When South by Southwest creative director Brent Grulke died unexpectedly last year, the loss was keenly felt among Austin’s music scene.
But from tragedy came hope: The True Believers, a seminal Austin rock act featuring luminaries like Jon Dee Graham alongside Alejandro Escovedo and his brother, Javier, reunited to perform at September’s “Grulkefest,” a memorial concert held at Austin City Limits Live at the Moody Theatre. (Grulke had mixed sound for the True Believers in the early ‘80s.) Along with bandmates Denny DeGorio and Rey Washam, Javier Escovedo was pleasantly surprised by the reunion, coming after years of inactivity and the belated release of the True Believers’ studio albums in 1994.
“We got up there to play and ... a lot of it was probably the occasion, just everybody coming together for Brent,” Escovedo says. “We just played real well and had a great time seeing each other again.”
After performing at the 2013 SXSW music festival, the band has showed no signs of slowing down, recording new material and playing spot dates across the region. The True Believers will roar into Grapevine Saturday as part of the city’s Main Street Days Festival. Reflecting on the reunion during a break from rehearsals in Austin, Javier Escovedo says he wasn’t sure if the group would keep going.
After “Grulkefest,” there were casual jokes about continuing the True Believers’ comeback.
“I was just worried about how it was going to feel,” Escovedo says. “That was one of the best parts about it; it was such a good feeling [at “Grulkefest”]. I have good memories of the True Believers, and we achieved a lot. ”
The quintet overcame what Escovedo describes as “a mess of a rehearsal” last fall to lock into place, no doubt helped by the fact that every member has remained active in music since the True Believers drifted apart in the late ‘80s.
“I think everybody realizes it’s a special thing, so we all have a lot of respect for each other,” Escovedo says.
The True Believers haven’t had any music commercially released since 1994, when Rykodisc packaged the band’s first two albums together as the single release Hard Road. But reconnecting has inspired new songwriting, with two fresh tracks, Gipsy and Dedications, available for purchase via the band’s website, thetroobs.com.
“The plan is, as far as I know right now, to do some more recording,” Escovedo says. “We’re playing a couple weekends in a row and in between, we’ll do some recording. ... I’m thinking we’re going to put a record out and play around the country and in Europe.”
Escovedo pauses for a moment when he’s asked if the True Believers, so full of sonic fury and a style spanning multiple genres, was ahead of its time in 1980s Austin. Is it possible the True Believers are getting a second act, and enjoying being appreciated in real time?
“I think we were [ahead of our time],” Escovedo finally says. “Some people weren’t ready for it at that time, and now, it’s just so much easier. Everybody’s really into it.”