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Social Cinema has star power

Social Cinema is, left to right, Logan Bush, Austin Engler, Griffin Bush, Mari Crisler, Reed Tiwald
Justin Labadie
courtesy photo
Social Cinema is, left to right, Logan Bush, Austin Engler, Griffin Bush, Mari Crisler, Reed Tiwald

Local band Kill Vargas spent a decade building a name for itself but a break from the road in 2020 gave the band time to reflect on its past and future. The group changed its name to Social Cinema, added two new members, and has released a new single. KMUW's Jedd Beaudoin recently caught up with Social Cinema's Austin Engler as well as brothers Logan and Griffin Bush.

Social Cinema performs at Yasmin Nur’s Winter Wonderland Prom on Friday, Dec. 17.

The concert takes place at Odd Fellow Hall, 930 W. Douglas. Nur will perform as will Oklahoma City’s cursetheknife.

Though the Social Cinema name might be a new one to Wichita music lovers, the core of the band—Logan Bush, Griffin Bush and Austin Engler—performed as Kill Vargas for more than a decade, amassing a loyal and ever-growing following throughout the region.

When 2020 put a halt to that trio’s activities, the Bush brothers and Engler had a number of conversations about their musical futures. The material they were writing moved in a different direction than Kill Vargas and, internally, there was a consensus that it was time to move on from the unit they’d put together in their preteen years.

They called upon friends Reed Tiwald and Mari Crisler from the Lincoln, Nebraska, band Death Cow to fill out the lineup.

Earlier in 2021, the quintet issued the single “Star Quality” and have plans to follow that with more new music in 2022.

The Bushs and Engler recently spoke with KMUW.

Interview Highlights

When did this idea of forming a new band present itself? 

Griffin Bush: It was when we were on the road in 2020. Everything went down; we went home and that gave us a lot of time to regroup and focus on what we wanted to do. We’d come to a point where it was like autopilot. We’d be on the road, then have to make a record to go back out on the road. When we had that time off, I started to write again and started experimenting a little bit with different sounds. It’s not a drastic change but the whole writing process was different. I felt like if we were going to make this jump into doing things a different way and making this new sound, we should also have a new name.

Logan Bush: In our entire existence, even when we were 13, there’s never been a time when we didn’t have shows. It was the first time where we had a chance to sit down and look at ourselves and just see where we were at. Before, it was, like, “We gotta go, we gotta go.” Everyone was forced to stop so we were able to sit down and really rethink stuff. Kill Vargas, we started that when we were 11. We’re 23, 24, so it’s like trying to start our adult band with all of our experience.

There are probably some people in the marketing world who would say, “Don’t do that!” when it comes to changing the name. What were the conversations around that like? 

Austin Engler: We definitely didn’t take it lightly. There was a lot of debate because [there was the thought of], “If we change our name, we’re going to throw away 10 years of hard work. People know Kill Vargas. They’re not going to know Social Cinema. Is that worth it?” In the end, we decided, yeah, that is worth it. We still have our contacts, we still have all the stuff we've learned from Kill Vargas: How to get your stuff on Spotify, and how to book shows.

GB: It was scary, but I think it was something we all knew we wanted to do and had to do. It’s funny because while we were recording this record and writing, we didn’t have a name until it was done. We just knew it wasn’t Kill Vargas. We needed to come out with a fresh start. We have new members now; there’s five of us now. I felt like that was a pretty big changeup. Mari and Reed have been playing with us and that’s been going great. It was different enough that it warranted a name change. It kind of rejuvenated us as well. This is new. We have to push even harder because we have a new name; we don’t have a back catalogue for people to listen to. Right now, we just have the one song out. We’re doing it the way we want to, and we think we’re doing it right so far.

The life cycle of a band is a strange thing. I think the pandemic may have lengthened the life span of some groups. “Maybe they would have broken up after five years but now they’ll last seven.” 

All: [Laughs.]

It seems like you have some sense of that. 

LB: We still have the drive and everything but we just wanted to make it more exciting for us and for other people. I think there’s some people who are probably disappointed that Kill Vargas is no more. But it’s still the same guys making the music, and we have even more of a passion for it now. It’s still going to have some of the same energy. But we wanted to correct all the things that we saw and we weren’t able to because the way that we worked was such a snowball. Once you’re so far in, you say, “Well, we’re already Kill Vargas. We’ve been doing this for 10 years, let’s just keep going.” When COVID hit it was a totally new mindset. Before, we weren’t able to think about those kinds of things [because we were so busy].

Social Cinema is the result of the friendships between you and Mari and Reed. They’re from Lincoln, Nebraska. 

GB: We’ve known them for a long time now. They were in the same situation, where everything shut down. We thought we’d extend the offer to collaborate on this new music. We actually toured with Reed before. He was on the 2020 run with us that got cancelled. He and Mari had been in bands together before, so we asked her. We’re very, very lucky to have them with us.

You found a certain synergy with Lincoln. 

GB: The scene there was really strong when we were introduced to it. There were a lot of similarities between Wichita and there, the number of local kids who were passionate about local art and having a good time at shows. We felt very much at home. It’s always one of the first places we stop on tour.

LB: We can be the true uniting factor between Wichita and Lincoln. Before COVID, Lincoln was really like our second home. I’m excited to get back there.

Jedd Beaudoin is host/producer of the nationally syndicated program Strange Currency. He has also served as an arts reporter, a producer of A Musical Life and a founding member of the KMUW Movie Club. As a music journalist, his work has appeared in Pop Matters, Vox, No Depression and Keyboard Magazine.