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Wearing masks for the band, Attic Ted, is a San Marcos tradition.
Photo by Christopher Paul Cardoza

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Attic Ted's Grady Roper plays the clarinet.
Photo by Rebekah Anne Porter

Masks and music spur creative duo

Friday, October 27, 2023

A local band utilizes cardboard masks to create quirky characters that have become a staple of their performances–so much so that the crowd now dons the masks as well–dancing freely with the anonymity that a face-covering affords.

The band, Attic Ted, has had many members throughout the years, but is currently composed of Grady Roper, the lead singer who plays various instruments and Coby Cardosa on drums.

The band recently celebrated its 21st birthday at the Porch in San Marcos. The show had a unique lineup that, in addition to Attic Ted, was composed of Pili Coït, a French twoperson band with a chaotic and cool rock sound and Lovely Little Girls, a seven- piece ensemble with a haunting, melodic tone– both, much like the main act, are hard to label under any particular genre.

What makes this unique is that at each Attic Ted show, the performance is preceded by a mask-making workshop in which Roper helps future crowd members construct a mask for use at the show the next day.

Roper said these workshops and performances have occurred across the U.S. and the globe, including France, Germany, Belgium, Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Turkey, Austria and Israel.

From its inception, the band members have managed and booked their own tours and released all of their own music: 3 LPs, four seven inch singles, four early CDs and a Christmas Opera on cassette, which can be heard for free on Bandcamp or Spotify.

The band had humble beginnings and started with a $20 organ that Roper said he found in a bargain bin in the late 90s, before he even knew how to play the instrument.

“This instrument basically gave birth to Attic Ted,” Roper said. “Playing weirdo art punk music with an antique organ confused and delighted me.”

Roper said he spent years recording with friends before Attic Ted started playing shows in 2002.

“Originally I was carrying that huge piece of furniture to bars to play shows,” Roper said, noting that the earliest members included Wade Driver on guitar, Coby Cardosa on drums, and Lance McMahan on electronic noises, while he played the organ and sang. “The band evolved throughout the years with members coming and going. At one point we were six members, but now 21 years later, Coby and I are the team. Though, I often tour solo.”

In the beginning, Attic Ted played a few shows without masks. Then for a Halloween show, Roper built a Beethoven mask, which he jokingly wore to the concert.

“Instantly everything changed: my voice, body language, attitude and mannerisms melted into being a cantankerous old man,” Roper said. “It was way more fun to not be myself on stage. I immediately began making masks for all the band members and even extra ones for the audience. Now I use three or four different masks while on stage, switching between voices and characters, even singing duets with myself on certain songs.”

The idea to host mask-making workshops beforehand came around eight years ago when a fan from Germany requested Roper host a workshop before a concert, which he said was fun and easy to teach as the construction involves cardboard, a hot glue gun and acrylic paint.

“To play a show where the entire audience is also part of the performance is really taking a concert to the next level,” Roper said. “Everyone becomes part of the experience.”

Before Attic Ted received enough traction to play shows in Europe, Roper said they played a lot of shows at the Triple Crown, a downtown San Marcos music venue that has since been demolished and replaced by a high-rise apartment building, and various venues across Austin. The band then branched out and began an annual tour in the midwest–driving to Chicago and back, but he said everything changed when Attic Ted started touring Europe in 2012.

“Artists are treated way better in Europe than the U.S.A.,” Roper said. “European culture's appreciation for the arts is reflected in the way artists are cared for and respected. It was a lovely discovery.”

As evidenced by the large, animated crowd at the 21st birthday show, it is clear that San Marcos also has a deep appreciation for the masked duo.

If you’re interested in obtaining your own Attic Ted mask made by Roper himself, head to Wake the Dead Coffee House where they will be displayed until Halloween.

San Marcos Record

(512) 392-2458
P.O. Box 1109, San Marcos, TX 78666