After a Very Bad Year for the Band, Good Looks Feels Luckier Than Ever

A traumatic injury followed by a fiery crash left the future of Austin’s Good Looks uncertain. But the group feels luckier than ever.

Good Looks
Photo: Emilio Herce

This article was featured in Den of Geek magazine, which was published before artists pulled out of SXSW 2024 in protest of US military and defense company sponsorships at this year’s event.

It would be easy to assume Good Looks has bad luck. But singer-guitarist Tyler Jordan doesn’t see it that way. 

In 2022, the Austin band released Bummer Year, a seven-song LP of incisive social commentary that cuts through the chaos of our times—and through Jacob Ames’ busy, echoing guitar lines. The songwriter-meets-guitar-rock album would be well-received–but it was amidst difficult circumstances. 

Jordan wrote most of the songs on that debut LP while in a haze of depression and political fear between 2015 and 2018. Now a devout socialist, the songwriter grew up in a coastal South Texas community gripped by a cult-like brand of Christianity. Estranged from his parents, the 19-year-old moved to Austin in 2007 and found an enclave for artists—one that has since given way to high rents and corporate culture. 

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“I have so many fond thoughts and nice feelings about Austin,” he says. “But I also feel nervous about the scene getting smaller because artists are being priced out. What happens when there’s no place to fail?”

This backdrop—of depression, a complicated rural upbringing, and mounting socioeconomic challenges—swirled as Jordan penned the songs that made up Bummer Year. In the title track, Jordan forgives his high school friends for voting for Donald Trump, blaming a lack of class consciousness. They are the ones you “want with you in a bar fight,” he sings, and who “come a-racin’ in their stupid jacked up truck” when you get a flat tire. 

“A lot of folks think of it as a centrist song,” he says. “As a socialist, I feel the left has failed in winning people over, and the right has obscured the interest of the working class. So you have all these people voting for Trump who are kind people on a face-to-face level even if the politics are not kind on a macro level.”

However overt the lyrics may be, the politics are not really the point — or at least not the only one. The sparse “Vision Boards” — with its repetitive refrain “If the answer’s in yourself, well, the failure is your fault” — offers sparse insight into his headspace at the time. An indictment of hustle culture’s claim that one can manifest one’s way to success while ignoring systematic barriers, the tune also analyzes how mental illness held the writer back from fulfilling his artistic potential. How outside forces can get in the way of your best efforts. 

Soon, life would imitate art. 

By the spring of 2022, Jordan had gained ground on his depressive episodes. On April 10, the band punctuated the release of Bummer Year with a release show at the iconic East Austin venue Hotel Vegas. Buzzing, Ames, along with bassist Harrison Anderson and drummer Phil Dunne, enjoyed the after-hours celebration ahead of an extensive U.S. tour, while Jordan, an introvert, snuck out early. 

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In the middle of the night, Jordan received a call that Ames was in intensive care. He’d been hit by a car outside the venue and suffered a traumatic brain injury, a fractured skull, a fractured tailbone, a broken bone in his ear, and more. He stabilized quickly and luckily but required weeks of round-the-clock care from his mom and Jordan. Though Jordan played a few solo gigs, the band was forced to cancel its tour. 

For weeks, Jordan sat by Ames’ bedside and helped his main collaborator relearn to walk, talk, and, eventually, play guitar. Meanwhile, acclaim built for the new record. Two weeks after the accident, Pitchfork gave the album a favorable rating. Later, Austin Monthly named Good Looks Best Indie Band, and the Austin Chronicle called the group Austin’s Band of the Year. Music writer Steven Hyden placed the album on his year-end favorites. Support poured in from fans and the Austin community, who donated $63,868 to a GoFundMe campaign.

In July 2023, the band was ready to tour again. Ames had recovered at a near-miraculous pace. So, the group packed a white Econoline van with brand-new gear and $6,000 in merch that would help them finally capitalize on that acclaimed record. But on the way to the first gig, a car traveling at high speed rear-ended the band, driving them into an 18-wheeler truck. All four members escaped relatively unharmed, but the van caught fire. Everything but Ames’ pedalboard, the one responsible for those haunting reverbs and delays, was lost. Once again, the Austin community showed up for the band, donating another $29,220 to help the group get back on the road. 

“It’s weird. I didn’t feel unlucky in those situations,” Jordan says. “It was this good luck in a bad situation kind of thing. It really puts things in perspective.” 

Once again, Good Looks is walking on. Its second record, Lived Here For Awhile, drops in June. Jordan, who dives deeper into the abuse of his extreme religious upbringing as well as political themes of gentrification and development, describes the sound as “a little less Americana” and “a little noisier.” This month, the band expects to play at least two or three shows during South by Southwest, a week that Jordan calls “an incredible experience.” 

“You get to see all these bands in such a short window of time,” he says. “To be part of it… my brain can’t even process it.” 

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It’s almost as if that “Vision Board” has finally come true.

“Everything that 19-year-old me asked for has happened,” Jordan says. “I really can’t believe it.”

Good Looks plays SXSW 2024 on March 16 at The 13th Floor at 1 am CT.