It’s 4 p.m. on a Wednesday at Hillside Farmacy on East 11th Street, and Stephen Svacina and Mitch Frazier, from Austin band Sweet Talk, are drinking tea. Two types of tea, actually — breakfast and jasmine — and snacking on a full teatime spread, a tiered plate with some finger sandwiches, fancy cookies and a chocolate truffle that everyone agrees tastes really good.
"I’ll have a couple cubes," Frazier says, asking for sugar.
"I’ve never said that before," Svacina says.
Svacina, who writes the songs, sings and plays guitar, and Frazier, who also plays guitar, are spending a quiet afternoon drinking tea to talk about the release their not-at-all-quiet debut LP, "Pickup Lines" (12XU), which is out Tuesday. With the record, the band, which also includes bassist Harpal Assi and drummer Marley Jones, offers a huge piece of evidence that Austin’s music scene has no plans of slowing in 2013.
On "Pickup Lines," the band succeeds in capturing the fiery, rousing approach that makes them a great live act. Svacina shows off his skill at writing songs — often leaning toward pop but never without a big rock force beneath — songs that stick in your subconscious after a listen or two; Frazier slices through the album, left-handed.
The album opens with "Put You Right Back," a fighting-against-mediocrity tale with a fuzzy, lethargic intro that gives way to a jumping main section. The band puts the brakes on again mid-song, only to jump right back into high speed. It’s a move they use in other places, including the catchy "Stop in the Line," a breakup song of sorts with an uptempo beat that betrays its subject. Elsewhere, the title track soars with sharp hooks, Svacina’s loud vocals and celebratory guitar work.
The band began as a solo project of sorts for Svacina, who grew up in Arlington and would drive to the music hub of Denton — a stop for many Austin-based musicians — to see Mark Ryan’s band the Marked Men. He eventually enrolled at the University of North Texas, playing music and eventually guitar in Mind Spiders, another of Ryan’s projects. "It was a unifying thing, all the bands up there really loved Marked Men and Riverboat Gamblers," Svacina said.
When another of Svacina’s bands, Uptown Bums, ended, he began writing and recording material for what would become Sweet Talk. He moved to Austin a little over a year ago, when Frazier was living in a treehouse in Smithville with members of his other band, Church Shoes. The Bastrop wildfire pushed Frazier out of the treehouse to Austin, where he first met Svacina while he was living from couch to couch (and losing his record collection, which fell victim to Austin heat in the back of his car).
Frazier grew up in Fort Wayne, Ind., on a diet of Chuck Berry, the Faces, the Clash and the Kinks, "The Kinks are my favorite band," Frazier says. "Last night I listened to ‘Arthur,’ ‘Village Green,’ and ‘Preservation Act 1 and 2.’" When he was young he painted his parents garage (and says he got sick in the process) to earn money for a guitar. He was playing in local bars by the time he turned 21.
Frazier’s playing impressed Svacina right away. "When we first started playing together, Mitch broke a guitar string and didn’t have a backup guitar, so I handed him my extra guitar," Svacina says. "I wasn’t thinking because I didn’t remember that he was left handed. He didn’t say anything, he just started playing the next song. He just transposed all the songs that he had just learned to a right-handed guitar." (Frazier downplays the story, explaining that left-handed guitarists are forced to learn how to play upside down because guitars strung for left-handed players are rare).
Svacina called the new project Sweet Talk, a name he had been saving for a while. "I liked the band Sweet, and was thinking about a power pop band name," he says. "I haven’t thought of a good band name since then." He adds that there wasn’t a specific concept driving the creation of the group, however.
"A lot of people I know, that I totally respect, can go and say I want this to sound like this era of whatever," he says. "With all of my music, there always ends up being something that’s unifying, but there’s no idea."