Just one album into their catalogue, Austin’s Lexi and the Bleached Roses have already figured out something other bands might struggle to pull off – that is, a marriage between easy acoustic indie rock/pop and traditional, string-heavy Americana.
It’s a fairly hard balance to strike. Do it wrong, and you can unintentionally come across as a novelty – a bunch of old-timey-fixated jokers who are trying to pretend they stepped out of a 1931 shack and leaped eight decades ahead to save music from 808s and processing.
Fortunately, that’s not what Lexi Cardenas (pictured above) and her band are. Their concoction of indie, folk, and string music – driven by singer Cardenas’ violin and Mario Salas’ hypnotic cello – brought something both fresh and classic to Radio Coffee & Beer on Saturday night, suggesting Lexi and the Bleached Roses are one of Austin’s best up-and-comers in the indie-folk game.
Though their strings certainly play a starring role, both the originality and quality of the Bleached Roses’ music are bolstered by their refusal to be stuck in the distant past. For one, synth player Mo Paynter is around to augment those traditional tools Cardenas and Salas carry (along with drummer Jacob Wiviott). For another, the group’s melodic sensibility is steeped in the folk-pop territory of the last three or four decades, with Cardenas keeping her pleasant but powerful voice right in the middle of the road. It all makes their music perfect for an intimate venue like Radio, and on Saturday night they delivered.
Several moments of Saturday’s set could’ve been picked out as highlights. The title track from their highly accessible 2017 debut album, Sweet Desire, propelled the show forward early on, with Wiviott’s driving, folky beat and Salas’ hypnotic cello standing out. Or the highlight could’ve been the way the group completely transformed Nirvana’s “Heart-Shaped Box” into their own. Opening with Cardenas laying down a plucked violin line for looping, this version of the nearly quarter-century-old grunge anthem sounded utterly original after its folk-pop facelift. At each chorus, Cardenas lodged the song’s “new complaint” three times, with two loud rounds followed by a quieter one. The unexpected dynamic shift worked, and so did the transformation of the song. “Waiting,” a ballad driven by acoustic guitar and cello, provided another captivating highlight, recalling some of the best 1990s performances of MTV’s “Unplugged.”
The closer, a louder, more urgent version of their song “Again” than the version that appears on Sweet Desire, fittingly included Cardenas asking a question that could be posed to the Bleached Roses’ live audience: “Will you see me again?” Their performance Saturday gave their audience every reason to do so, and to look forward to the new music the group is planning to release this spring.
FULL ARTICLE HERE.
Here at my office, if you’ve had a CD for only two months and it’s already skipping because of dirt, grime and fingerprint oils are smeared on it, you know it’s been loved. Kind of like that dogeared book with the notes and scribbles in the margin, the one with the cracked spine and coffee cup stains on the cover.
Well, my copy of Sweet Desire may not be that thoroughly “loved,” but it has certainly been receiving a lot of airplay here in the offices of Red Dirt Report.
In fact, it was here in the offices of Red Dirt Report where I first met the classically-trained violinist Lexi Cardenas, who, at the time, was playing fiddle for the Austin, Texas-based indie-rock band Messages, who were coming through Oklahoma on a summer tour.
As the four-piece group played an acoustic set in our office library, I was struck by the power and passion coming from Cardenas’s strings and voice. Plus, she had a great sense of humor and genuine warmth – the sort you sense from musicians who truly love their craft. After all, she’s been playing violin since she was a child.
When I interviewed the band, Cardenas, a native of El Paso, said that while she cites everyone from Iszhak Perlman to Mark O’Connor as influences, it was the band Yellowcard, and their use of a violin on one of their songs that made her realize the violin could be considered “cool.”
Well, two summers later, and the bilingual Cardenas is back (with Messages presumably “on hold”) with a new musical project where she is the frontwoman and violin player for The Bleached Roses, which is primarily her and cellist Mario Salas, along with side musicians, including a drummer for live performances.
The plucked strings and moody tone on “Interlude” give one the feeling that you are hearing atmospheric-but-rootsy soundtrack music on a Lasse Hallström film. But then that goes right into the spare power of “Not Your Girl.”
“Reprise” follows the feel of “Interlude” with acoustic guitar utilized on the subtle beauty of “Waiting.”
But it’s the midtempo title track that really holds my attention on Cardenas’s debut LP. It's a desire that comes from a very deep place for Cardenas.
