SUO’s Saara Untracht-Oakner on Juggling Hats and Raising Pups

SUO photo by Monika Oliver.

Saara Untracht-Oakner is a woman who wears many hats on the Brooklyn scene: musician, visual artist, booker, DJ, and model. Perhaps best known as guitarist in BOYTOY (co-founded and c0-fronted with college buddy Glenn Van Dyke), she has also made guest appearances in other bands, like Roya and Habibi. Her latest project SUO showcases her solo work.

Saara has tour all over the United States, Europe and the UK, booked countless bands at The Broadway, slung drinks all over Brooklyn, and DJed around the borough. She has created visual art through illustration, painting, photograph collaging, and more, while still finding time to surf. She does this all while rocking the dog mom hat with style too; she is parent to a precious Puerto Rican pup named Pachi. Hear about Pachi, Saara’s history with music, art, animals, and her plans for the new decade below!

Pachi and Saara (Photo Credit: Juliet Wolf).

AF: Please introduce us to your current furbaby.

SUO: Pachi is my current fur baby. He’s a Puerto Rican street dog mix. 32lbs and 18”x18” (I had to measure him once for an airline).

Precious Pachi (all photo credit to Saara Untracht-Oakner unless otherwise noted).

AF: How did you and your pup pal meet?

SUO: My roommate was going to Puerto Rico for vacation, actually a week before hurricane Maria. I had taken home a Puerto Rican dog a few years before; sadly he was hit by a car six months after being in NY. He was extremely special and his name was Rico. I have his name tattooed on my arm. So knowing I loved Puerto Rican mutts (they’re called Satos), and knowing I had some time off in between BOYTOY tours, I asked my roommate to keep an eye out for some street puppies. She texted me about two days before the hurricane and said she wouldn’t have time to go to a shelter because they were trying to get off the island ASAP. An hour later she sent me a picture of baby Pachi (three months old) in the back seat of her car. She pulled over to look at a map in the middle of nowhere and he ran out from the bushes, chewing on a T-shirt. A vet check up and rabies shot later and he was on a plane to NY and escaped the hurricane. We’ve been in love ever since.

Pint-sized Puppy Pachi

AF: Did you have pets growing up? If so, what species?

SUO: Growing up I had a few pets. I really just wanted a dog but my parents weren’t convinced so they got me turtle named Nikki that only ate ground beef, then a guinea pig named Ginger who died while we were on vacation, and then they finally caved and got me a dog. She was a chocolate standard poodle and she loved to hug but definitely thought she was above me in the pack. I had a gerbil I got from school named cinnamon, and of course goldfish every now and then. I had sea monkies three times but every time they got spilled.

AF: When did you first know you wanted to be a musician? Was there a particular moment, icon, or song that you can recall?

SUO: I was always singing and sitting at the piano and messing around. There’s a video of me when I was four and I got a microphone toy for my birthday. I was going to a pre-school where we put on plays and so I sang the whole medley front to back and got mad when my dad interrupted me. I loved performing. I remember sitting at the piano and making up songs with melodies. Melody was always something that stuck out to me. I would sing all the songs from Disney movies, especially The Lion King, and have contests with friends of who could sound the most like Simba. I was also obsessed with Raffi. I would know the track order when listening to his tapes before the next song started.

Saara during a SUO performance (Photo Credit: Remy Holwick).

AF: What was the first instrument you learned to play?

SUO: I think it was piano. I took lessons in Kindergarten because my parents thought I was interested since I always sat down to play. I was interested, just not in learning scales and chords. I wanted to make up my own stuff. I played cello from 3rd-5th grade, trumpet from 4th-12th and sang in chorus. One summer I brought home a clarinet and taught myself how to play from a book. I was in plays at summer camp a lot too.

AF: What was your first favorite song?

SUO: When I first started talking I used to go around saying “Don’t Worry, Be Happy.” So probably that. I still love reggae.

AF: Tell us about SUO. How did the band form and what is your writing process like?

SUO: SUO is my solo project I created with a handful of songs – some that were meant for BOYTOY but didn’t make the cut, some older personal songs, and some new ones. I recorded with Kyle Mullarky who made the last BOYTOY record Night Leaf with us. We brought Nick Murray into the Topanga studio to track drums and then Kyle and I formed the songs from the scratch tracks to what they are on the record. I knew I wanted a full band to cover all the parts from the album and have lots of harmonies, so I sent out some feelers to some other NY musicians and curated a supergroup. Everyone in the live band now currently fronts or has fronted other bands or has multiple projects.

