For one week, South by Southwest music festival houses flocks of performers and concertgoers eager to take in the music scene large and small. Unfortunately, some people only get one or two nights to perform and take in as much as humanly possible. Trap-step musical trio Watch The Duck made sure to make the most of their two nights in Austin both on and off the stage.
Jesse Rankins, Eddie Smith II and Oscar White (the Duck) are in full tour (and turn-up) mode, having tossed cakes alongside the likes of Steve Aoki and made tunes with Pharrell. The party-starters stopped by VIBE‘s lounge at Bud Light Factory to chat about their southern dedication to late night Waffle House, wild twerkers on tour and who they want to watch from the sidelines at SXSW.
VIBE: I know you just landed yesterday, but tell me how your touring, festival life is going so far.
Eddie: Festival life is lovely man, because all the positive energy, all the love, it’s been great. We got here from Ultra in Miami, and coming right into Austin for South-By has been amazing. I think South-By may be my favorite festival of all because of the diversity. Like the fact that I can go into one bar, hear rock music, and go right next door, hip hop show, and right next door from them, electronic show. It fits my ADD.
Have you found time for yourself with the hectic schedules? You feel overwhelmed? You need to take a moment to just recharge, so what do you do when you have that downtime?
E: I love it.
Jesse: Too much downtime for me drives me crazy!
J: I need something to do. As long as I can get a Sunday, like, every other. Preferably every Sunday, I can get a Sunday to myself, I’m good. You can have me for the rest of the week.
There’s no burnout?
J: But burnout is like, your body naturally resets. You know what I mean? If you burn out, you’re gonna shut down. You wake up, you’re back to it. Too long of not having anything to do—and that’s something with family, that’s something that’s gonna feed my soul—I need something that’s gonna keep me busy. Keep the devil off.
E: I wanna go until I basically can’t no more. Like all the time. I like the get-up-and-go energy, just like Jesse. Being here, the energy you get back from people. The people here are tired, and then you get to the next spot, and you walk out there and there’s all those people that have been waiting for you to come to their city, and it’s like, they wanna see a full show. They don’t wanna hear about the dates before. You know what I mean? They paid for this one. Once you see that with your own eyes… Just yesterday, we saw people waiting in the rain. It was an hour delay for our show, and people stood under stuff and waited the full hour for us to play. So, we can see stuff like that, you can’t, like, any little bit of tiredness in me is like “wow.” You know what I mean? I’m just so amazed and so humbled by people coming up and telling us their story about how they heard about us and things like that, and why they’re waiting in the rain. Because while we were waiting in the rain, we was talking to people. People [say], “We drove here just for this.” I’m like aww, tired goes out the window. We told the people at the venue, whether it starts raining or not, we’re gonna play for them. We gotta play tonight.
What’s the craziest show or crowd story you’ve had prior to today?
J: Well, the craziest I ain’t gonna tell y’all about! But, the one that we can talk about… I think one time a girl ran up on stage. The stage was low. So I pulled her up on stage and we were dancing together. She came with her boyfriend though, and he wasn’t too amused by it. At first he thought it was funny, but then when I was tryna let her go, she didn’t wanna leave, so she kept staying. He got really, really mad and came up on stage and got her. And then took her out of the show, and they left. But then after the show, they were waiting on us outside, ’cause at the time, we were on tour. He was waiting by our sprinter. He sent her home in an Uber, then smoked with us and apologized [with] weed. He apologized like, “Man, I’m sorry for acting like that, man, but you know…” We ended up respecting him because he told the truth. He was like, “Bruh, I was a little bit insecure. I felt like you coulda took my girl home, so I sent her home, because I really like my girl and I wanna keep her, but I wanna smoke some weed with y’all so y’all wouldn’t think I’m a punk.”
That is a pretty solid story.
J: I mean, you can’t really…it was weird.
It was weird. Very weird.
J: But you know, I respected his honesty and he had good weed. [laughs]
J: I don’t know. He grew it. He was a grower. Believe it or not, we were in Detroit, he was a grower.
I was gonna say, were you in Cali?
J: Nah, we stay in Cali, but I didn’t even know they had growers in Michigan. Evidently, he grows in Michigan and it was really, really good.
Shout out to him. Eddie, was that your same story, or do you have your own?
E: That was a good one! I can’t top that one. There is one random place too, it was like, Madison, Wisconsin, and I’mma tell you, these are the most athletic, dare devil girls in the world. We were on a stage that was pretty high up, but their ability to climb like Spider-Man in little dresses, and just literally just throw their heels off as if they don’t care about them anymore was amazing! This one girl climbed up there—climbed, I’m emphasizing “climbed”—she climbed up there, and was twerking away, holding on to our equipment, started to fall, almost took our equipment with her. Jesse’s trying to catch her from keeping from falling. And as she’s falling, she’s not grasping for her life. You know what she’s doing? Twerking on the way down. And her friends are catching her, and hyping her up to keep twerking, though. I’ve never seen such, just fearlessness. I’m telling you, Madison, Wisconsin, man. You wouldn’t know, but they don’t play. She went down twerking, little dress, people got a good view, but it just did not seem to deter her. She made up her mind that she was twerking to that record, and nothing would stop her. Not even gravity.