Concluding Sweet Desire is "Emerald Heart," with its aching build-up and release, giving the listener a true sense of the talent coming from the woman holding the violin and singing (and writing) these songs.
Cardenas, as she told Red Dirt Report in a September 2015 interview, is passionate about introducing musical instruments to young people on Austin’s east side – particularly at-risk kids - so they can learn to play a musical instrument. It’s calle the Sarinda Project.
Lexi and the Bleached Roses Reinventing the Texas Music Scene with Sweet Desire
Who said violins were exclusively for classical music? Certainly not Lexi Cardenas. Lexi and The Bleached Roses have been reinventing the central Texas music scene by proving that classical instruments can do it better.
The Austin-based band started challenging the norms of indie rock music after Lexi, lead vocalist and violinist, decided that forming a band was the perfect idea. Initially starting to record their debut album, Sweet Desire, as a solo artist, Lexi soon realized that creating an entire album by herself was extremely hard work. She enlisted the help of Cello player, Mario Salas, and by the end of the album recording had an entire band to help her out. Lexi admits she’s learned a lot of important lessons during the recording process, saying “I’ve learned I cant do everything myself, and that’s okay”.
After being classically trained in music for 21 years, Frontwoman Lexi sure has a lot to give. Starting her training aged seven, she progressed to play in her first band, The Texas Fiddlers, during high school. This stage during her music career was clearly a defining moment, as she describes, “that’s where I first learned about amplifying my violin and a completely different kind of audience.” After continuing to learn more about pushing the boundaries of music at college, the band is where she really let her creativity shine, saying “This group is a culmination of all the styles I’ve learned.”
The band’s debut album, Sweet Desire, takes a real twist from the classical instrument stereotype. With the music ‘driven more by layers and instrumentation’ the group truly broaden the horizons of indie rock, country, and Americana vibes. The band’s inspirations are plentiful, counting Arcade Fire as one of their top influences. Mo from the band describes, “Bands like that make me want to work harder to be a better musician.”
The album’s title is based around the featuring track, ‘Sweet Desire’. It’s a completely honest track, based around Lexi’s “road to self discovery”. A song about accepting yourself and embracing self confidence, the country twang is pure, her vocals are authentic and the hint of indie gives it that courageous vibe. The song is truly representative of Lexi coming into her own, as she states “This song describes a pivotal point of my life where I decided to stand up and just be myself.” Other tracks on the album include ‘Not Your Girl‘, a stripped back, tough, girl power song. It begins with just Lexi’s strong vocals and her violin, before the songs depth bulks up as it progresses.
Beside the album’s success and popularity, Mo offers his advice to aspiring musicians, encouraging “Don’t let anyone get in your way or tell you, you can’t do something or that your dreams and goals are unrealistic. I’m a true believer that hard work pays off”.
With their debut album released and under their belts, the band is already looking well into the future and beginning plans on album number two. Mo says “I’ve really been diving into songwriting right now anticipating our next album” Mo anticipates it’ll be even better as they look to ‘challenge themselves as a band’. After reflecting on her past experiences, Lexi predicts a fruitful future for the band, as she says “I’ve played in so many projects over the years, but this one I feel has the greatest potential.” As well as a new album, the band promises a stage tour too. Mo assures us, “it’s going to be a lot of fun”.
Middle Tennessee Music - Interview with Lexi and The Bleached Roses
Lexi and the Bleached Roses is the musical collective of Lexi Cardenas, violinist, composer, and singer-songwriter. In Bleached Roses’ new album, Lexi puts forth her 21 years of classical violin training and years of live music experience living in Austin, Texas to create a sound that bridges the gap between the old and new. Her wide range of influences range from Bach to Arcade Fire.
In this interview spotlight, we chat with Lexi about influences, her latest project, the digital music world and more.
Where are you from and what style of music do you create? (In your own words, not necessarily in marketing terms or by popular genre classifications.)
Lexi: We’re from Austin, TX. This band grew out of my solo loop violin project and you can hear that in our music. It’s layered and very cinematic. I think our music is what would happen if a pop song and string quartet had a baby.
What led you down this path of music and what motivates you to stay the course?
Lexi: I’ve been playing the violin since I was seven years old and have played in orchestras, rock bands, and everything in between. When my last band stopped playing I picked up a loop pedal and started writing. The violin is not a solo instrument so it was a way to be able to play my songs. I first asked a cellist to join me, then synth, and now we’re a full band. Like every serious band, we want to travel the world and play a different show every night, but we set small attainable goals along the way to keep us motivated. First we just wanted to write and record an album. Now that we’re releasing it, we’re going on a small tour. By next summer I’d like to see us going on a larger US tour and getting ready to record a second album.
