When Spotify released its ranking of the top songs streamed in Austin in 2015, no one was surprised to find Bob Schneider holding the top three spots. For decades, no matter how the Austin music scene has evolved, or how the music industry has transformed, Bob Schneider has thrived. Known for his fiercely independent attitude and endless drive to innovate and create, Bob has built an unprecedented career in Austin.
Bob Schneider just might be the best artist you’ve never heard of. But this year alone, he’ll play over 80 shows in Austin and he’s headlining every premiere venue in town—the Paramount, the Bass Concert Hall, Dell Hall at the Long Center, and ACL Live/Moody Theater. Sure, he’s struggled to break out of the Texas bubble, but this doesn’t stop him. “If I were to listen to the gatekeepers—the critics, the charts—I’d never have done anything.” And though the media barely grants him sidelong glances, the audiences keep coming.
Bob packs houses, he croons, he makes everybody swoon.
In the heavy Texas summer heat, Bob Schneider stands in his garage, splattered in paint. Thick leaves pulled from fine art books soak in water baths as he prepares layers for a new collage. Intestines swirl on faces, haunted eyes peer out, and paintbrushes coat layers upon layers of glue as images transform one atop the other until Bob steps back, done.
The collage will find itself as the cover of Bob’s latest album, a curated collection of three thematically-linked five song EPs, collectively titled King Kong. The album hearkens back to his earliest releases, Lonelyland (2001), I’m Good Now (2004), albums that brought the essence of Bob—good songs, all genres, fun and harrowing, sharp and insightful. Songs to dance to, to laugh with, to mourn through.
Fans who buy the physical album are treated to an artistic masterpiece, a collector’s dream, with prints of Bob’s art wrapping the music.
Bob Schneider is tenacious, constantly churning out new work. He’s thinking ahead, two albums down the line. “When I’m recording a record, when I’m mixing a record, I’m still writing songs. I’m always writing songs.” He’s known for his prolific catalogue, more songs than most other bands on the charts have…combined. He brims with projects and ideas: a demo bible—a collection of 1000 original demos with lyrics—is long in the works, a way for his long term fans to access all of his songs and all of their lyrics, from the deeply poetic to the tangled and twisted to the flat-out profane. He’s also hard at work developing The Across The World Symphony.
Bob doesn’t sleep. At least, it seems like he doesn’t sleep. He’s working on an arrangement at four a.m. He stays up all night filming and editing videos to accompany the songs on King Kong, releasing new videos weekly.
Offered a new project—a cameo appearance in a film, the chance to judge the Literary Death
Match, and Bob’s all in: “That sounds terrifying. I’ll totally do it.” He thrives on the challenge, happier to tackle projects that teeter on the edge of failure than return to the mundane sure successes.
Tell Bob that he can’t do a project, and he’ll just stop talking to you about it. “I have a complete inability to take no for an answer,” he laughs. If he’s got his mind set on it, he’s going to make it happen. Ideas, projects, art pours out of him.
One spring afternoon, he arrives at a friend’s yard to haul off a six-foot-tall tree trunk that blew down in a storm. Coming straight from a photo shoot, he’s dressed to the nines, but quickly gets covered in mulch and bark as he lugs the giant logs around, investigating which one he wants to bring home. He’ll work it on his back patio, sanding and sawing and sanding until he’s got another in a series of haunting wooden sculptures, phallic, monk-like, a wooden choir of silent song and prayer. Trees fall, Bob crafts, sawdust in his hair.
Then he crashes into bed, catches just enough downtime to revive him, and wakes again, moving at top speed. He showers, drinks a pot of coffee, and races off to a gig. He arrives onstage, fully present and ready to play.
Audiences around the world can now peek into the sacred heart of the Austin live music scene, as Bob has begun livestreaming his Monday night residency at the Saxon Pub. Here each week for over fifteen years, he’s gathered up his band Lonelyland, and taken over this Austin institution. Bob presents his newest songs, plays with fresh arrangements, and charms the pants off of everyone in the room.
Bob Schneider is always pushing himself. And he’s pushing his audience. His songs are alive, fierce, hilarious, raw, crass. And then soulful, haunting, sweet, good.
He’ll leave you breathless. He must leave you breathless. He pushes himself to breathlessness, howling into the mic, playing his fingers raw, the room awash in thick waves of sound.
Then he’s jaunty, silly, laughing at his own jokes and tossing around a flyaway tune. Listen closely, and the lyrics speak of loss, betrayal, sorrow. But he’ll sing it to you with a smile and a twinkle in his eye.