Austin-based rockers The Octanes have a rockabilly sound that earned them a Houston Press Music Awards nomination for Best Roots-Rock in 2010. The band is peeling through town on Friday night to rock the wheels off LaB 5555: Speed.
We sat down with lead guitarist and vocalist Adam Burchfield in advance of their performance to talk Museum memories, social experiments, and waving the geek flag high.
HMNS: The theme for this month’s LaB 5555 is Speed. How did your band name come about, and what was the inspiration behind it?
Adam Burchfield: When I was first starting out, playing guitar and singing, I would sit down and write out what I thought were cool band names on a legal-size sheet of paper. Nothing ever really stuck out, though. One night after jamming with the guys that would form the band, I had a thought: Rockabilly music and hot rod cars seem to go hand in hand. The music that we play is fast, and usually when you want to go faster you want a “higher-octane” gas. High-octane gas is also high quality or “hi-test.” So, with that, I thought, “There’s the perfect band name: ‘The Octanes’.” It was original, and would forever associate us with a high-performance, hot rod type of sound.
HMNS: Describe your sound and influences. How has the city of Houston influenced your music?
AB: Our sound would best be described as “roots-rock-rockabilly, with blues influences.” I was born in Tennessee into a very musical family that recorded everything from bluegrass to rock and roll. My parents moved to Houston with me when I was 2 years old. I grew up here in the ’80s, through new wave and the dawn of MTV, and I always thought bands like the Stray Cats were very popular in Texas and here in Houston, especially. Stevie Ray Vaughan was also very popular in Houston throughout my childhood, as well as Albert Collins. Through the ’90s I became more involved in the blues scene. I would also go and see Ronnie Dawson and The Paladins quite a bit. They had a big influence on our sound. Eventually, I started The Octanes full-time, earning many nominations for local awards through the 2000s. We’re based in Austin now, and are currently traveling doing shows all around the country.
HMNS: What’s your favorite memory of HMNS?
AB: This may sound like a strange answer, but I would have to say it would be from when I was a kid. The bottom floor, or what I always called, “The Basement,” had a series of displays behind glass that basically gave a history of scientists.There were different displays with the figures doing strange experiments, beakers boiling, and the figures looking very mysterious conjuring up their potions. It was dark down that hallway, too, which made it extra scary. There was also a space exploration display down there, with a capsule, moon rover and space suits. But nothing can beat the fascination I had with those strange static displays in “The Basement.” As a band, I would say our best memory is playing a wedding in the Gem Hall. To get to rock and roll in the exhibit hall among all those priceless stones in an amazing feeling!
HMNS: Do you have a geeky side? Do you wave the geek flag with pride or is it something you keep under wraps?
AB: I’d have to say I’m a little on the geeky side. I still love to research things that interest me. I’m into a little of everything: geology, archeology, space travel … Star Wars movies. Our bass player, Drew Hays, is actually a bona fide scientist who will be publishing a paper later this year. She is also a registered dietician. We’re not afraid to let our geek flags fly.
HMNS: What’s the weirdest experiment — social or scientific — you’ve ever conducted?
AB: This is a tough one because I feel like playing music and doing shows is almost always an “experiment” to a certain extent. On a scientific note, I used to stay up all night with those build-your-own science experiment kits. In the kit they had a radio circuit you could build, and you could hear anything from a radio station to a trucker on a CB radio. I don’t really remember mine working quite right; I’d love to have that whole set now!
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Hear more from The Octanes this Friday night from 8 to 11 p.m. at LaB 5555. Hit the Grand Hall early for science hour from 8 to 9 p.m. and learn all about the science of speed from our expert staff. For more information or to purchase your tickets in advance online, click here.
Start your engines with a video of The Octanes’ single, “Flip Your Lid,” below: