It's rare for a band to be hand-picked by an act as big as R.E.M. to play as an opener, but that's precisely what happened to Summerbirds in the Cellar at South by Southwest this year.

It's rare for a band to be hand-picked by an act as big as R.E.M. to play as an opener, but that's precisely what happened to Summerbirds in the Cellar at South by Southwest this year.

Within the last four years, co-founders Brad Register and Curtis Brown, originally from Lakeland, Fla., made Athens, Ga., their "second home." Once there, Register started making connections through his job working the door at Athens' venerable 40 Watt Club. Register and Brown were eventually asked to play in Athens rock act Now It's Overhead (Saddle Creek), fronted by musician/engineer Andy LeMaster who, in turn, asked Summerbirds to open for his band on a national tour. LeMaster also produced the Summerbirds' 2005 debut, "With the Hands of the Hunter It All Becomes Dead," as well as its ambitious full-length "Druids," which was soft-released in October.

"On 'Druids,' we were writing more as a band. We had a more cohesive style. It was more of a complete thought," Register says. The group's sound is inspired in part by bands like My Bloody Valentine and the Jesus and Mary Chain and combines electronic and dance elements with fuzzy guitars and Register's dream-like tenor.

LeMaster put the band's records into the hands of his Athens buddies, including R.E.M.'s Mike Mills and Michael Stipeā€”and a connection was made. Summerbirds' Austin show was broadcast live on more than 20 radio stations and featured on NPR's "All Things Considered."

The group will be on tour in North America this summer with Tokyo Police Club and Maserati.