Tucked away on a quiet country road in Kyle, Texas, resides the golden fortress of “space glam” trio Sphynx. The house-turned-rehearsal-space is where Cory (vocals/synth), Aaron (vocals, guitar) and Todd (drums), friends since childhood, have shaped their sound, style and vision over the years.
Inside, the space reflects the band’s flair for flashy things, with reflective mosaic triangles, disco balls, a cutout cactus and a giant metallic Sphynx sign. The band made all the stage props by hand for their live shows.
Largely inspired by glam-rock, Sphynx embraces not only the sound, but the fashion of that bygone era with skintight pants and animal prints, made more personal with DIY touches, like sewing leopard print piping onto their jeans or painting their shoes gold.
This close attention to detail plays into everything Sphynx does. Citygram sat down with Sphynx to talk about the band’s genesis, its new music, and the not-so-glamorous side of being a bunch of rock stars.
Citygram: Tell us about this space.
Cory: It started as a little, dirty, empty house with two Ibanez amps and Ibanez guitars, whatever the cheapest thing was that we could buy.
Todd: Now it’s a dirty empty house with a lot more stuff in it and three stinky dudes.
You recorded your new album in here; what can you tell us about that?
Cory: We just spent the last ten days with producer Richard Corsello, who’s worked on a bunch of Journey stuff, Motown, Sonny Rollins. He’s an amazing producer and he’s working with us at the moment. We’re excited about it.
How did you come up with “space glam” to describe your music?
Aaron: I think it originates from Space Jam if I had to guess, with a little change. We’re big Space Jam fans. We’re into glam rock, we like to dress up and also the future takes place in space – synthesizers and weird noises, so it’s kind of fusing those two concepts a little bit.
What are some of your favorite things that happen in space?
Todd: We could go really far with this question…infinitely.
Aaron: One space thing that’s always stuck with me is the sound of static on an amplifier or radio or TV when there isn’t a station. That actually comes from outer space. It’s supposedly the edge of the universe expanding, which has made that noise forever, which blows my mind to think about — if there was a big bang, that noise carrying through space and messing with our TVs and stuff like that. So that’s some cool stuff about space.
Outside of planet earth, where do you have the biggest fan base?
Todd: Pluto has Tumblr. They follow us pretty often.
What were some of the sources of inspiration when you were recording the new album?
Todd: We did some demo recording in Glacier National Park. We spent some time in Montana for a week or so and we got a lot of ideas when we were out there, which was pretty cool.
Aaron: Musically, it’s this strange synthesis between hair-metal, glam-rock stuff and disco-funk which comes from listening to some really funny ‘80s [progressive-rock] bands like Asia and Yes.
Who are some of your favorite glam rock bands?
Cory: Mr. Bowie of course. T-Rex, Lou Reed when he was doing glam-rock was awesome. Which kind of goes back to David Bowie producing all those people.
What do you consider the most innovative thing that happened in 2014?
Cory: Somebody cut all The Hobbit movies into one four-hour movie, which is pretty great. It gets rid of all the weird characters that weren’t really in the book and stuff. That’s pretty innovative. Maybe not the most innovative thing, but arguably.
Aaron: Creative flasks. There’s some really good flask products out this year. Suncscreen bottles, shampoo bottles. I’ve even seen tampon ones.
Todd: Having the flask game ensures you’re going to be okay no matter where you go.
What are some of the stage props you’ve made for your live shows?
Todd: A cutout cactus, glowing orbs, disco balls. We have disco balls wherever we can. Anything and everything gold. It’s like a gold space desert.
Cory: I think we’re going to get a fog machine soon, so stay tuned.
How would you describe Sphynx using one emotion?
Todd: Strange. Strange emotion.
Cory: That’s actually a new song of ours. We just finished it up.
What was your first SXSW experience?
Aaron: We used to have a band in high school called The El Guapos and we got a show our senior year of high school, an under 18 showcase at SXSW that happened at noon and we thought it was the biggest deal in the world to get to do SXSW.
Cory: We thought we were going to leave the next day with a label.
Aaron: Everyone that comes to town gets a record deal!
Todd: You just play in the street and you’ll get signed!
Aaron: It was 50 really young bands playing there and it was lots of parents. Lots of little brothers and sisters. We got drink tickets for sodas. That was our first SXSW and we didn’t get a record deal at all. We didn’t get close. But it was our first experience with any kind of festival, so it was fun.
How does that SXSW compare to SX now?
We were so pumped up and non-jaded. Our parents drove us to the venue so we didn’t have to worry about that, now we have to drive ourselves home.
SXSW doesn’t have the magic of youth behind it now that we’re super old. On the other side, it’s more fun now to be able to go to all the crazy stuff that’s happening and observe and participate.
You’ve had this space since you were teenagers. What’s it been like making music here over the years and being a band for so long?
Todd: Cory and Aaron first met when they were two years old, so they’ve been best friends for 23 years now.
Cory: We definitely grew up together. When we were about 12 we picked up guitars and started learning together. We tried for five years to make any and every kind of band that we could… they were all wonderful.
Aaron: The process of starting a band and finding someone to play with us was the longest process.
Cory: Until we met this guy (Todd).
Todd: Best thing that could have happened to them. And the best thing that could have happened to me.
Citygram: This is turning into a moment.
Cory: Could you guys get out of here?
Todd: I met them when I was 16. I was dating his little sister. We’re still dating, in marriage.
How many bands did you have in total?
Aaron: Probably around seven. There was Runner Up, Chicken Lead, Last Second Comeback – which were basically all the same bands. I think we just had a lot of names. Does the definition of a band mean you play shows and record albums? Because then no.
Cory: We were always more into thinking about the names, what we would wear, performance dynamics.
Aaron: We were always about trying to create good onstage antics. There was one show with The El Guapos where, for some reason, we decided to throw autographed bananas out into the audience after every song. Todd hit his mom in the face with a banana at that show.
Todd: I’m sorry mom!
Aaron: Not that many people came to our show so there weren’t that many people to hit.
Todd: They were organic bananas.
Aaron: That was the last time we threw fruit from the stage.
From being in all these bands what have you learned about what it takes?
Cory: It takes a lot more work than we initially thought. There’s lots of sacrifices. We’re all married so seeing our wives a little over half the year gets kind of interesting.
Where we really figured out who we were and why we want to do this was being on the road.
Aaron: You either break up or decide you want to do it. When you go out on tour, that’s when you figure out your band dynamic and if you’re the types of people that will take it easy on each other and take care of each other, or if you’re going to be at each other’s throats and be shitty to each other the whole time. We were lucky in that we were friends first for so long and doing this band thing second.
If you really want to do it, unless you’re one of those extremely lucky cases where you get discovered from a YouTube video, if you really are passionate about doing music, you have to realize you have to do the work. You can be a really great band but it’s pretty rare that someone is going to do the work for you. A lot of it is just trying to be decent people and do what we want to do.
Interview: Gillian Driscoll
Photography, Cinematography: Chris Wiley, Hannah Vickers
Cinematography: Chris Perez
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