Triumph of the chill 

Look Mexico CD
release show
with Only Thieves, An Introduction to Sunshine, the Pauses
8 p.m. Friday, Feb. 26
Back Booth, 407-999-2570


During his last show at NBC, Conan O'Brien made a plea to his young audience: "Please do not be cynical … it doesn't lead anywhere." It was a statement that registered with Matt Agrella, frontman of Tallahassee indie rockers Look Mexico.

"That was huge. In some way, I think it could wrap up the kind of vibe in Tallahassee," says Agrella. "Just do your own thing, be nice, and hopefully stuff will happen, you know?"

Agrella, a scruffy, conversationally scatterbrained, forever genial guy, doesn't reflect on O'Brien's philosophy with irony or even annoying sincerity, but with a hint of wistfulness. It's true, Agrella and Look Mexico are genuinely nice guys: The band's blog is more a collection of friendly musings, and he concludes our interview by congratulating me on the birth of my daughter, which he heard about through his publicist. But that touch of melancholy doesn't come from his days of working as a temp server for a banquet company. Like O'Brien, Agrella has just left his home base.

"Basically, Ryan `Slate`, the other `Look Mexico` guitarist, and I just started settling into Austin, Texas," reveals Agrella. "We just moved here and the rest of the guys will be here Tuesday coming up."

Agrella explains (but only after talking about his day job and how he met Look Mexico keyboardist Dave Pinkham) that he feared the band was getting too comfortable in Tallahassee. He says they all fell in love with Austin during tour stops there, and that he's already joined up with a side project, playing trombone in a jazz and funk band.

"I went to FSU for music, jazz and big band stuff," says Agrella. "So I'm excited, because in Tallahassee, I wouldn't be able to join some jazz and blues cover band. I found this within a few weeks of being `in Austin`. Oh yeah, there's also health insurance for musicians here." (HAAM, the Health Alliance for Austin Musicians, offers low-cost coverage to those who qualify.)

All of this shifting happens to coincide with the release of the band's sophomore effort, To Bed to Battle (which they demoed at Full Sail University), in late March. Whereas their 2007 debut, This Is Animal Music, struck a lo-fi, musically complex balance between breathable instrumental breaks and spare lyrical confessions, Agrella says the band hit a breakthrough during Battle's recording that led to more "balls-out" rock and, more importantly, more confident singing on Agrella's part.

"There was this huge turning point where I kind of had to sit back and get rid of all the distractions or whatever," says Agrella. "It ended up with me giving up drinking completely, which had been one of my pastimes before. So there was a huge lyrical inspiration."

Agrella confesses that the lengthy noodling Look Mexico is known for grew out of his own vocal insecurity, but judging from the jam-packed new single, "You Stay. I Go. No Following," in which Agrella's high-ceilinged falsetto and impassioned kiss-off lyrics can't seem to escape his throat quickly enough, it's something he overcame — enough to pack up and move to a highly competitive new city.

"We wanted to make sure each song was saying what we wanted to say," says Agrella. "Maybe sometimes it's easy to be the nice guy that can also easily get walked on, too. It's finding that balance. I'd like to be more known as a group of nice guys than a group of dicks."

a group of dicks."


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