Survive members on how Austin band’s music ended up on ‘Stranger Things’

  • Chad Swiatecki
  • Special to the American-Statesman
5:02 p.m Friday, July 29, 2016 Music

Kyle Dixon and Michael Stein had some modest hopes for what this fall had in store for their instrumental synth band Survive. With a new album due on well-regarded indie label Relapse Records, the pair thought their quartet would get something of a publicity push and more opportunities for touring and collaborations with higher-profile acts.

Then the television series “Stranger Things” premiered, and those reasonable ambitions now seem quaint and small-time.

That’s because Dixon and Stein, while working apart from the band, composed the title song and other key music for Netflix’s latest binge-worthy streaming series, earning them national acclaim and attention for their efforts.

The eerie, moody music helps propel the thriller, about the disappearance and arrival of children near a secretive laboratory, with some culture watchers putting the duo’s score on a level with the essential music from David Lynch’s iconic series “Twin Peaks.”

And so suddenly an Austin band – rounded out by Mark Donica and Adam Jones — that wasn’t known for playing many live shows or inserting itself into local happenings has a huge profile, is close to taking on management and is working on locking up a tour for the fall and beyond.

“The folks at Relapse (Records) didn’t really know about the show, so they just got a bigger gift than they could believe,” Dixon said, joking about the publicity that will now greet the Sept. 30 release of the album “RR7349.”

“We knew it was going to be a bigger deal than anything we’d done previously, but it was a bit of a surprise the way things took off.”

There’s no clear answer on why Dixon and Stein got tapped to try out some music for the show during its early production days. The two had some songs used in the 2014 thriller film “The Guest,” and their guess is that the producers of “Stranger Things” pulled their names from there and reached out.

The show’s music has enough in common with Survive’s recorded material that it’s reasonable to expect much larger crowds for its upcoming shows than those it received at occasional support slots for touring bands at clubs such as Mohawk and the now-closed Red 7.

What those fans will get with “RR7349” is a suite of nine menacing and moody tracks propelled by a small army of synthesizers, drum machines and other related electronic music gear. Stein describes the album, which has been finished since early 2015 and waiting for a label deal, as more structured and less ethereal than the band’s previous work.

“We had ideas about not using intense reverb and making everything clear, with more stuff going on,” he said. “There’s only one song with no drum tracks this time, so I think of it as being more on Earth than in space … for some reason it sounds like a desolate earth.”

That confrontational mood is likely what attracted attention from Relapse, a label mostly know for heavy metal and noise music and not electronic bands like Survive.

Dixon said he initially blanched at the idea of approaching the label when a friend connected to Relapse offered to have it listened to. But, in what looks to be a common approach for the band, the group saw it as a way to find a larger audience.

“The people who are fans of electronic music sort of stuff are going to find that music anyway, and we decided Relapse would be an opportunity to reach a different audience than we would with just an electronic label,” he said. “There’s a chance to cross over to people who like heavier music.”

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