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Seattle band tries to get heard above the din of SXSW music festival

Chris Martin from Seattle's Kinski is among the over 2,000 bands vying for attention at the annual South by Southwest convention and music festival in Austin. (Kinski image)

With over 2,000 bands from all over the world converging on Austin’s annual South by Southwest festival, it can be pretty tough to get heard above the noise. But it doesn’t stop bands like Seattle’s Kinski from trying.

“When we first started going down there like 10 or 12 years ago, it was a real funky vibe and still had that kind of Austin slacker, stoner sort of vibe,” says Kinski guitarist and front man Chris Martin, a veteran of the Seattle music scene.

Not anymore. Now it’s become one of the biggest music gatherings in the world. Last year, there were officially 2,286 bands or musicians on 104 stages trying to get noticed by the thousands of attendees, radio stations and music journalists from around the world.

“I’m not quite sure what the point of it is now. You know there’s just so many bands. There’s a hundred parties that aren’t even part of South by Southwest everyday,” Martin says. And there are probably a dozen bands at each of those, he says everywhere you turn you run into a band, from parking lots to clothing stores, even the local 7-11. And it’s not just aspiring, up and coming bands. This year’s lineup includes the like of Prince, Depeche Mode and Dave Grohl overshadowing everything else.

“I don’t know what you can accomplish it’s sort of a luck of the draw and meanwhile everybody’s going to see Bruce Springsteen or whoever the big [act is]. I think this year I think it’s Green Day and Stevie Nicks,” Martin says.

Kinski will be promoting its new album “Cosy Moments,” which comes out April 2 on Kill Rock Stars, the band’s sixth full-length, but first in almost six years since they parted ways with Sub Pop. So Martin says they almost felt obligated to be in Austin this week when the label asked them to play.

“You just hope your name’s out there and somebody will stumble on one of the shows,” he says.

Still, after so many years in the music business Martin says he has no delusions of grandeur about getting discovered, and says it’s unrealistic to expect it.

“Most of the bands that have come out of South by Southwest with a buzz already had the buzz on them. I remember seeing the Yeah, Yeah, Yeahs before their record came out down there. It was a room of 1,500 people packed.”

But Martin says it’s still fun for the band to get in front of both its longtime fans and potentially new ones, at least for a few days. After all, he’s hardly a spring chicken in his late 40’s, and five days of 24/7 music and merry making takes its toll a lot harder than it did in his younger days.

“That’s why this year we said we do not want to play Saturday because by Saturday everyone is just stumbling around like a zombie.”

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