artist spotlight: Michael Garrett Rae

fields is proud to pair with Austin’s Little Pink Monster Gallery to bring you the artist spotlight series, a collection of interviews conducted by the folks at Little Pink Monster, working in tandem with our editors to showcase some of the most interesting visual artists here in Austin and beyond. Some of these artists have exhibited with Little Pink Monster, and as fans of the wonderful women behind the LPM Gallery, we are excited to be able to provide a platform to introduce them to a wider audience. The last interview of this series features local artist and musician Michael Garrett Rae.

Los Buenos Boys performing at EAST 2015
Los Buenos Boys performing at EAST 2015

Rae performing as Los Buenos Boys during EAST 2015.

Michael Garrett Rae is a man of many talents. He is an artist who designs children's books that may or may not actually be for children. He is the one man tour de force behind the musical act Los Buenos Boys. And he is a big proponent of "racking," an activity which involves putting your leg up on something with the knee bent at a right angle. He can often be found working on some creative pursuit somewhere in Austin at any given time of day.

A quick Google search brings up music videos featuring you and your friends in total shenanigans, often with you showcasing a wide variety of talent, including one that surprised me. How long have you been aware of racking? Did you invent it, and why is it important to share with others?

MGR: Well, racking was initially invented by Dustin Flannery-McCoy and Andrew Moorehead. How it happened, I can’t say, but, you know, it immediately became something of a sensation. This simple act really encourages interaction and obliterates awkwardness. If you were at a party and didn’t know what to do, just rack! The essence of the rack is its social function.

You may be one of the only living artists in Austin. By that, I mean that you can be seen participating in group murals, creating children’s books, performing, hosting events, creating fantastic outfits, sketching for days, and generally weaving a lyrical web of total unadulterated creativity. When I first visited your studio, your most recent work took the form of “kids” books. These days, your focus seems to be on Los Buenos Boys. Can you tell us a little about how you pick which projects you will work on? And, specifically, can you tell us a little more about Los Buenos Boys?

MGR: If there is no outside catalyst—like someone saying “Hey, want to do this project?”—then I generally follow my nose, my butt, my dick and my stomach, in that order. Los Buenos Boys is my new musical project. It’s kind of a DIY-punk-rock-reggae-mariachi-classic-country-type thing that is intended to be portable, pretty to look at, and fun to dance to. But also good to weep to, or to throw up, or be born to or what have you. Lots of moods. Pure moods. Different moods.

Who is in Los Buenos Boys?

MGR: It’s just me.

You just recently gave your first performance as Los Buenos Boys at Little Pink Monster’s EAST showcase. Are you new to performing your music to audiences?

MGR: Actually, no. I was in Teen Vogue in high school for a “Bands to Watch” blurb about my band The Big Boo. We formed the band so that Keyboard, aka Noah DeVore (the real genius behind The Big Boo) could open for Polysics, which was this really amazing futurist Japanese raw-knuckled Devo rip-off that was booked at this all-ages punk venue we were raised in, and it was the highest-attended show in their history. It maxed out on capacity in like a heartbeat, a nanosecond. I had learned the songs an hour earlier in the parking lot.

Wow, Teen Vogue. That’s funny and cool. Do you have a framed copy of the feature in a shrine somewhere?

MGR: I could tell you the sequence of events that ultimately produced this outcome, but I cannot explain or account for it. I peaked early.

Are you still writing books for children?

MGR: Only when the children force me to.

Are you writing anything at the moment?

MGR: Well, I’ve been writing and revising the vocal book for my forthcoming Los Buenos Boys record. It’s got a salty sea scent, thematically speaking, only it’s very Western and it is certainly and definitely about love and affection and sweetness and light, but it’s also about the shadow side of the coin where our darkness and animal cravings dwell. It’s about elemental man thrashing in the lip curl of some nasty breaker—no, better yet, a rogue wave the size of the Sears Tower. And shmoopy love feelings. And nuanced social critique. And existential slapstick. So that’s what I’m writing now.

What is the Los Buenos Boys record going to be called?

MGR: It’s going to be called Only Time Will Tell.

When can we expect its release?

MGR: Only time will tell.

If there was one thing that you could call a linchpin or a driving force in your creative life, what would you say? And would you be answering honestly?

MGR: I don’t know that I have a single driving force. Rather, I consider my life a driving force. Yeah, it’s true, I don’t feel like there is anything external driving my art. I feel like it’s going to happen. I can’t separate myself from myself.

Are you scared of anything? Disease? Death? Hangnails? Sharks? Sharknados?

MGR: I’m afraid of having a gigantic thunderstorm hit while I’m stranded on Mount Everest at night.

In your absolute most wildest dreams, in your perfect manifested vision, with no limits whatsoever, what would you say is the next step for Los Buenos Boys?

MGR: Los Buenos Boys is more about the process than any end result. Certainly, we will have a record, a thing to hold in your hand. But the emphasis is on the process of being in the band and making music, and that necessarily needs to be shared with people because at the heart of every friendship, there is rock and roll.

Untitled Sketches
Untitled Sketches

untitled sketches

Interview by Annie Wells. A video of Rae performing as Freak Week, his musical project prior to Los Buenos Boys, can be found here.