The annual South By Southwest music and movie festival in Austin, Texas might be a couple of weeks away, but progressive rock band Black Ladder is making sure their fanbase is well aware of the event. The group, consisting of Shane Lamb (keyboard), Ray Cardenas (drums) and Clarence Riley IV (bass guitar), will be one of the many bands playing at SXSW.

The band came together from the ashes of other local bands in Austin, with Cardenas and Riley having come from Something Better and Lamb from The Tonewheels. ” I think Ray will agree with me when I say that Something Better was a polar opposite of Black Ladder,” said Riley. “Our ‘songs’ were more like ideas that were extended out to song length.” Added Cardenas, “It was more of template for what we could be doing.”

“We had a mix of pop, rock, and blues rock, with some progressive elements. We played a couple jazz songs as well,” said Lamb when talking about The Tonewheels. “It was a lot of fun, but it was hard to organize everyone.”

Black Ladder has been making the rounds in Austin, playing music that, while reminiscent of greats like Pink Floyd, also has elements that will attract music lovers of all types. “Based on audience reactions we’ve received at our shows, our music appeals to a broad demographic of people, who enjoy very different types of music, from hip-hop, rock, jazz, and more,” said Lamb.

The band’s aim is to emotionally affect their audience–to broaden their horizons without seeming too stuffy and analytical.

“By using different sounds in each song, I create a different soundscape for each of our songs,” said Lamb. “For some of our songs, like ‘Though the Tunnel,’ I want people to feel like they are on a high speed musical roller-coaster ride. For others, like ‘Blue Elegy,’ I try to create a more ambient feel. Every song has it’s own distinct personality.”

“For me, I want our audience to have a good alternative to what is constantly being shoved in their ears from popular radio stations and to just simply enjoy the music,” said Cardenas. “As with what Clarence stated, our instrumentals are completely about our and the audiences indulgence without getting too headstrong about the art.”

“Personally, I want people to get the theme of our songs,” said Riley. “With instrumental music, its harder to get on a conceptual level than songs with vocals. In a way, our audience has to work harder to get all of what our songs have to offer, and I think the payoff is worth it. I want them to feel similar emotions and stirs to those in my head and heart. It’s all about communication; we encode a message, they decode it and feel what they feel. The trick is to encode it all just right.”

Black Ladder will be playing during SXSW at the Red Eyed Fly March 14 at 10 p.m. Also, Black Ladder will also play at the Red Eyed Fly February 13 at the Battle Of The Bands at 11:00pm ($5 cover). To listen to Black Ladder online as well as check out their EP, check them out at their page, official MySpace page, and their Facebook page. If you want to be added to their email list (or audition to be their lead singer), contact them at

Black Ladder
Black Ladder

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By Monique Jones

Monique Jones blogs about race and culture in entertainment, particularly movies and television. You can read her articles at Racialicious, and her new site, COLOR . You can also listen to her new podcast, What would Monique Say.

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