The Houston Music Blog section of the Free Press Houston.

Wednesday, June 24, 2024

Anderson interviews Herndon

posted by Free Press Houston @ 2:27 PM

Tortoise has an album called “Beacons Of Ancerstorship” on Thrill Jockey Records. In celebration of this event , I called a member of the band, John Herndon, who, apparently pumps gas during a hail storm, to discuss the latest Tortoise album, the current state of the music industry. However, since I did not have questions, per se (it was more of a casual conversation), I thought I’d just make up questions that may or may not relate to the answers and present it as the intentional piece. See Omar, I make you wait a day for this. (Writer’s note: This isn’t our actual conversation verbatim, the quotes are real, but I know John, so this is sort of culled from our conversation, which pertained to the album).

FP: How’s the weather in Chicago, enjoying the pre summer days?
JOHN H.: Watching this storm fromm underneath this over pass, and it’s got some hail, that’s the size of golf balls.
FP: Your album is fabulous.
JH: Thanks a lot. Are you calling to interview me?
FP: I think it’s cool how the album is available in multiple formats, other than, illegally downlaoded. I noticed that this record is like Tortoise’s return to beats…
JH: It wasn’t premeditated, we didn’t really talk about, like “Let’s get back to beats.” It just seemed like it was where a lot of people’s heads were at. A lot of it, for me, was like trying to discover where people like(hip hop producer, genius) Jay Dee were at, and Mad Lib, and I think Jeff and I have been listening to Jay Dee stuff a lot but I think everybody wanted to make something that was reflective, or what was happening in our own spaces…
FP: When you bring a song to the band, before it is completed to be illegally downloaded, how does that work in terms of the democracy of the band, how each member’s song ideas get incorporated into the boullibaise that is a Tortoise album?
JH: You’re asking like how you present a song to Tortoise, and have a everybody agree to work on it? Well I just kind of collect stuff, I’m really good at starting shit, but I aint great at finishing it, so I have like a bazillion little scraps of ideas on my computer, or on the MP (360, a sampler beat machine thingy), and I’ll just bring in everything, I’ll play 27 beats that I have, and just sort of wait until something catches people’s ear, and then it’s obvious and we’ll work on that (on the other hand) you play something and you see glassy eyed stares, people starting to look away, and awkward silence, and you’ll be “Oh well let’s play the next one…”
FP: I like the length between the records, it gives you a long time, to make sure it’s sank in, like your last album (It’s All Around You) took five years to sink in…
JH: I don’t know why it takes us so long, we never have the intention of waiting so long between records, if someone had told me it was gonna be five years between when this record came out after the last one, I would have said you’re shitting me. I would like to start working on a new record now, and have it come out next year, but I don’t think that that’s gonna happen. I don’t know why it is, but we work really slowly. We all havde things we like to do, as much as Tortoise, we put a lot of energy into other projects. With this record, I could say that my oldest son just turned five, so that might have something to do with it.
FP:The other day I downloaded the new Liberace album, it was OK, Lil’ Wayne has a verse on it.
JH: That’s where things are at, people are not buying records. I’m curious to see…I downloaded Beacons Of Ancestorship a month ago, I was looking around to see if it was anywhere, and I found this blog sight, and they had a Rapidshare address, I went there, click, download, and I download the whole thing.
FP:Mos Def’s new album it’s being sold on a T Shirt with a downoad code on the tag and the songs on the back of the shirt, I’m thinking of doing the same thing with a toilet paper, but putting the download code on the cardboard roll, wipe your ass, while you jam my shit.
JH: It’s almost like people don’t even have a CD player anymore, if you’re a nerd or something you have a record player, downloads and vinyl are where things are going now, and most people don’t even have a record player, so there’s a few people that would buy a CD, a few people will buy the vinyl, but most people are downloading it.
FP: But look on the bright side, people rob other people during a recession, they don’t pay so you can’t get paid, but they think you’re awesome.
JH: Yeah, it’s interesting, I don’t expect anybody to buy a record really, but hopefully we’ll play some shows, we’re gonna be busy through the summer and hopefully that’s gonna be able to help me with making a living.
FP: Making a living…
JH:But whatever, I don’t wanna poo poo this shit, and beat beat (into the ground) this “making a livng” shit, because the bottom line is that regardless if I’m making a living or not music is going to be my prority, and if that I have supplement my income doing something else, then I’ll just do that.

