Doyle Bramhall II and Charlie Sexton

Doyle Bramhall II and Charlie Sexton
Doyle Bramhall II and Charlie Sexton.
Photograph by Mark Proct

In 1990 Double Trouble drummer Chris Layton proposed a casual session with Sexton, Bramhall, and Double Trouble’s other half, bassist Tommy Shannon. The venue was the Austin Rehearsal Complex, and the collaboration produced instant results: chemistry, friction, and record-company interest. The Arc Angels were born. Widespread and enthusiastic acclaim soon followed. Yet by 1993, after only one album, the group was in a shambles. As of this month’s South by Southwest music festival, the Arc Angels are back as a working band, with a European tour, a live DVD, and a new album in the works.

You first got together when Doyle was stuck on a song.

CS: I helped him finish the song [“Living in a Dream”], and he and I did a recording of it that basically laid out the sound and tone of the band.

DB: I had just signed a development deal with Geffen, and I ran into Charlie and I heard a few things he was working on in his studio and I thought they were great, so we decided to see if he could help me finish the song. He ended up giving me back a little masterpiece. Shortly after that we had the opportunity to play a show with Robert Cray.

That show led to rave reviews and a major-label bidding war. Though no one was really looking to start a band, were you basically made an offer you couldn’t refuse?

CS: I wouldn’t say that. We just got a good review, and that led to some companies calling, but it was a hard decision to make. There was definitely a chalk-and-cheese between Doyle and me, stylistically, and that was apparent immediately. Influence-wise, we really had very few records in common.

DB: I was sort of a purist and liked what I liked, and I wasn’t as open as I became later to different things. [Charlie] definitely took the role as the leader of the band because that’s how he is naturally anyway. I wouldn’t speak up, I would sabotage something, go some other route. And some of the magical thing that we had together, it was a two-sided thing. It was something that was really good, but obviously it wasn’t anything I could deal with at the time because I had my own personal things that I was going through. Instead of communicating, I would just do drugs because it

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