It’s just past midnight at a Sixth Street rock club, and Later Days is taking the stage, the last of four bands on a Saturday night bill. This is still a relatively new experience for them: Formed less than a year ago, they’ve played only a dozen or so live shows.
You wouldn’t know it by the way they unleash their fury on the modest-sized crowd of fans and newcomers that have stuck around for the full night. Steamrolling through an eight-song set drawn mostly from their upcoming album “Lost in the Sound,” the five members mesh so tightly that it seems like they could have been playing together for years.
At the center of the sonic maelstrom is lead singer Brendan Radomski, a kinetic presence who uses the whole stage and puts everything into personal lyrics that often build toward a dramatic emotional release. He’s flanked by guitarists Nate Pozen and Eric Braun, whose chance meeting at a show about a year ago led to Later Days’ formation. Behind them, veteran Austin punk-rock drummer Sam Rich and bassist Mat Onkst, the group’s newest member, propel the songs with powerful blasts of steady rhythm.
In a town renowned more for indie and Americana than hard-edged rock ’n’ roll, Later Days might face an uphill battle getting noticed. But there’s a growing community here for those who recall fondly the post-hardcore and emo sounds that rose to the fore of American rock music a couple of decades ago.
“There’s been a resurgence of this late ’90s, early 2000s kind of music, and it’s a great culture,” says Pozen. He cites downtown venue Barbarella’s monthly Jimmy Eat Wednesday shows, a nod to emo trendsetters Jimmy Eat World, as a prime example. “It’s always packed with the kind of people that go to the shows that we play,” he says. “I think it’s something that’s just starting to grow.”
Braun says that growth is evident among musicians drawn toward such sounds as well. “There’s a tight-knit group of bands that stick together and help each other out,” he says. “There’s the whole emo revival and the post-hardcore revival, and I feel like that’s starting to come to fruition in Austin a little bit.”
Rich says he’s seen it, too, though it took him by surprise. “I didn’t know that scene actually existed in Austin,” says Rich, who also plays with local bands Already Dead and the Del-Vipers. “When we played our first show as Later Days, I could not believe how many people were at these shows. I had no idea this was still something going down. I remember just being floored, and I was so happy that it would work.”
That first show was at Fine Southern Gentlemen, an east Austin clothing shop that has also become a DIY venue for bands looking to work outside the city’s standard club environs. Pozen says the recent closure of venues such as Holy Mountain and Red 7 initially led the group toward such alternative outlets.
They’ve gradually been expanding their range in recent months. Later Days has played shows at Red River staple Sidewinder and the recently opened South Austin Brewery, as well as new hard-rock haven Grizzly Hall, where they’ll return for their record-release party on Feb. 17.
After the record comes out, they’ll do a 10-day East Coast run, their first tour outside of the state. They recently bought a touring vehicle, which Onkst christened “Jean Claude Damn Van.” In the meantime, they band has played a few shows around the state, making weekend jaunts to cities including San Antonio, Dallas and Denton.
They also played in San Angelo, where drummer Rich grew up before moving to Austin in 2000. Like most of his bandmates, he moved to Austin to play music. Braun came 10 years ago from Illinois, jumping on an opportunity to open Steak & Shake’s first South Austin location. Onkst, who took over for original bassist Dave Hawkins a few months ago, moved here from Kentucky to play music three years ago. That’s about when Radomski arrived from Houston for a job; compared to the other members, he is relatively new to playing in bands.
Pozen, an Austin native, moved back from New Jersey around the same time, but he didn’t plan to join a band. “Oddly enough, nobody knows this, I actually moved here to get away from music — to stop playing music,” he reveals to his bandmates.
Well, that didn’t work out. “Yeah, right,” he says with a laugh. “I had been in a band for seven years, and I was ready to do something else. I was tired of the grind, and wanted to come hang out with my family and stuff. And that lasted for about three months, and I started playing in bands again.”
Asked about what music they bonded over and artists they look up to, various members mention the likes of Third Eye Blind, the Goo Goo Dolls and Hot Water Music. Another touchstone was Sunny Day Real Estate, whose song “Every Shining Time You Arrive” Later Days covered for a one-off Bandcamp release last fall.
They’re careful, though, not to box themselves in. “We’re not trying to do a specific thing; it’s just what we do,” Pozen says. “The music is an amalgamation of everything that we love and do.”
Rich sums it up nicely: “We’re genre neutral.”
AUSTIN360 ARTIST OF THE MONTH, FEBRUARY 2017: Later Days
Members: Brendan Radomski (lead vocals); Nate Pozen (guitar, vocals); Eric Braun (guitar, vocals); Mat Onkst (bass); Sam Rich (drums).
Recordings: “Lost in the Sound,” out Feb. 17.
Record-release show: Feb. 17 at Grizzly Hall.
Austin360 video: See the band perform in our studio at austin360.com/artist-month.