If you’re around Austin on a well-weathered weekend, you’re bound to cross paths with TC Superstar at some point.
by Joanne Xu
With their free spirited choreography and boppy synths, the performance group-slash-band seems to have a big brother effect of sorts over the local crowds. In the same way that their most recent album R&D reads like a heart-to-heart conversation, watching TC Superstar perform just feels like you’ve gone out with friends who happened to appear on stage. A night spent with TC Superstar requires plenty of dance-induced sweat — it goes against the group’s very DNA to stand still.
When they’re all together, it’s clear why in an icebreaker game they’ve just referred to themselves as a collective. Whereas most bands of a similar sound focus heavily on bolstering the auditory experience,
even TC Superstar’s frontman Connor McCampbell insists that dancing — movement, really — is inseparable from the music. One without the other simply wouldn’t be TC Superstar.
Ahead of a humid Friday night show, The Recreationalist met six of the eight member group at their North Austin home base. As some polished their performance looks, others hydrated in preparation. The band’s chemistry was effortlessly apparent. Thankfully for us, Connor, LB, Francis, Aaron, Yuriko, and Emily (missing: Julio and Mitch) enveloped us in what felt like a colloquial group hug, riffing straight into conversation as seamlessly as they would on stage.
On Coming Together
LB: So this all starts with Connor. Once upon a time Connor was alone in his room —
Connor: I’m still always just alone. I was just in the garage all damn day.
LB: — and you made a whole album and decided to create TC Superstar. And what it looks like now is pretty much what he’d pictured.
Connor: Yeah, we’ve done well. If I’m being honest in my reflection, when I first started it I just really wanted to do music and have a band. And I thought, if I was going out on a Thursday night, what kind of band would make me come back, or listen more, or just make me really feel something? I love dancing and knew that would have to be part of the experience. If you’re four people standing still playing music, I love to listen to that. But when I’m at a show I really want to dance along. The band wouldn’t be anything without the dance element.
LB: I was, and am, a dancer and choreographer so you asked me to help out with recruiting some other dancers. At first it was just Emily and Francis that were choreographing with me. Then a little bit later down the line we decided that we wanted four, and that Riko would be perfect. And Aaron came in a bit later.
If you’re four people standing still playing music, I love to listen to that. But when I’m at a show I really want to dance along.
On Finding Synergy
Emily: It’s been a constant balancing act.
Connor: Everybody does everything. There’s too much work to do, even with a band of eight people. There’s too much stuff to do.
LB: I mean we’re self-managed.
Connor: We do our own social media, we run our own merch store. Up until this next tour we’ve done all of our own tour booking. We do all of our live management. We make our own costumes. We do all of our own design in-house. We screen print all of our merch. It’s a really DIY band.
LB: The dream is to turn this into a full time gig. And we don’t just hope for it, we work really hard.
Connor: I don’t think we’ve ever just lucked out with any opportunities. Everything we’ve done is just pure grind. Just brute force. There’s no cutting corners anywhere. We’re just like: we’re going to play three shows a week until people know that we play shows.
Emily: I think that’s when it helps to have so many people, too. Because if I’m having an off week, someone else is having a good week. And then when they want an off week, I’ll step in. Except Connor. You work all the time.
Aaron: Connor gets a flat tire every now and then.
Connor: I do. But it helps having this exact team. Everyone is wildly talented and willing to pitch in with time and energy to help out where we can.
Aaron: It helps to be friends too. I enjoy being around y’all.
Connor: We were a group of friends first. Even though we were more of two separate friend groups in college, we very quickly became one support system. You’re people that I can trust when I’m having a bad day. It feels like a collective or a community, where everyone pitches in their trade. And we all come together and make some cool stuff.
I love that I don’t feel confined to make something within an ‘aesthetic.’ I get to come in and do what I want and that is the aesthetic.
On Being Home
The Recreationalist: If I asked you guys what your most memorable performance has been, would you all say the same one?
All: Cheer Up Charlies in Austin.
LB: Specifically our release party.
Connor: It was probably the biggest show we’ve had in town so far, when we released R&D. We just played the album through from top to bottom. It was the first time we’d done 90% of the songs live. A lot of the choreography was untested. We had a lot of guest vocalists on the album and they all came out and did their little piece.
There was a line all the way out to the curb outside of Cheer Ups for the entire set. And it just kept growing and growing. People were just standing on tables everywhere. It wasn’t our craziest show necessarily, but it was cool because people were actually listening and watching and just being a part of the space.
Aaron: It was a longer set than normal too.
Yuriko: It was over an hour of dancing straight through! I remember crying. It was really emotional.
LB: Because everyone that we loved was there.
Connor: All the friends, everyone that ever supported us within the scene. Everyone came out at once. It was really beautiful.
On Staying Recreational
Connor: On tour, it’s bad to be sedentary all day and then jump straight out of the car and exercise on stage for an hour. So whenever we get an hour or two, or an off day, everyone usually just takes some time to themselves and goes off on their own to explore. We also played a lot of sports on the last tour.
Yuriko: Jump rope!
Aaron: And football.
Connor: We’re not football people, but on the road I guess we are.
LB: The dancers do yoga all the time, and before every show.
Connor: We’re a very pro-stretching band. We’ve gotta stay limber, stay loose.
Emily: I also think our endurance gets better the more we’re on tour.
Aaron: On the mental health side, it’s always nice for me to gain the different perspectives that I do on tour. It kind of shakes my box up a little bit and I’m like ‘woah!’ Who am I outside of Austin? What is it like to be a human in this part of the world? On the long drives, there’s a lot of time to think and look out the window. I don’t usually get that much time to just sit and be still.
Connor: It’s really refreshing to get out of Austin for a second, see some other stuff. And then come back with a fresh ability to do what you need to do.
LB: All four of us choreograph which makes the movement so much more diverse. We’re similar in our backgrounds from going to school together, but we have very different ways of moving.
Francis is really sharp, accentuated. Her musicality is really complex. Every time we have to learn Francis’ choreography we’re like ‘oh no, get ready.’
Emily: I think Francis hears things that I don’t hear. And we need that.
Francis: I think how we first started dancing and our upbringings are what carry us now. I was trained in tap and Mexican folklorico, so there’s a lot of footwork in that.
LB: I wanted to be a professional ballerina.
Yuriko: Same. That’s why I choreograph a bit flowier.
Francis: It’s just a preference of how people listen and want to move. But I love that I don’t feel confined to make something within an ‘aesthetic.’ I get to come in and do what I want and that is the aesthetic.
Connor: It’s also cool watching you four interpret each other’s choreography, and see the dance grow from show to show.
Francis: Last week I was having an internal dialogue with myself on stage — things feel different with the element of performance. Learning it feels different than practicing it, which feels different than performing it. And each time you’re in a different venue or in front of different people or performing with different pairings, it changes. Live performance definitely impacts decision making in the moment.
Connor: I think that’s what keeps it exciting to watch. A Thursday or Saturday show feels completely different than a Monday show depending on who’s dancing and how the crowd reacts.
Francis: It’s always funny when I run into someone in the bathroom and they ask us what’s going to be different this set. We’re like —
Yuriko: We don’t know! Let’s find out!
See more of TC Superstar on their Instagram and website.
Photos courtesy of Jesus Acosta and Sydney Mike-Mayer.