Nate Grace was an ex-hardcore kid living in a shack in the outskirts of Austin when his door got kicked in while he was on the road for his job cataloging book stock in chain stores across the country. All his recording equipment was stolen, and an entire album’s worth of material was gone forever. He got out of there soon after the robbery, even though he had plenty of space and says he could even stand out in the yard completely naked if he wanted. But his view was a field of fluttering trash like something out of Cormac McCarthy’s post-apocalyptic American wasteland. To top it off, the place was full of roaches and rats.
So Grace moved to a more central part of Austin, into a cleaner, former halfway house with two massive, deep red doors that sits at the end of a quiet residential street. Some of his friends, including a bandmate in his group Pure X, Jesse Jenkins, already lived there. Six people reside in the five-bedroom house, but it’s a surprisingly orderly place, filled with well-fed pets and a constant stream of guests. Grace, Jenkins, his girlfriend Stefanie Franciotti, who makes music as Sleep ∞ Over, and the three other roommates have lately been referring to the house as The Real World because of the supposed inter-house drama. But for all their talk of infighting, life seems idyllic. There are plenty of trips for fresh juice, and more than enough homemade hummus to go around. Everyone acts like they’re in love with each other. Maybe it’s because they’re all obsessed with the same things: conspiracies, UFOs and Tarot readings are hugely popular topics of conversation.
Franciotti, who is short and barbed but warm, downplays her own Tarot skills, but on a 103-degree day, lounging in the grass near Barton Springs, she maps out the inner lives of those around her with eerie accuracy, before blowing the whole thing off casually with an “I dunno, I’m not that good at it,” deferring to housemate Christine Aprile, who spent some time trying to operate her own psychic hotline. “I tried to get onto the good hotlines, but I wasn’t accepted,” Aprile says. “If I was someone who had a flourishing psychic business, I guess it would have worked out. I like to do it for free. I think anything spiritual will take you on a lot of different paths. It’s definitely made me think about trying to create my own reality, instead of feeling like a victim of fate and circumstance.” Like most of the housemates, Aprile, who performs as Silent Diane, more or less found herself in Austin by chance, and before she knew it, decided to stay. “I got this reading from this woman, and she was like, I see you moving to Texas and I don’t know why,” Aprile says. “My dad was living here at the time. I just called him up and he was like, Oh I was about to ask you to come down here and house sit for me. So I packed up and drove down, and I’ve been here ever since.” It’s like the city has a mysterious hold on its residents, keeping them swaddled in a warm blanket of cheap rent and loose vibes. Destiny is serious business out here, even if everyone seems like they’ve settled comfortably into life’s natural flow.