North Texas Daily

Criminal Birds catch wind from launchpad of Lil’ D

Criminal Birds catch wind from launchpad of Lil’ D

Courtesy | Criminal Birds

Criminal Birds catch wind from launchpad of Lil’ D
September 25
17:31 2015

Matt Payne | Senior Staff Writer

Local psyche-rock, four-piece band Criminal Birds has been known to rise early in the morning and roost deep in the evening, jamming in their two-story alcove.

Lead vocalist, guitarist and keyboardist Reggie Hastings, guitarist Taylor Dondlinger, bassist Gunnar Ebeling and drummer Grahm Robinson live together, practice together and thrive off each other’s shared dedication to the group.

“It’s a struggle getting Gunnar up in the mornings, but we manage to get some pretty productive jam sessions out,” Dondlinger said.

Speak Louder

The band’s foray into the music industry began in September 2011, but their passion began to soar far earlier. Hastings has many memories as a 17-year-old in high school jamming in garages and living rooms.

Their lives would eventually take different directions, but Hastings’ studies at UNT and the band’s mutual intrigue in pursuing greater musical feats brought them together in a city none other than Denton.

“I’ve known these guys for over 10 years, and with a local music scene as happening as Denton’s is, it was so obvious for us to start here,” Hastings said. “We really don’t have to try too hard to attract crowds for shows. The crowd finds its own way.”

The band goes on tours around the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex, the Midwest region of Texas and near Austin in the southeast. Even so, Denton’s up-and-coming reputation as a city of homegrown music, the group said, is impossible to ignore.


From their debut album, produced in collaboration with locally-run studio The Echo Lab, the band has several gigs planned in Denton with fellow artists like Seryn at Dan’s Silverleaf and more. Hastings said the city has been ideal for surpassing what he calls the “newbie” phase.

“We have such a loyal fan base now established, our development as a band has just snowballed,” Hastings said. “A lot of that has to do with how organically the excitement for local music comes with Denton.”

House parties have further fueled the band’s excitement and have been an effective medium for Criminal Birds to gain recognition over the half-decade.

“You can literally play house shows back-to-back in one night and get a whole new crowd going in each one,” Ebeling said. “And if people like you, they start to trickle over into each other.”

These audiences that trickle over each other are the fuel for what are known as “hot houses,” consecutive house parties organized with the goal of redoubling attendance with each event.

There have been several house parties hosted from the band’s own two-story home. Dondlinger has experienced house parties with a crowd of close to 200. Successful house parties reach a crowd near 400 people, and he has even seen crowds reach a mass of nearly 700.

“The number of people curious about these performances is just overwhelmingly huge,” Dondlinger said. “The bands performing get recognition. The hosts get recognition. They’re honestly the best way for bands to get started and gather experience.”

Outside the Mold

Over four years, Criminal Birds has produced two albums and are currently working on a third, which they believe to be the most thorough expression of their progress.

Criminal Birds’ upcoming unnamed album, projected to release January 2016, will feature at least nine tracks. That’s double the amount of their preceding albums, “Criminal Birds” and “Fizzy Water.”

“We’ve been a little bit more thorough in our writing process, and we’re such a jam band at heart,” Ebeling said. “But this next album is our first ‘album.’”

With the new album soon approaching, the artists recognize Denton as the launching pad of their careers but inevitably see Criminal Birds exploring new areas nationwide.

With tours that expand into faraway reaches of the state, it is a long-term aspiration of the group to continually seize the identity of “weekend warriors.”

“Denton has been so great for us to get started,” Hastings said. “But it’s a natural progression to continually be recognized and grow into other areas. With how busy all of us are throughout the week, we really need to take advantage of the four-day road trips.”

Before Criminal Birds fulfills their “manifest destiny,” they are eager to perform at 10 p.m. this Saturday, Sept. 26 at Harvest House as a part of Oaktopia 2015.

“There are so many talented artists here, and it’s a thrill to be a part of the festival’s third year,” Hastings said. “Denton has been so incredible, and we’re just getting started.”

Featured Image: Courtesy | Criminal Birds

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