Best of What's Next: TV Torso

Music Features TV Torso
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Hometown: Austin, Texas
Members: Matt Oliver, Jordan Johns, Jimmy Rhea, Ben Maddox
Album: Status Quo Vadis
For Fans Of: Spoon, Sound Team, The Walkmen 

At first glance, the title for TV Torso’s debut EP Status Quo Vadis doesn’t make much sense. The combination of the Latin expressions ‘status quo’ and ‘quo vadis’ contrast each other—one refers to a static state of affairs while the other speaks of impending change. But the two terms tell the story of these veteran Austin rockers—a group that has arisen from the ashes of the once-promising local act Sound Team to find their own footing on solid ground.

On one hand, Oliver continues his longstanding emphasis on studio production by working at Big Orange—a 100-year old cinder-block building that’s become his personal, artistic and professional recording haven. “I do studio stuff as my job…I’m deeply involved in the recording process,” Oliver says. “I think studio stuff is informed by aesthetics just as much as some songwriting choices.”

At the same time, however, TV Torso quietly marks an evolution in Oliver and drummer Jordan Johns’ continued partnership. While Sound Team stood as an indie-rock sextet often pegged to break out of the local Austin scene during the mid-2000’s, the act never quite lived up to the surrounding hype. After breaking up in 2007, Oliver turned to a clean page and started from scratch, writing songs on a blank slate as well as starting a new chapter in his own life. “I was about to become a father, and had done away with a lot of the clichés that go along with self-destructive artists,” he reflects. “I was coming out of that whole phase.”

What’s emerged for TV Torso is a newfound sense of clarity in Oliver’s songwriting and aesthetic outlook, one that was never fully realized in Sound Team—a band whose dense sound seemed overstuffed at times. Instead, this Texas quartet has nailed down a distinct and unified sound—one that channels the infectious energy, warm gritty touch and weird Austin flavor that fellow hometown rockers Spoon have long possessed.

Matt Oliver is among the first to admit TV Torso’s love for his friends and fellow Austinites, having mixed Status Quo Vadis at Jim Eno’s Public Hi-Fi. “We’re kind of in a mutual admiration society…Britt [Daniel]’s a good friend,” Oliver says. “I’m an admirer of his as well.” As TV Torso continues to carve out its niche in Austin’s music scene and beyond, Spoon’s remarkable consistency and series of minor yet effective reinventions offer a near-perfect blueprint of how to balance the status quo and the quo vadis—a balance that TV Torso hopes to maintain moving forward.

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