decline" the only notable standout. More promising is the inaugural outing from the Ripe, a Red River supergroup led by Nic Armstrong, former Ugly Beats guitarist Jake Garcia, and Amplified Heat bassist Gian Ortiz. The band's 12-inch EP, Man With No Eyes, pressed on gold vinyl, is appropriately aged and seasoned, with "Holiday" and the title track playing to their collective strengths in summery 1960s power pop. Flyjack is the latest entrant into Austin's soul revival, mining near disco-era R&B and Afro-funk. The quintet's debut On the 1 (Bean Pie) plays it safe, with only a few flashes of Paolo Negri's Hammond B-3 wizardry, but there's a catch. John "Jab'O" Starks of the original J.B.'s handles the sticks, which lends some credibility to the rousing James Brown cover "Ain't It Funky Now." - Austin Chronicle


"New Music Monday - Focus Group – Unicornography EP"

Focus Group is an experimental instrumental band, layering sounds from funk to jazz to ambient electronica with a dash a ragtime resulting in soundscapes that pull from trace to dance within the same track. Read about their new release.

Focus Group has been a band in Austin for three years now as a collective of five members (Mike D, Andrew Brown (whose solo project Soundfounder is also worth to checking out), Alexander Rivard, Seth Munson Williams, and Donald Stuart Gallaspy III), and released their first EP in 2008. They are about to hit you with new songs mixing samples with live performance, which are more focused than ever.

Like their moniker, they are a collective cross section of different talents from classical piano to an MPC aficionado, friends who form a melting pot of music with influences as diverse as their sound, citing Wu-Tang and Talking Heads to name a few. Their product results in, as their website declares, “instrumental music for the confused,” and it makes me want to always be confused if these are the sounds I can consume. Their tracks are engaging, challenging, and never dull. The band is about to release their second EP where our two tracks to share with you today come from titled “Uniconrgraphy” on May 7th with a release party at Scoot Inn with ever-evolving line-up of Freshmillions, who also have an album to release, the experimental art-rock of No Mas Bodas, and the musician who proves that you can play records in a mascot outfit, DJ Butcher Bear. Currently, you can buy a copy from one of the guys in person, obtain one at their show, or search for them on Itunes.

Focus Group exists outside of any one genre and never ceases to find their groove. Their tracks range from dark, pounding, and heavy while also giving the listener a break though engaging samples and rhythm. The addition of the trumpet and jazz element makes this more than your average electronic music. Each track results in instant gratification and anticipation of where they will take you next. This band creates songs you can listen to over and over and find something new each time. Even with as many labels as I can try to give them, their songs demand that you give yourself over, never try to overanalyze, just shut the fuck up and ride the cloud. - Tapebombs.com


"EP Roundup: Focus Group, Nurk, The Correction Brothers, Transmography"

Focus Group – Focus Group (SR)

The debut EP from this local quartet is bizarrely fascinating, layering a polished instrumental prowess with contortions of samples and beats. It’s an odd balance that doesn’t always come together perfectly, but the mix of jazzier elements and electro gadgetry in songs like “White Folk Is Freaky” produces a riveting torrent of surprises. The song, sampling a stand up routine over a thudding bass line and trombone blasts, is the best of the five tracks, mixing each member’s expertise most effectively into a driving groove. It succeeds where opener “Very Truly Yours” is a too overwhelmed by the blips, and other songs like the 7-minute long closer “Teeth First” polish out too many of the surprise twists to remain engaging over the extended jam. The bass line on “Baby Fat” melds perfectly with piano, however, and bolsters the intermittent surges of distortion and electric guitar before jumping into a fast-paced dervish.
- Doug Freeman - Austin Sound.net


Discography

2010 - Unicornography EP and Remixes
Reached #1 on UT Austin Radio KVRX - September 24th 2010

2008 - Focus Group EP

Found on iTunes, Pandora, Amazon, CDBaby, and more.

Photos

Bio

Focus Group is a stylistically eclectic quartet mixing live instruments and electronic samples to create a sound that is difficult to pin down. Influences and training range from jazz to classical to metal to sample based beat construction, making us ideal to accompany almost any act.
Three members are multi-instrumentalists; rotating between bass, guitar, drums, piano, and trombone. The other operates the MPC 2000, a sampler that is an intergral part of what makes Focus Group unique, serving as both a drummer and a collector of sounds from the audience and else-where.
Active four years in Austin we have released two EPs, booked and promoted a 2009 tour to Chicago and continue to play often locally to growing acclaim.
We are currently planning our next tour and working on material for our first full-length album.

On Purpose For Money Tour Blog - 2009
http://askaboutwhathappenedin2009.blogspot.com/