Saturday, June 20, 2024

Punk This: Double Dagger at SHFL 6/23

posted by Free Press Houston @ 11:53 AM

Brigitte B. Zabak

I know what all you folks out there in the Houston music scene must be thinking right about now. It probably involves something along the lines of – “What the hell does she know about punk music when all she writes about is indie this and indie that?” Well, while my knowledge of punk, post-punk, and pseudo punk is limited in scope, I am still fairly confident in my ability to know when music is good and when it ranks up there with American Idol rejects.

In recent weeks, I have had the good fortune of discovering the existence of a trio from Baltimore that makes lots and lots of noise without all the bullshit. Double Dagger is a three piece ensemble that utilizes drums, bass and vocals to create more volume than should be possible when using so little instrumentation. The nerd-centric crew has an impressive background in graphic design and has channeled their inherent visual creativity into its very geeky and loud auditory counterpart.

What is even more appealing about Double Dagger is the high praise they have been receiving for their live performances. They are a band who has mastered the ability to translate their erratic, improvised live goodness into the more structured medium of recording and still manage to maintain a high level of quality on both fronts. And while it’s awesome to be able to have the Double D with you wherever you go – it is really in their live performance that you get to experience the layered texture and sheer volume of their music.

Double Dagger has embarked on a pretty extensive summer tour and will be stopping by ye old Houston to share the stage with two of the city’s loudest and rowdiest bands. Muhammid Ali is quickly becoming one of Houston’s favorite new acts. Their live shows are energetic and fun and their music is a sort of power punk/pop hybrid that is hard to stop listening to once you’ve started. Black Congress is comprised of some of Houston’s most influential veteran musicians and rounds out this trifecta of sound with their cacophonous clusterfuck of infinite proportions.

Combining Double Dagger’s stinging punch with the riotous roar of Black Congress and Muhammid Ali will probably result in night filled with drunken, garbled mayhem – most likely perpetrated by the bands themselves. It should be a night to remember, assuming you don’t drink yourself into an alcoholic stupor at some point during the event.

Double Dagger and company will be performing on Tuesday, June 23rd at the new and improved Super Happy Fun Land now located at 3801 Polk. In addition to the already awesome lineup, the show will be the official kick-off for Muhammid Ali’s summer tour. The show will start promptly at 9 p.m. and should end close to midnight. Tickets can be purchased at the door for $7.

Thursday, May 28, 2024

How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Tolerate the Funk

posted by april5k @ 7:20 AM

Man, you go out of town for two weeks and it takes you six weeks to get back on track. Seriously. So, now maybe I can get my priorities back intact and start talking at you about local music the way I should. So while everyone is reviewing Elaine Greer's release (which I'm sure is great, I've loved her since back in the Holly Hall, but I unfortunately have not heard note one of) I'm going to tell you about another release going on this weekend, Electric Attitude's Laser Laser Laser Beams. And after that, this weekend's line-up!

When it comes to funk, I usually the wrong person to ask. But when my dear friend Blake told me to take a listen to his bands new EP, no way in hell was I going to say know. I've shared bills with Electric Attitude on more than one occasion and have witnessed first hand the frenzy that the can work a crowd into. Blake is a dynamic frontman and I know of his love of The White Stripes and Franz Ferdinand, and if you throw in a huge heap of funky wah-wah grooves then what he's got your gonna get it put it in you (yes. that was a RHCP reference).

There is a big audience for these party jams and salacious entrities to young ladies (possibly in the audience?) for an after hours good time. Blake often approaches that Jack White yelp in his vocalization but flips things around a bit with the "Take Me Out" style riffage that blasts off into some kind of cosmic funk laser solo...which I think might be the be the first party band in space. Make that the first human party band in space as I believe there's interest from Max Rebo to scoop these guys up to open for them on their intergalactic reunion tour.

My favorite track is "Pistolwhip", and maybe it's cheating because knowing Blake, I'm pretty sure I know what these lyrics are specifically about, and that's always an easy behind-the-scenes thrill. But insider knowledge aside, it's got a killer (Killers? haha) hook and it's a shoe-in for them to win the talent show at Galaxy High. All-in-all this is NOT your father's Solar Samba Rumba what with the binge drinking enabling robots and laser beams flying on the dance floor, but there's no need to fear the Sarlacc, there's only need to dance.

This Thursday's Cactus in-store is Austin's The Belleville Outfit, they're that right kind of fun and beautiful Americana that surpases the trappings of the genre and crosses over into the indie midset. It starts at 5:30pm and is a great way to get ready for the main event tonight. It goes without saying that the important event is Elaine Greer's CD Release at Mango's. She is one of the city's favorite female singer-songwriters (and there are a lot of great ones here!) and getting ahold of a for-real release has been a long time coming. Galveston friends Darwin's Finches are playing at Super Happy Fun Land and from what I heard The Points after their show there the other night, you might want to bring the band some beer. And a show that Houston is pretty lucky to get (in light of the really cool bands skipping us all the time) is break out popstress Lissy Trullie appearing at Rudyard's with The Virgins and Anya Marina. If you're in the mood for some really nice soul music Anthony Hamilton is playing at Reliant, a big show, but dude is smooth. Over at The Rat's Nest (2305 Lyons Ave) you can loose your mind to Witch Hunt and it's not even the weekend.

FRIDAY MAY 29, 2024
There is always a shit-ton to do on a Friday night but I can only give 100% approval to some of them. At the top of my list is the Ditchwater Records Showcase #1 at Rudyard's featuring the most criminally under rated band in town Dead Roses. Ok, sure people who know them, love them, but get the word out. with or without a drummer they rock harder than anyone. They're doing it up right with The Wrong Ones. But over at The Houston Foundry (1712 Burnett) is a huge all party mess featuring the appropriately rated Muhammid Ali (everyone talks about 'em as they should!) and Death Rainbow Fuck Evil Blood (what?), Balls Deep, Limp Limb and a bunch more. Doors at 7:30pm. Mango's brings you great show #8,262 in the long line of great shows in it's short existance with My Name is John Michael and The Riff Tiffs. And finally, if you want to do it up proper head to the Arena Theater and if there are tickets left you can go see BB King.

There's twice as much to do tonight, so you better get to decidin'. Hopefully my little look at Electric Attitude's EP might compel you to go out to The Mink for their CD release. They'll be joined by Female Demand and Satin Hooks. But of course, as usually can you can start the party early over at Cactus for the Dexter Romweber Duo instore at 3:30pm, but of course they'll be at Rudz later with Detroit Cobras. Oooooh but a wonderful show is at Mango's! It's The Theater Fire, listenlisten, Sew What (favorite!) and Robert Ellis (another favorite!). For reals, if you haven't had your heart melted by Sew What yet, then stop being a chump and get to it. Longtime local favorite Motion Turns It On are playing to the white shoes over at Notsuoh, Cop Warmth are at The White Swan and (this one's for Jake the Snake) King's X is over at The Meridian. But I gotta say 10th Grade Cutie and The Caprolites at an afternoon matinee might be a perfect way to spend the pre-show hours. That's over at SHFL with a whole mess of other bands.

Sunday May 31, 2024
The weekend just keeps going and I know that while my friend who is visiting from out of town will be at No Doubt at Cynthia Woods, I will more likely be at The Mink for The Footsies. I caught them the other night and they definitely grew on my during the course of their set. Good stuff. They're playing with Stallone!!! and Brutally Normal. Over at the
(819 Land Grant Dr in Richmond) for Joshua English, he was in Six Going On Seven. We all liked that band. And it's a potluck. We all like food.