AF: What about BOYTOY?

SUO: BOYTOY started when Me and Glenn’s previous projects ended and I moved back to NY. The writing process was a collaboration. Sometimes songs would come from jams we made together or something was part of a song that one person would bring to the group or a whole skeleton that the other members would then add their parts to.

BOYTOY Reunion Show at Market Hotel 11/21/19 (Photo Credit: Natalie Kirch).

AF: Have you ever written a song about a (non-human) animal?

SUO: One of my first songs I can remember writing was about animals. I was with my parents and my dad’s mom in LA and we took a trip to Joshua Tree. My grandma and I wrote a song a capella in the backseat that went:
“Cats and dogs run free in Joshua Tree
Cats and dogs run free in Joshua Tree
They eat lots of plants
They eat lots of bugs
They eat whatever they find
Cats and dogs run free
clap clap clap
In Joshua True “

I still remember the melody.

AF: Favorite song about (non-human) animal(s)?

SUO: “I Wanna Be Your Dog” by Iggy Pop. I was actually just thinking about this song as I was snuggling Pachi the other night. I read in an interview with Iggy that this song is about seeing women with their dogs, how they love them and cuddle and kiss them, how the dogs have the most intimate relationship with their owners, and how he wants to be treated like that by a woman. It’s hard to not kiss Pachi tbh.

Saara Getting Some Smooches from Pachi.

AF: What is your favorite country to tour in?

SUO: Australia was really amazing. It’s so beautiful and the crowds are so nice and rowdy! We got to surf. Spain and France are also really fun. The food is incredible and the crowds are the best.

Flyer for BOYTOY Australian Tour (Photo Credit: David Evanko).

AF: Favorite US city or state to tour in?

SUO: Miami and Chicago have really fun crowds and people really come out. LA is fun cause I get to see so many friends and play with bands I love. These are my favorite for partying. Then there’s the little random small towns that have the best hospitality and nicest crowds because everyone is just so excited that something is happening that isn’t a cover band.

AF: What do you miss the most about your pup when you’re on the road?

SUO: I miss sleeping with him and just having him around. He’s comforting. And he’s a good excuse to take a walk, although you do that on tour anyway to kill time.

Sweet Pachi.

AF: What non-human animal do you think reflects your personality the most?

SUO: I think I’m probably some kind of large cat.

AF: What is your favorite mythological creature?

SUO: God.

AF: You are also a visual artist. What is your favorite medium?

SUO: I realized I don’t really have definite favorites with anything. What I’m into always changes. But it’s mostly painting/drawing, building and photos.

AF: Have you ever created any visual art inspired by (non-human) animals?

SUO: I made this painting awhile ago and kept trying to paint a fox. It wasn’t working out right so I painted a snake instead. The painting ended up being unintentionally really political and prophetic (this was before Trump’s election). I believe there is a divine touch in creating art beyond human reasoning. I also painted a cartoon cat for my sister-in-law which now resides in my niece’s bedroom.

AF: If your pup could have a human career, what field do you think he would be in?

SUO: He’s very passionate and strong and fun and also a bit anxious. He loves being near people and always wants to make sure everyone is safe. Maybe a volunteer fire fighter or something.

AF: If he were in a band, what instrument would he play and what genre of music would he write?

SUO: He’d probably be the singer and write songs like Ricky Martin.

Pachi Living La Vida Loca.

AF: If he were a visual artist, do you think he would be more of an illustrator, painter, or sculptor?

SUO: Maybe an illustrator. He’s very clean and thoughtful.

AF: How did you transition into the booking field?

SUO: It kind of fell into my lap. A mutual friend of the owners of The Broadway told me his friends were opening a spot and if I knew any talent buyers. I was in LA at the time and didn’t have a job lined up for when I got back. I figured with my ten years of touring, booking my own gigs, all the bands I knew, and the knowledge of what makes good clubs good, that I could do the job well.

AF: Any big plans for the new decade?

SUO: I’m going on tour in Europe with SUO in February and will probably spend a couple weeks in LA in January and play a show out there. It’s about to be the roaring ‘20s!

Photo Credit: Babak.

Follow SUO on Facebook for ongoing updates.

SXSW 2018: Rock or Die V with Little Dickman Records

Chris and Amy Dickman of Jersey Shore Indie label Little Dickman Records have been taking good care of bands in Austin for five years now. Their unofficial events showcase badass touring bands from all over the country as well as the bands with releases on their label. We talked to them about how the festival has changed over the years, the challenges of being a promoter at SXSW and why they keep coming back.

