For anyone who’s ever pondered how long it takes for a minor act of civil disobedience to earn a visit from security personnel at the Texas state capitol building, Jesse Moore of Austin political roots rockers East Cameron Folkcore has the answer.
It takes about two minutes.
That knowledge comes from a December photo shoot for the 11-piece band’s new album "For Sale," which saw members plant a "for sale" sign on the lawn in front of the domed building as a commentary about the state of power and influence in present-day politics.
"An officer walks up because you’re not supposed to stick anything in the lawn, so we leaned the sign up against the photographer’s camera bag, keep shooting and a couple minutes later another one walked up on us," said Moore, vocalist and guitarist for the band. "I so wanted to get a shot of a guard walking into the shot and messing with us, but he was very nice and said ‘This is a sacred place for a lot of people,’ which is exactly what it is to us and that’s why we’re saying what we are with that sign."
There are similarly bold and provocative statements all over the new album, which kicks off with a sample of political activist Mario Savio’s famed 1964 speech (key line: "Unless you’re free, the machine will be prevented from working at all!") that leads into the class conflict anthem "Robin Hoods Rise."
"A lot of it came from us being in the studio talking about the sensory overload from the last election, the idea of how much money is involved in trying to peddle influence and the grossness of wealth that’s been accumulated, and is now being used to buy anything that’s ever meant something to anyone," Moore said. "Basically it’s about how everything you’ve ever cared about in your life is now for sale."
Those topical ideas have come into sharp focus for the band that has evolved in the last couple of years from a sprawling and often over-the-top hootenanny type outfit into a restrained and often nuanced band that features cello and trombone into addition to banjo, guitars and other more traditional country and rock instrumentation. That focus has come as East Cameron Folkcore – originally a sidelight for members of Bankrupt and the Borrowers, Clyde and Clem’s Whiskey Business and more – has become most members’ primary musical vehicle.
Most of the songs still start with a core group including Moore and trombonist/guitarist Blake Bernstein with the band’s full membership rounding out their parts and often transforming them into something much larger and forceful. Based largely in works of great literature as well as class conflict – a love song called "Ophelia," a swaying lament called "Salinger’s Dead" – the new batch has plenty of popular hallmarks for audiences to grab onto and identify with.
Those will be on display Friday when the band takes over the stately Scottish Rite Theater for an album release show that will be heavy on multimedia and lighting flourishes and guest players to add extra spectacle and make the night more deluxe than a typical club gig.
"You only get to do an album release show maybe once a year, if that, so we wanted to make it more of a production," Bernstein said. "We’d seen some things at the Scottish Rite, like the show Dana Falconberry did there recently, that was really special, so when we started looking for a place to do a show with video and lighting and oil projections we knew that’s where we had to do it."