Austin Artist Watch: The Rocketboys

On Friday night, Gordon and I attended a show at Stubb’s featuring recently transplanted to Austin band The Rocketboys.  Formed in Abilene in 2005, this up and coming indie rock band enjoyed their first show as Austinites by announcing the shortening of their band name, formerly Homer Hiccolm and the Rocketboys.  No reason was given for this change, but I have many theories:

a.  A band from Abilene, TX with the name “Homer Hiccolm and the Rocketboys” immediately conjures up images of, if not just a straight country band, then at least a rockabilly band.  The Rocketboys are no such thing.
b.  There is no one in the band named Homer Hiccolm, a fact that, as friend Carol pointed out, may have ended up bringing about unwanted comparisons to the non-existent “Hootie” of Hootie and the Blowfish.  And no self-respecting indie rock band wants to be compared to Hootie (or the Blowfish).  Plus, the lead singer probably got called “Homer” a lot.  D’oh!
c.  The original band name is a perhaps purposefully misspelled reference to real life NASA rocket scientist Homer Hickam.  Hickam wrote an autobiographical novel titled Rocket Boys: A Memoir that was later adapted into the 1999 film October Sky.  It’s possible that the band wished to avoid any possibility of future lawsuits for using the name, albeit misspelled, of an actual person, similar to the woes faced by a young Seattle band called Mookie Blaylock, who would be forced by trademark infringement issues to change their name to Pearl Jam.
d.  “The Rocketboys” is shorter, catchier, and easier to remember.
e.  All of the above.
f.  None of the above.

Whatever the reason for the name change, the now sleekly-monikered The Rocketboys are a promising young band that have the potential to make it big.  The winners of Dell Lounge’s 2007 The Sound and the Jury competition, which scored them an appearance at the 2007 Austin City Limits Festival, the band’s appeal is based largely in part on the crystal clear vocals of lead singer/guitarist/keyboardist Brandon Kinder.  Kinder’s voice is angelic, able to soar to great heights with little evidence of strain and always sounding perfectly in tune.  This voice, combined with the ringing guitar work reminiscent of early U2 or Travis, give the band an already arena-ready sound that filled the small indoor stage at Stubb’s with ease.  When Kinder takes to the keys, the band recalls the lofty ballads of Cold Play and Keane.  With these solid influences in their pockets and their first full length being readied for release in 2009, The Rocketboys appear poised to make a big splash on the Austin music scene.

My only real complaint about The Rocketboys would be the shared tempo of pretty much all of their songs.  Everything is in the low- to mid-tempo range, with no up-tempo songs to keep up the energy necessary for a truly engaging live show.  As their one and a half hour set on Friday night neared its end, the size of the Stubb’s audience had shrunken considerably, with many leaving well before the set’s completion. However, the venue was completely full at the start of the set, which is itself an impressive feat for a band new to Austin.  Overall, it was a mostly good show, if a bit on the slow side, and I’m looking forward to see how their career progresses.

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