AF: Tell us about your showcases and some of the bands you’re most excited to see this year.

LD: This year is our 5th year in Austin throwing unofficial SXSW Rock or Die showcases and we can’t believe it! We have two unofficial showcases and six bands we have worked with are OFFICIAL SXSW showcasing artists this year!  That’s huge.

We are stoked for Wednesday 3/15, Hard Luck Lounge, nine bands, including Stuyedeyed, Grim Streaker, Pink Mexico, Ex-Girlfriends, Dentist, Gustaf, Old Lady, John Wesley Coleman III, and Shred Flinstone.

Saturday we are teaming up with our favorite friends over at CoolDad Music and Garden State Beardos to bring a killer Day party to Valhalla w/ The Gloomies, Dentist, Lee Bains III & The Glory Fires, BOYTOY, Kino Kimino, High Waisted, Sharkmuffin, Honduras & Fruit & Flowers.

AF: What’s your favorite food truck at SXSW?

LD: This is gonna sound very lazy, but every year I find one I like, and I either forget the name of it or I remember and when I come back the next year it’s in a totally different place (maybe ’cause its a food TRUCK?) so I don’t make it back. But at least we are finding a new one every year. Just a few I remember: Valentina’s Tex Mex BBQ, Tapas Bravas, the killer breakfast taco truck that used to be on East 6th but now I can’t find….

AF: How did you get started booking showcases at SXSW? Why do you keep coming back?

LD: We just decided to go for it and take the chance. Even though no one really knew us yet, we didn’t care – we wanted to get out and be a part of something, so we said F-it and it paid off! We met many wonderful people down there. If we hadn’t started going our lives would be much different.

AF: What are your favorite and least favorite SXSW memories? Does it get easier or more difficult booking and taking care of so many bands each year at SXSW?

LD: My least favorite memory is showing up to a venue and them not having a sound system when we were told they had a top of the line system, so the fall out that happened after that wasn’t my fav.

A great memory was asking INVSN with Dennis Lyxzen of Refused to play and they showed up and put on a  hell of a surprise show! Also, getting to meet the Mrs. Magician dudes. I think just getting to hang and see people we’ve worked with play great shows is the best feeling ever.

AF: How has the festival changed over the years and what would you like to see more or less of this year or in the future?

LD: The first year we were there it had HUGE acts – I think it was the year Lady Gaga, Kanye, etc. were there. I think it had gotten out of hand. There was also a bad accident that killed someone. Since then I have seen it become a little more more up-and-coming acts instead of trying to pack in the big names, which obviously feels better to us. It also gotten warmer each year….we will see what happens this year!

[fusion_builder_container hundred_percent=”yes” overflow=”visible”][fusion_builder_row][fusion_builder_column type=”1_1″ background_position=”left top” background_color=”” border_size=”” border_color=”” border_style=”solid” spacing=”yes” background_image=”” background_repeat=”no-repeat” padding=”” margin_top=”0px” margin_bottom=”0px” class=”” id=”” animation_type=”” animation_speed=”0.3″ animation_direction=”left” hide_on_mobile=”no” center_content=”no” min_height=”none”]

Little Dickman SXSW Family Photo 2017[/fusion_builder_column][/fusion_builder_row][/fusion_builder_container]


I’ve been called a masochist for going to Austin, TX’s South By South West festival so many years in a row. SXSW 2018 will be my eighth return trip and this year I’ll be an official artist with all three of my projects – Sharkmuffin, Ex-Girlfriends and Kino Kimino – totaling 17 sets in five days. Aside from the direct coffee IV I’ll be dragging around with me during the week, I’ll be taking my vitamins, (maybe) avoiding day drinking and eating at a lot of food trucks.

Navigating the music industry’s spring break for the first time can seem like a daunting task, so to help ease your South By South Stress, we talked to festival rookies Def.Grls and veterans Dentist, Leggy, and Boytoy, who have each made as many return trips to Austin as me.

Def.Grls (Brooklyn, NY)

AF: What about SXSW are you most excited about?

Mark: I’m most excited for all of the rock and roll, all of the debauchery, for all of the drugs, for all of the emotions and that I’m gonna win the official Def.GRLS tour game: The Great American Hero’s Quest; The Race for Badger’s Cup!

