At J.Forks Designs we gravitate towards people who live boldly. Professional musicians tend to embody this inspirational boldness no matter what genre of music they play. On our constant quest to find new music, we were introduced to Sara Houser, an incredibly talented musician based in our state capital, Austin, Texas. Houser is the leader behind the rock and roll band Löwin and a recent addition to The Golden Dawn Arkestra. From a visual standpoint, these two acts are polar opposites, but both bands have successfully created a memorable look. As a small, independent company that is in charge of our own image and marketing, we were excited to hear Houser’s take on the importance of creating a visual style and how it plays a role in the life of a professional musician.
“There are so many different schools of thought when it comes to what you wear on stage,” Houser explains when commenting on creating a visual style for a band. “Löwin is more about music that is representative of me, so I tend to dress like myself when I am on stage.... I wear Oxford Doc Martens pretty much every single day…. I love the 90’s dresses but I tend to dress the rest of myself down.” She describes her personal style as “rooted in the 90’s.”
“To contrast, the band that I just joined, Golden Dawn Arkestra, we are in full spaceship costume attire, and that is the identifying factor of that band.” Golden Dawn Arkestra describes their music as an avant-garde collective combining deep grooves and cinematic textures. No matter what look a band is striving for, it is important to develop a visual style. “I think that there is something to be said about being identifiable after you are done playing. It makes it easier for people to approach you. It is easier for people to remember you.” Having a memorable look plays a big role in marketing a band.
Music has always been a driving factor in Houser’s life, so it is no surprise that she is pursuing music professionally. She got her first keyboard at seven years old and sought out classical piano lessons when she was 11. “I was sort of like a small adult and found a piano player that I really liked and asked her for lessons before consulting my Mom and Dad.” At 15 Houser’s mother taught her how to write music. “Once I started writing music, that kind of became the thing I loved the most…. Songwriting was definitely my motivation with music.” Houser continued to study classical piano and songwriting through college while attending the Berklee College of Music. After graduating with a Bachelors in Music, she moved to Austin, Texas and picked up the electric guitar. “When I picked up the electric guitar, I got into a band called The Couch, which coincidentally enough, the lead singer and I are engaged now [laughs].... I learned how to play rock and roll in that band. I had not been in a true rock and roll band up until that point.”
A few years later, Houser debuted her creative passion project Löwin (which means “lion” in German) at the 2014 South by Southwest. Löwin consists of Houser (vocals, guitar and keys), Michael David Sanders (lead guitar and vocals), Nathan Ribner (bass), and Chris Degeorge (drums). Houser explains that she does not write particularly happy, feel-good music, so their visual look is more serious. “We have never been like a traditionally monochromatic or color coordinated band. I think we all have pretty similar styles….The guys are pretty much in straight laced flannel shirts, plaid, or a solid color tee shirt type of thing. The only thing that sets me apart is that I am the only woman in the band.”
As the leader, Houser is responsible for the marketing the band which in this day and age requires her to be at the helm of social media. “I think that the role of social media in a musician’s life is one thing we all have a love/hate relationship with. In that, we know it is important to present ourselves a certain way and maintain a good social media presence. But in the scheme of things, it is not really helping us write better songs…. So, I try to care enough about our image on social media, but I also try to not let it feel like I am carrying a rock on my shoulders or anything....If it were up to me, I would just have to write songs and perform. But as a band leader…I kind of have to be a social media guru.”
In any genre of music, it is vital for musicians to create a memorable look that is representative of the music. Whether an artist is performing a live show or posing for an album cover, a visual look gives the audience something to remember.
If you have not heard of Löwin, we strongly encourage you to check them out!