Begin with Purple Rain. Robert can't really replicate Prince's moves -- he's a mere mortal -- but he can say that the "I Would Die 4 U" sequence is the "apogee" of rock-frontman hand motions. When the shouting, hectoring face of La Snacks sings "Kristin Was a Meteorologist," he points at his head when he sings "head." Then he points up when he sings "sun."
"I want to go to shows and have people sing along, and want the people in the audience to know the lyrics." La Snacks started in Beaumont when there were no local bands of note to see. Relocated to Austin, they're still unique. With the right combination of hand gestures, facial expressions, and beer gulps, "I can make people know what the lyrics are." Being a rock bandleader, in the La Snacks style, has all kinds of duties and obligations attached to it. "If someone buys you a beer while you're on stage, it's your duty to gun it."
And then there's the moves. Robert is shy about demonstrating them at first, but we give him a mic stand and a little space and soon they start coming. A lot of the moves involve beer. "Drink beer. Sing. Drink beer. Sing. Lose beer, make face." There's guarding two beers. Stealing the guitar player's beer while he's tuning. Falling down and staying there. The mostly-retired "Bobby shuffle," an uncomfortable looking ankle-turning manuever. "Only in Beaumont," friends in the front row get whacked with the microphone stand. Singing to one particular person in the audience for an uncomfortably long time, or hugging them and not letting go, work everywhere.
"Music to me has to be interesting," Robert says. That's why he started the band, and why he puts so much thought and effort and making La Snacks shows entertaining. Like a lot of rock true believers, he likes performing and feels natural at it. "It's really comfortable for me to be on stage, more so than in social situations. They're my songs and I'm in control." His animated performances are partly an expression of his pride in the songs. He's also trying to get as much out of each audience as possible. "If you're going to watch the whole show you should know what's going on.... It should be interactive, and fun." And he also feels kinship with those music fans selective enough to choose to pay attention at a La Snacks gig: "If you're listening to ME, there's something going on. You're smarter."
La Snacks songs try to reward the close listener with peculiar details, strange references in the lyrics and deceptively supple melodies in Robert's unconventional vocal style. "You don't have to write about being 13 all your life," says the writer, who works history, politics, and music geek references into his lyrics. As free as he can be with his opinions while on stage, caught up in the moment, it's hard to get him to be negative about others' music in private. "A lot of bands we like listen to stuff we would hate."
Perhaps he is sensitive about the comparisons his own band draws to various 90's bands, some of whom Robert has never loved. "People say that bands sound like whatever their favorite band is," he says. Apparently La Snacks get Drive Like Jehu a lot, which seems weird to me... none of their songs are nine minutes long. His tastes in local music are broad enough: Follow That Bird!, The Gary, YellowFever, Golden Boys, The Eastern Sea, Transmography, Ume are some of the current favorites he names, along with the late Single Frame.
La Snacks continue to play out as often as they can. "It's all about getting enough money to put out a record." They tour when they can, although it's a challenge. "If I go away three months on tour, there no job when I get back." They've built up a decent audience in Austin, although you get the feeling Robert is ready for bigger crowds. The hardest dancing man in the city should expect no less.