Craig: I’m most excited to visit the city of Austin for the first time. I’m excited for my first ever SXSW experience. I’m excited for Mark to do all the drugs and feel all the emotions. And I can’t wait to win the official Def.GRLS tour game: The Great American Hero’s Quest; The Race for Badger’s Cup!

Hannah: I’m most excited for my first ever tour and that I get to be with the GRLS! I’m also excited to play a house show on the way at Carl Fike’s house in Little Rock!!! I’m also most excited by how Craig is already negative points in the official Def.GRLS tour game: The Great American Hero’s Quest; The Race for Badger’s Cup!

AF: What was booking your first tour like?

Craig: Hannah was the mastermind behind this tour so we’ll let her field this one.

Hannah: It was really confusing and hard and fun! And mostly successful due to the kindness of strangers on the internet. I went to bandcamp and listened to, like, infinity bands in the different cities that would maybe make sense to stop at along the way, and when I found one I really liked, I reached out being like “Hey, you wanna be friends??” And they all put me in touch with a second or third or fourth person who helped us set up all the shows along the way. So freaking cool and friendly.

AF: What SXSW shows are you playing?

Def.GRLS: We’re playing 4 unofficial showcases in Austin! Starting things off with a daytime set on Wednesday the 14th at the 6th annual Uglyfest at Cherrywood Coffeehouse and then playing again that night at the Nochebuena in Space party at Stay Gold! Then on Thursday the 15th, we’re playing on the Midcoast Takeover stage at Shangri-la (where Hannah’s brother is running sound!). Then on Saturday the 17th we’re going to wrap up our time in Austin at the Indicate Interest day party showcase at Hops and Grain!

AF: How are you going to pass the time on the road on your way to Texas?

Craig: We love to do Madlibs, listen to Aqua…

Mark: …pray to Ihop (rule #23 in the official Def.GRLS tour game: The Great American Hero’s Quest; The Race for Badger’s Cup!)

Craig: …gossiping about our frenemies. But mostly participation in the official Def.GRLS tour game: The Great American Hero’s Quest; The Race for Badger’s Cup is very demanding of our mind, body and soul.

Hannah: So true. The official Def.GRLS tour game: The Great American Hero’s Quest; The Race for Badger’s Cup tests each GRL’s mental, physical and psychic strengths. It says so right on the first page:

Mark: Hannah’s in the lead. But I’m gonna win. 4glory!!



Dentist (Asbury Park, NJ)

AF: What’s your favorite food truck / venue in Austin?

Our experience is somewhat limited at this point, but when we were there in 2016 we really enjoyed playing at the Hard Luck Lounge because they had a great outdoor section and a food truck outside with very tasty snacks. We always like playing outside when it’s nice out.

AF: What’s the craziest thing that’s happened to you at SXSW?

One of the days when we were hanging out and drinking, we ended up at some cowboy bar and this older guy, probably in his 60s or 70s, asked me to square dance with him. Turns out he must have been a professional or something. Even though I frequently line danced to “Achy Breaky Heart” in middle school during gym class, I couldn’t keep up and had to sit down after 15 minutes or so.  Not sure how crazy that is, but it’s a funny memory that comes to mind.

AF: What are your tips for surviving SXSW?

I think it’s all about a mindset. Normally at a certain point you would say to yourself, “I’m tired, time to go home,” but you just have to tell yourself that it’s only one week, and you can find time to sleep at some other point in the future.

AF: What showcases are you playing, and what showcases or bands are you the most excited to go see?

Our official showcase is at BD Riley’s on March 15th at 10pm. Then we are playing two awesome unofficial shows with amazing lineups; the first one is March 15th starting at 4pm at Hard Luck Lounge and is presented by Little Dickman Records, the other is presented by Little Dickman Records, CoolDad Music, and Garden State Beards and is at Valhalla on March 17th starting at 11am. We are down to take on more stuff, so if anyone reading is doing a showcase and wants to reach out, go for it! We are really excited to see Wavves, Andrew W.K, Sharkmuffin, Parrot Dream, Fruit and Flowers, Ex Girlfriends, Pink Mexico, Beams, Albert Hammond Jr., Anna Burch, High Waisted, Kino Kimino, Boytoy, Grace Vonderkuhn and a bunch more I’m sure.


Boytoy (Brooklyn, NY)

AF: What’s your favorite food truck / venue in Austin?

Hotel Vegas always has rad stuff going on. If we’re not playing a show we usually end up just hanging around there. We love the Bloody Marys at Rio Rita’s. Cheer Up Charlie’s is always a good show. And Spider House.