Wow. Just wow. So who are you actually excited to see at South-By perform?
J: Well, we’re here just for the night. We fly back out in the morning. But during the course of the shows that we’re playing today, we get a chance to see a lot of people who I’m a pretty big fan of. All the Dim Mak guys like Aoki. Anderson .Paak. Rain Man. A lot of these guys we’re just cool with. And we get to play with ’em today, so after our set, or before our set, we’re just gonna sit down and watch ’em. Because I’m a fan. I’m one of those people who want to sit there and watch the show. It gets me crunk. I like to sit out there and watch everybody else rock. It’s like watching another team play after you play. You know what I’m saying? I think it’s like, the athletic part. Like, yeah, I see what you doing, I like how you did that. I like that. I’m gonna do that.
What about you, Eddie?
E: I’m excited about the Dim Mak party, it’s the 20th anniversary. Twenty years of them as a label, and now, this is the year that actually we joined and we partnered up with them, so it’s great to be a part of that. Steve Aoki is playing that with us and every time we play a show with Steve, it’s insane. He’s the number one party man I know. He goes in and it’s like, that gives me energy! You know what I mean, and knowing he’s coming and knowing he’s playing that show is what’s getting me through Saturday, so I’m really excited about that.
Is he the one that throws the cake?
E: Yes. With deadly accuracy! Like, if there’s a cake throwing at the Olympics, that guys is like the [Usain] Bolt of it. He’s going home with the gold. He can literally point into the audience and get it to go wherever he wants it to go. It’s not easy, I’ve tried to throw a cake, and it’s not as easy as it looks.
Separate from the plate?
E: It’s the whole thing, and I don’t know where he finds time to practice or where he rehearsed for that at. You know, I’mma ask him today though, because I’m very curious. How did you get that good? He’s really good! So, I’m excited for that, I hope he throws some cakes today, he threw like four of ’em in Miami.
Is it just on hand? Like y’all got cakes just ready to go?
E: Yeah, it’s just cakes. In all forms of the word, it’s cakes everywhere. And the interesting thing is like, there was this one girl in Miami who had a sign that showed like four different places where she’s been caked, and she was going for her fifth caking, and she got it. Deadly accuracy, deadly accuracy.
Get your cake on.
E: She wouldn’t have got it with my crowd, but she enjoyed it.
Okay, last question, and most important one. I know you guys just got here, but what’s the best food that you’ve had while down here in Austin?
J: Well, I know there’s a lot of good food places here, but as Southern boys who get the chance to come back to the south, I gotta be honest, we went to Waffle House last night, and I was so happy. And I wanna clarify myself, and I know there are way better restaurants, so you understand… Waffle House has a special place in my heart.
Where are you originally from?
J: I’m from Alabama. Waffle House means the end of a great night or a tragic one. But it just means that it was like a reset, almost like going to church! So, last night, I got a chance to go to church, and I’m thoroughly happy. So sorry Austin, I know you got way better places than that, but they don’t have Waffle House where I’m at, they don’t have it anymore.
What about you, Eddie?
E: You know what? I’m a big fan of South-By every year, and there’s this…I wish I could remember their name right now, but there’s this random taco truck that’s right across where the highway is. That first street that pretty much that begins South-By when you cross the highway on the other side of the bridge? It’s tortas are so authentic, it feels like you in Mexico. And I go over there every year and eat about four or five tortas. So there’s that, and at the beginning of 6th Street, there’s this shaved ice.
At 6th and what?
E: Sixth and… right on the other side of that bridge where the freeway is. That shaved ice place? I know it’s like ghetto sh*t, but that shaved ice place is so good, because you know, not everybody can do shaved ice. Sometimes, it’s way too much ice and not enough syrup, so you’re left with a big ass cup of ice! So, you gotta throw it away! But his syrup-to-ice ratio belongs in some type of, like, Guinness book. It’s amazing, so I’mma go over there when I leave here, have about two of those. And it’s tradition! Every year, there’s ice. And we’re flying outta Houston this year, we’re actually gonna go back to Houston…yo…
J: I’m about to dive in that icee.
E: That icee is real. I gotta get that shaved ice. You’re gonna pass it. Matter of fact, you’re also gonna pass that torta stand.
Oh, the taco truck?
E: Yeah, on the way to Fader Fort. That’s how I discovered it one night. That torta, I tell you…and I’ve been to Mexico City, and it’s on par. And then when we go off course and go back to Houston, you gotta hit Frenchies.
E: Frenchies, yeah, like we flyin’ outta Houston, so we gonna hit Frenchies. And get that caaaaake, get that cake special, with the red soda!
A red soda? Not cherry, not strawberry!
E & J: Red!
Y’all are so black, I love it.