You have to admire the utilitarian nature of Chase Sprueill of Free Kittens & Bread, an Austin-based post-punk band patched together for a purpose, hard as it might be to grasp. As their latest straightforward single and video "Brainless" so faithfully expresses, it's pretty hard to see meaning in a universe amidst the fog of war called "life."

Sprueill is a found-art guy. He collects random things, and the interesting fact about their randomness is that, if that found thing catches on, you really have to wonder just how random everything is. For example, Sprueill says he found the name of the band from a sign alongside the road. It stated, "Free Kittens and Bread." He appropriated it, kept it for a few years and then he and his mates (Mark Hawley, guitar; Gabe Garca, drums and backing vocals; Kaci Taylor, bass and backing vocals) thought it would be a good name for the band. So as the years roll on, you might go, 'Wow, that sounds so like Free Kittens & Bread,' when the fact is the moniker had absolutely nothing to do with anything.

"You know how it goes: One person's trash is another person's treasure," Sprueill says. "I've done my fair share of dumpster diving ... About eight or nine years ago I was in a really [expletive] punk band. Mark and I were driving around in my hometown (Denton, Texas), and I saw this sign, 'Free Kittens and Bread.' They had kittens all around and loads of free bread on a table. I stole one of the signs and I still have it."

The song "Brainless" doesn't exactly reinvent the wheel. It's loud and penetrating once the guitars and voices kick in. It's about a drinking binge, very college radio. But it's undeniably catchy and true to form, especially if you want to blow out your eardrums and lose all sense of what's going on around you.

What's going on around Sprueill these days is Austin, a music capitol of the world. A place so ubiquitous with musicians and all the rest one might think Stevie Ray Vaughan was merely describing overpopulation with his song, "Texas Flood."

As Sprueill puts it: "There's a saying here that goes something like: 'If you toss a nickel, you're bound to hit a great musician.' Something like that. Another good example: I've been on roughly nine or 10 tours so far, and every single time I'm on the road, I always meet someone who asks me about a band that they know from Austin. I've been around here for a bit, and I know a lot of bands here, but every single time, I have never heard of the band that they know. The kicker is that the band is always a popular band that seems to be doing well (when I look them up later). That happens on the road a lot. The music thing has gone on here pretty much the way I imagined it would. I would go to all of the open mics, go to the shows and there would be maybe 34 people in the audience. I would go, 'Okay, that's the level of talent I'm up against. I will work toward that.'"

If you see a tall person, don't ever ask them if they played basketball. But, if you must, ask Sprueill, of German and Irish descent, so he's got that razor wit and engineer's capacity for getting the broken spaceship back into working order. He's 6-foot-7 and was a large point guard in high school in Denton, eventually getting a scholarship at Southern Arkansas University, where he studied film and "didn't really take music all that seriously."

His music endeavors began in a "half-built" shack in his father's back yard. Sprueill became interested in the DIY music movement, studied the subject all that he could and bought a guitar, amp and microphone, hooking it all up into his laptop. He started recording using GarageBand.

The new Free Kittens & Bread album, American Miserablist, was shaped by a breakup, as well as a kind of sadness about the world at large.

"It was a little bit of two things: Working my way out of a relationship. I was drinking a ton and was trying to figure out how to deal with it," says Sprueill.

If it's all so miserable, why even pursue it? Where and when does it all make perfect sense?

"Pursuing a career as a band doesn't really make sense at all if you want to live comfortably, anyway," he says. "But I would say touring. Touring tests you as a person and as a band. It makes sense to honestly challenge yourself in whatever you choose to pursue in life. It's the only way to find out if you truly want to pursue it."


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