AF: What’s the craziest thing that’s happened to you at SXSW?

Chase: I MET MY TOP HEROES IN THE SAME DAY! I woke up and saw Michelle Obama speak on a panel, kissed Iggy Pop’s hand, saw the late Leon Russell play, and ran into Erykah Badu like three times.

Sara: Glenn and I did acid and watched Jacuzzi Boys play at Hotel Vegas. Everyone around us was so drunk and destroying the tree in the yard and that’s where I think it went downhill for Glenn. We went to see Sheer Mag play a show on a foot bridge at like 2am. The bridge was definitely swaying and Glenn kept checking the date the bridge was constructed thinking if it was gonna collapse she had her exit plan.

AF: What are your tips for surviving SXSW?

Adderall and day drinking. Don’t try to overachieve on show hopping. It’s usually better to pick a showcase and stay put for a few hours to avoid all the chaos.

AF: What showcases are you playing and what showcases or bands are you the most excited to go see?

This year is going to be crazy for us! We’re doing Burgerama, Wienermania, Desert Daze, Pond Magazine, Cult Citizen, Quit Your Day Job, Onward Indian, Little Dickman, Siren Sounds, Panache Hangover, and a couple of house parties.

Our schedule is so crazy that I’m not sure we’ll be able to have much free time to see other shows! Basically just the bands that will be playing right around our set times, so it’s cool most of them are our friends. We’ve found it’s better to stumble into thing rather than try to plan a schedule. The random finds are always the most gratifying. Chase wants to catch Princess Nokia.

Leggy (Cincinnati, OH)

AF: What’s your favorite food truck / venue in Austin?

I really like the Whip In! We played there one SXSW – it’s a corner store, bar, venue, and Indian food restaurant combo. Pretty dank. Spider House and Cheer Up Charlies are also really great and beautiful.

AF: What’s the craziest thing that’s happened to you at SXSW?

We once rented a one bedroom apartment with three other bands, and that also included their assorted roadies, pals, and makeout partners. It was something like 22 people in there. Pretty amazing that anyone found a place to smooch! ;)

AF: What are your tips for surviving SXSW?

Go with the flow. Don’t be stressed if you can’t stick to a laid out plan of bands you want to see – things are crazy but fun! Always budget more time than you think you’ll need to make it to shows, especially if you’re playing. Austin is HOT! Bring sunscreen and summer clothes. Talk to everyone and make friends. You’ll probably see them again next year!!!

AF: What showcases are you playing & what showcases / bands are you the most excited to go see?

Shows Leggy is playing:
3/12 Strange Brew at Volstead Lounge @ 5:45pm
3/13 Ground Floor Booking showcase at Love Goat @ 7pm
3/13 Room 484 Showcase at Fine Southern Gentlemen @ 11:45pm
3/14 Outer Orbit Booking Showcase at Stay Gold @ 11pm
3/15 Grey Estates Showcase at Voodoo Donut @ 3:30pm
3/15 That’s What She Said Showcase at 1811 Rosewood @ 8pm
3/15 Howdy Gals Showcase at Hole in the Wall @ 10:30pm
3/16 Escapes House Party @ 5pm
3/17 Burgermania at Hotel Vegas @ 5:45pm
3/17 Howdy Gals Party at Beerland @ 10pm

I’m most excited to check out the Old Flame Records Showcase at Swan Dive on 3/17 to catch some pals from Cincinnati (Lung and Dawg Yawp). I also really want to catch Say Sue Me (from Korea) because we are touring with them next month!

Make your band’s first or fifth trip to SXSW easier by…

  1. Finding your place to crash well in advance. Airbnbs can be $600 (or more!)  a night. If you’re stuck sleeping in your van, there’s a nice lobby at the downtown Hilton where I’ve taken many mid-day naps while charging my phone.
  2. Packing Light. You’ll be out all day, so other than your music equipment you’ll only want a light (possibly free if you’re official) backpack.
  3. Putting your name, phone number and/or some kind of unique look on all your gear. There are so many bands’ shit lying around,  it’s good to be able to easily and quickly identify your own stuff.
  4. Keeping business cards & stickers handy.
  5. Making time to see bands you wouldn’t normally see in your hometown. SXSW is all about the parties, but it’s also a great time to network and connect with folks from DIY scenes in other cities.
  6. Drinking lots of water. SXSW is one massive day drinking contest. You can win if you remember to hydrate!