The future sound of Texas resides in the hands of southern charmer Travis Higdon, being both at the helm of independent Texan music as head of Peek-A-Boo Records and piloting his own band, Black Lipstick. From humble beginnings to indie obscurity, Peek-A-Boo has made serious inroads via the South by South West Festival, which showcased their flagship bands Knife In The Water and Spoon. Travis Higdon talked me through the intricacies of diving headlong into the murky waters of independent America.

The origins of Peek-A-Boo arose from Higdon’s college days where he funded his own “Shitty garage band the 1-4-5s” sole release on a 7-inch titled ‘Unsafe at 45RPM.’ “Thinking this would be my only band ever, I wanted to document it…to my surprise it sold incredibly well.” Flushed with success, he then went on to release his friends’ bands on the newly formed label, and, as he now reflects “Here I am nine years later with twenty two singles, four EPs and sixteen full length releases.”

Named after the local scene fanzine, Peek-A-Boo has given recording space to the likes of sadly departed garage punk wasters the Kiss Offs, avant garde electro titans the Octopus Project and even an early outing for pioneering post rockers …And You Will Know Us By The Trail Of Dead. Higdon’s eclectic label reflects the punk essence of the fanzine it started from, as he sees the purpose being to “offer a forum for independent thought and opinion.” The nature of true diversity and independence is what Peek-A-Boo seems to be striving towards achieving.

An independent record label boss conjures up images of shy retiring men operating out of the spare bedroom of their parents’ terrace house, something not true at all of the rather dapper Travis Higdon. I asked him what it was that he brought to the American underground music scene, to which he replied “Loads and loads of money! And, I suppose, my personal taste in music, which is of course extremely refined.” A mildly ironic hard nosed business attitude is clearly more important in the 21st century than an obscenely large collection of unsold Stereolab 12 inchs. But don’t let that fool you, what really drives Higdon and Peek-A-Boo is a passion for undiscovered music. He risked everything back in 1996 by taking out a $10,000 loan to personally finance the debut album by Silver Scooter, which again turned out to be a savvy business decision. So the chance to give new talent a break and the opportunity to evolve is at the heart of independent music. Higdon went on to say that this was “profoundly rewarding, because I’m not making money at this, and it eats up all my time and energy.”

Whilst the mainstream media has been dominated over recent years by the filthy rock and roll of Detroit and the fashionists of New York, the alternative elements of the Texan sound has been gathering pace from its Austin home. Intrusions into the conscience of British indie kids have come from stargazing axe men such as Explosions In The Sky, but Higdon and Peek-A-Boo have a lot more to offer than just space bound guitar noodling. Their perception of Texas can be found in the liberal slacker sounds of Black Lipstick, who take the ethics of Sonic Youth with the driving repetition of the Velvet Underground and an unhealthy interest in your girlfriend. In Europe, Peek-A-Boo records are released through German label Glitterhouse, who tend to rather oddly specialise in Alt-Country. Higdon explains this mismatch, “We’re not country or Americana, but we’re from Texas, so I guess we’re infused with just a little Southern heritage.” It’s this summery rustic appeal juxtaposed with slightly seedy nights and a redneck drawl of vocal, re-iterating a terminal lack of money that make Black Lipstick stand out. And by the way their new second album 'Sincerely' is more than worth the overseas shipping from www.peekaboorecords.com.

Peek-A-Boo records seem to have the indie world at their feet, captained by a clever and focussed young entrepreneur and a roster as diverse as Noah’s Ark; the Texan indie scene is set to go marching onward. As arch-Texans At The Drive-In once said, “From Austin’s yellow brick road, this is forever.”
















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