Not everyone sets out to be a rock star.
"I always wanted to be a stuntman," Austin Lake says. "Evel Knievel had his own record. And I thought it was a good publicity stunt to put out your own record. And now I'm hooked on this music thing. I realized I had some stuff I wanted to get out there."
Lake records under the nomme de' twang Aweful Kanawful and has just released "Brave As Hits," an album (cassette actually) of lo-fi elegance and innovation. The album is positively brilliant and warrants further discussion. But first, that name.
"Aweful Kanawful? I stole that," Lake says. "It's allegedly the name of Evel Knievel's cellmate. And I also think of the name Aweful as falling gracefully in awe — a-w-e — like a demented bald eagle. Like a good thing gone bad."
Lake is in numerous bands with his two brothers, Trevor and Brendan ... all three daredevils.
"Me and my brothers made stunts all the time," he says. "That was just as common place as playing music. It's the same thing to me either we were jamming or out building jumps. But now I'm not doing the stunts so much anymore."
It's tough to play rock 'n' roll with broken fingers or in a sling. "That's the thing that makes me nervous," Lake says. "Before I didn't care. But now I'm hooked on this music thing."
Each Lake Brothers group is frenetic and raw. The Temptators, The Televisionaries, Flip Shit, King Vitamin, all exude the brothers' primitive rock 'n' roll ethos. But Aweful Kanawful is all Austin Lake with a Tascam 8-track recorder and pirated instruments. It has that desperate A-Bones appeal with a vintage nod a la Tav Falco. It sounds like the production you'd find on Sun Records when Ike Turner was an A&R man. But the songs for the most part aren't your stock 1-4-5 bop. There's more of an angular twist that snakes its way throughout. It's wild.
Lake now wants to flesh out and turn it into a band. "I don't want to be thought of as a recording guy," Lake says. "I'm a player. But all I've done is record; I haven't played out yet. I'm putting together a band right now — actually more of a concert than a band, a piece we can play out. I know it is weird starting this way without a band."
So now he'll have the added task of explaining and compromising with others. But he's not afraid if the songs change. In fact...
"I hope they do," Lake says. "I just want the original one documented. I want the fantasy that was originally there."
Even if it's a change for the worse.
"Oh, it's happened already. The Temptators play an Aweful Kanawful song, "Kona Kona," and it's way worse than it was."
Lake is in the midst of setting up the band, and has plans already in the works for a new recording called "Aweful Kanawful Live at Clams Casino." He promises it'll be even more conceptual and perhaps a little less rockabilly. His creative approach will remain scattered and beautifully indirect. Inspiration comes from everywhere.
"I dunno," he explains, "There's no one source things are coming out of. If you pick out of the same hat you're going to get things that are similar. I try to shake it up. Sometimes I have ideas or songs that come to me in the middle of the night. I'll sing it, record it, go back to bed. Sometimes I have stuff that haunts me for days. I've always been more a fan of the lyrical side of things, than the musical stuff, but you can't make music that's just lyrics. You've got to pay attention to the music and the instruments so you can get your story across. I was writing stories before I began writing music. There should be a story in music. It can't all be about the girl who broke your heart."
He wants to take these stories on the road and play them there — literally.
"I'd like to take the music to the people in a U-Haul; carpet the interior, hang a chandelier, put a piano in there, hook it up so we can drive places and put on a show. Not everyone wants to hang in a club, me being one of those people. I'm 22 and I'm already sick of it."
Stunts aren't completely out of the question either.
"The goal is to play the piano then jump the piano," Lake says. "Put the piano on a trailer, drive the trailer to the middle of town on a nice summer day, play with the band, have the band keep a vamp, get on the motorcycle and jump the whole set. It's gonna happen. That's a guarantee. It's gonna happen before I leave."