TC Superstar shot into the Austin scene with a debut album and a fully choreographed performance act at the cusp of summer’s end and the fall semester’s outset. In the months since, they’ve played through West Campus’ co-ops with a mission to revive the ethos of dance music.
Story by Elise Barbin
Photos courtesy of Fred Tally Foos and Katy Coleman
ORANGE Magazine spoke to Connor McCampbell and LB Flett, the songwriter and choreographer behind TC Superstar, about their project’s beginnings, creative methodology and inspiration. TC Superstar’s debut album “Masc” is available on Spotify and Apple Music, as well as on cassette via Porch Fire Records.
Can you tell us about the origins of TC Superstar?
Connor: “I came up with the concept for “Masc" and then in like two weeks, wrote all the instrumentals, went to Europe for six weeks and finished writing the lyrics. I asked Mitch and Julio to back me up live and asked LB to help with choreography and find dancers. It all came together pretty quickly. It was like a month after I got back from Europe that we had our first show which went really well. It’s incredible! I had this little brain child about the aesthetic and the vision, the style and the artistic purpose and how we would perform live, who would do it, and it went 100% perfect. That never happens.”
LB: “I feel like this is something that I always wanted to do but I never knew that I wanted to do. So when you [Connor] approached me, I was just like, ‘yeah, of course.’”
Connor: “When I was writing a lot of the songs, I was like 'how would we dance to this live?' I left in some breaks of ‘let’s not have a beat here’ so we can have some weird, experimental shit going on. It’s definitely a different project for me and for you.”
LB: “Yeah, I’ve never done anything like this. Usually I’m on proscenium stages doing something experimental, postmodern, like screaming on stage shit.”
Connor: “And now you’re on the floors of co-ops.”
LB: “It’s really nice to do something that’s fun where I can interact with the people around me and get everyone dancing.”
Did you write the music with the performance aspect in mind or did you go back and think about that after you’d written the music?
Connor: “Totally with it in mind. I think I’ve gotten better as I’ve gotten older, and I hope to keep getting better at recognizing how people respond to different things at shows. There’s that song “Feelings,” and the song conceptually is about men being able to understand and articulate their feelings and being okay with that. So the first half of the song is super dance-y and upbeat and fun and you don’t have to listen to the words. You can just dance. The second half of the song is ambient and there’s a meditation chant that goes on. I just want everything to shut down and I want everyone to go inside themselves and have this weird experience. Some people just end up talking through that part of the show and other people really connect to it. That’s sort of what I saw coming. I like how it’s weird. It’s like if someone in the middle of a DJ set on a dance floor played a Brian Eno song. People don’t know what to do.”
LB: “I love it when people are like talking and then they get quieter and are like ‘Oh shit, should we get quiet? Did this turn serious? Are we not a party anymore?’”
Connor: “When we do that live we just all sit down.”
LB: “It makes people switch gears.”
Connor: “Artistically, that’s what I want the song to do. It’s not supposed to be just about fun, when you dance the whole time, you can forget about it. Here, let’s stop and think about it. What if we really thought about what we’re feeling during experiences?”
LB, how did you incorporate the music into your choreography once you heard it?
LB: “I listened to all the songs Connor wanted to perform, a lot before I even started. That’s just how I work all the time. I listen to it over and over again. We had discussed before the aesthetics and what we wanted it to look like, artists like St. Vincent and Chairlift who incorporate live dancing in their sets.”
Connor: “Of Montreal.”
LB: “Yeah, Of Montreal. So I had an idea of what he wanted it to look like and I translated that into movement. My bedroom has big mirrors so I use that as my studio, and I just made some stuff and sent him some videos of me dancing in my bedroom and he was like perfect. For me, the movement is very... I don’t want to say easy because it’s not easy.”
Connor: “It’s easy for you.”
LB: “It’s easy for me [laughs]. It’s inspired by how people would really dance at these shows, like dance party dancing.”
Connor: “To the beat.”
LB: “Yeah, and also the way Connor dances has a lot to do with it too. He has a very unique way of dancing.”
Connor: “She [LB] was like ‘You dance like Napoleon Dynamite.’”
Would you say it’s more of a musical or a performance project or are they on equal footing?
Connor: “By the way the internet works, it’s mostly a musical project because to maintain any form of success or to get people to come out to shows, you gotta have people listening online. In the long run I’d want it to be equal, if not more focused on live performances. The live show has to exist. It’s about the dancing and the performance and interacting with the crowd. It’s music first, but it’s definitely not just a music project. I want it to be a holistic art project. We’re both on a mission to make dance mainstream, popular and accessible and have everybody involved in it. I’m trying to work in more visual art. I’ve made these giant silver panels with Jackson Pollock teal paint on them. I did the woodblock cut by hand for the album art because I was like ‘I believe in this! I want to make this an art project.’”
LB: “We sewed our own costumes even though I have no idea how to sew.”
Connor: “We’ve been hand printing everything. I was really inspired by Yves Klein. When I was in Europe, I saw some of his work and he came up with this one shade of blue. It’s like a royal blue, almost an indigo but it’s super unique and vibrant.”
LB: “Is that the one where he did a bunch of different projects and paintings but they’re all the same color?”
Connor: “Yes. It’s monochromatic and this super unique shade of blue. Somewhere I saw that he did this exhibition with that color and it’s so beautiful to me. Because it’s monochromatic, but there’s texture to everything. That’s totally a dream I’ve had many times. My aesthetic vision for the band is everything dripping in teal paint. I love teal! It’s not blue and it’s not green and so many people come up to me and say nice blue shirt, nice green shirt and I’m like ‘it’s got a name!’ It’s on the color spectrum. Teal and masculinity, that’s what we should be talking about.”
Do you have any future plans? You already have a debut album, you’re playing around town. What’s next?
Connor: “We’re playing bigger shows around town. We’re selling out Madison Square Garden.”
LB: “Music videos too.”
Connor: “Right now, we’re playing mostly West Campus shows. I want to get them on elevated stages downtown where we have a decent sound system and it sounds great. And people can see the dancers!”
LB: “Elevated stages.”
Connor: “I want to start playing some out of town shows. I want to start touring. I got an EP on the way called “Heat Death”. It’s five tracks long. It’s about humanity and environment and consumerism and death. So that is close to being done but I should probably wait a while before I release it. That’s what you’re supposed to do. It’s so easy to make music. Everyone acts like it’s the biggest deal in the world.”