Particles of Sands
By Scott Huver
Austin Sands of Dose of Adolescence
Guitarist and vocalist Austin Sands took a slightly circuitous route to rock ’n’ roll. He has rock roots—his father Larry Sands’ group, Bartok’s Mountain, opened for acts such as Led Zeppelin and Sly & The Family Stone (Larry later launched the luxury eyewear brand Optical Shop International)—but the 23-year-old musician started out more Johann Bach than Jeff Beck.
Classically trained since childhood, Sands mastered traditional guitar before discovering a more modern sound. “When you’re a little kid, your first instinct is to grab the electric guitar, but I started out more classical and was able to put classical music into rock music,” says Sands, who was raised in Laguna Beach, the latest in a line of five generations of musicians. “Being a musician has been my dream since I was 10 years old. I never thought of doing anything else as a career.”
Today he’s the lead axe for Dose of Adolescence, blending energetic, hard-driving riffs with melodic undercurrents drawn from Sands’ traditional education (think Slash meets Andrés Segovia). “It’s got an alternative edge, with maybe five percent of a punk influence,” he says. (He builds the guitar foundations, sings and writes the vocal harmonies, while the group collaborates on lyrics.)
Early gigs weren’t glamorous. “One crappy stage was so small I swung out my guitar on the last song and hit a guy in the nose, and he started bleeding,” he says. “I was like, I hope it gets better than this.” It did. Sold-out stints at LA rock shrines (including The Roxy Theatre and The Troubadour) followed. “The people who’ve been on those stages—I’m just honored to have been among them,” says Sands.
In today’s rapidly forced-to-evolve music industry, Sands and his bandmates are determined to stand out and have made building their fan base a priority. “It was a lot easier to get a record deal 20 or even 10 years ago,” he says. “Now some people aren’t going that route— they’re doing it themselves.”
The band hit fan-driven music scenes like South by Southwest and the Vans Warped Tour (where they sold 7,000 CDs to new converts) and plugged into social networking sites to interface directly with their admirers, controlling elements like imaging, merchandising and promotion in a hands-on way. “It’s nice to connect with fans,” says Sands. “They feel like they’re more a part of it with Facebook or MySpace, where they can message the band.They’re really in touch.”
Looking back, Sands admits he didn’t initially fit the mold of rocker. “In high school I was this guy with blond spiky hair, captain of the basketball team—a total jock, even though I still played music,” he says. “Now I’ve got dark hair I wear down. I’ve still got the athletic, competitive attitude. I work out every day and eat really healthfully.”
But things are getting more rock ’n’ roll—classically so. At a recent session, “I actually slid a bottle of Jack Daniels down the guitar neck, and it created a really cool slide effect,” says Sands. “It was awesome, so we kept it.”