How is your new release different than previous ones? Did you set out to accomplish anything specific?
Lexi: This is our first release as Lexi and the Bleached Roses, but it is different from anything I’ve ever done. I tried to bring the pop songs I write on guitar and my classical training and put them together in a way that flowed. Some songs on this album are more straightforward while other are a little more avant-garde, but when you listen to it in its entirety it makes sense. With this album, I wanted to push a little farther than a typical song you hear every day, while keeping it digestible enough that you’ll want to keep listening.
Do you face challenges as an indie musician in a digital age? How has technology helped you (assuming it helps)?
Lexi: In a lot of ways, living in the digital age has helped as you can put your music on every online avenue and gain more exposure. Facebook’s sponsoring feature for example, is a fantastic way to reach a new audience when playing out of time shows. At the same time, the internet is so inundated with music, it’s that much harder to stand out.
Where can we connect with you online and discover more music?
Lexi: You can find us on bleachedroses.com or on Facebook at facebook.com/bleachedroses. We’re also on Spotify, iTunes, Google Play, etc.
Lexi and the Bleached Roses will be releasing their debut album Sweet Desire tonight at The Sidewinder in Austin, TX. They will be joined by Born Again Virgins, Elevaded, and Beta. Album now on all online platforms and Waterloo Records.
Music Monday Segment on CBS Austin: Lexi and the Bleached Roses
Trevor: You have a new album out which is absolutely thrilling. Tell me a little bit about it.
Lexi: I played in a lot of bands and when my last band broke up I got a loop pedal and I started writing songs and playing live. As our sound got bigger I got a band behind me and we started playing live and decided it's time to put out an album. The music started as all violin loops. It has some classical undertones and some pop songs so it's a little bit of everything. We're excited to put it out. It's a good mix and it all flows together.
Trevor: We've been listening to it in our office preparing for your visit. It's been some great music to listen to and jam. Our productivity level is going up a little. So with every great release comes an awesome party. Tell us about your album release party.
Lexi: We'll be releasing our album July 22nd at The Sidewinder. Doors are at 9:30 and the first band starts at 10. It's going to go all night and we are very excited to have it out. We'll have the albums out for sale that day. We'll also have the albums online that day.
KUTX 98.9 Austin Music Minute - Hard Luck Wednesday Night
You’ve got two great performances to catch at one of your Austin Music Minute maven’s favorite hangouts, the Hard Luck Lounge, 3526 E. 7th St.
Tonight’s show kicks off at 8 p.m. with violinist, composer and singer Lexi Cardenas, whom you may have seen perform with fellow songwriter Scott Collins, as well as with her musical collective, Lexi and the Bleached Roses. Cardenas recently released the track “Sweet Desire,” featured on today’s AMM.
Then at 9 p.m., Shane Cooley takes center stage. The International Acoustic Music Award winner has had his music featured on radio as well as national television, and performs with his band The Midnight Girls around Austin and on tour.
Your AMM host was told that tonight’s show would be solo performances by Cardenas and Cooley, but it looks like they may have some accompaniment on board. Maybe even their respective bands? You won’t know unless you go. Recommended.
Ovrld Exclusive Track Premiere: Lexi Cardenas and the Bleached Roses “Sweet Desire”
Lexi Cardenas has long been a force to be reckoned with in Austin music, both as a member of anthemic indie pop ensemble Messages and in her solo shows, where she uses her violin and looping pedals to sound like a one person orchestra. But on her new single “Sweet Desire,” Lexi and her band the Bleached Roses show off a knack for heartbreakingly raw and intimate songwriting. The simple beat and full acoustic guitar frame Cardenas’ secretive vocals perfectly, giving the song a subtle tension that’s further augmented by Cardenas’ plucked violin rift and the melancholic bowed chords it transforms into. Cardenas’ lyrics are devoted to rejecting other people’s notions of what you can and cannot be but the sorrowful melody make it clear that that bravery and courage to stay true to yourself brings with it considerable cost, making the song far more powerful than a generic “just be you!” anthem. Check it out for yourself, then come out to Sidewinder on Saturday, July 22nd for Lexi Cardenas and the Bleached Roses’ album release show with Born Again Virgins and more!