Hey! Joshua Englishb is playing again. This time at Mango's! So close to home!

Super nice show going on over at The Mink. It's got local folks I love Cedar Boy Bailey(Sergio from Buxton) and sings (now with a full band!) along with other nice people Western Giants(with a new EP!), This Old House and Framework.

Later dudes.

Talking CD release with Elaine Greer

posted by Ramon Medina - LP4 @ 12:01 AM

Elaine Greer vs. Bubbles by Jim Dillon

Elaine Greer is someone readers of this newspaper and blog should be quite familiar with (See our profile of her from March 2024). She's one of Houston's best singer songwriters - packing a sharp gift for melody in one holster and strong and distinctive voice in the other. If anyone's work in Houston has been long overdue a proper CD release, it's Elaine Greer's! Thankfully on Thursday at Mango's Elaine is finally letting the hen out and releasing her first proper CD - a six-song EP "Making Plans and Going Places." The songs should be quite familiar to fans who've kept up with her live performances and many will be excited and surprised at how Elaine approached the songs in the studio.

Thrilled about the imminent release we sent Elaine the death metal questions you saw on the homepage (link) then figured - oh, what they hey - we may as well actually ask her some real questions too. Thankfully Elaine was gracious enough to reply to both sets of questions.

FPH: How was this whole process different than the CDRs of your work that you've released before and sold at shows?

EG: Well, I didn't want to stray too far from that and risk the CD not sounding how I'm used to sounding. I think the biggest change is simply the instrumentation. In my past recordings I would add on as much as I could, but a lot of the things on the CD now weren't a possibility. And of course, quality wise, this CD shouldn't even compare to the home recordings, all of which were done with one crappy USB microphone! Process wise, it was initially strange for me just sitting there waiting while someone else recorded parts, but I think I got used to it pretty quickly!

FPH: I really like the production on the album. It’s rich but not overbearing. My favorite example is the string arrangements on Under The Radar they’re just this perfect touch. Who played the strings and who arranged them? Also, where was this recorded? Did you have a Producer? How was the recording process like? Who were the players and what did they bring to the process?

EG: The strings on Under the Radar were played by Gillian Williams (cello) from News on the March, and Brian Howe (violin). The arrangements were constructed by Harrison Speck and myself. For Under the Radar, we sat down with a keyboard and used the fake string sound to figure out something that would sound good, and then he made our dinky keyboard sketch into some readable sheet music! For Wild Things, I have to give all of the credit to him as far as the string arrangement goes. Some of it ended up being cut out in the mixing process. Nearly the entire CD was recorded at Master Bedroom Studios (the studio of Joe Weber from NOTM), but the horns parts were recorded by Harrison Speck (trombone) and Amber Nepodal (trumpet) in Austin and sent to us in Houston. There was no producer; I kind of had rough ideas for how I wanted the songs to sound, but nothing definite. I wanted to ideally reach a mix between the simpler more vocally based home recordings and the more upbeat live band sound we had at the time. All of the different people who played on the CD brought something different to the table and I think that's what really affected the end result. Other than the above mentioned players, there was Travis Smith on bass, Andrew Ortiz on drums, Lucas Gorham on lapsteel, Austin Sepulvado on guitar, accordian, and backing vocals...I played a bunch of piano and keyboardy bits, bells, and omnichord...Joe Weber and Harrison Speck played a couple of keyboardy get the idea! I went in first to lay down the acoustic guitar tracks, followed by bass and drums, and from there it was just a slow building process to what it is now.

FPH: These songs have been kicking around for a while now and for the most part the arrangements have been pretty set in stone for a while so while recordings don’t vary much structurally, there is a lot more lush palate you are working with in the studio in terms of instrumentation. How did you approach figuring out just what you wanted to add, what you wanted to change, and what was too much?

EG: This was actually something I mulled over a lot before and during the recording process. I knew the kinds of sounds I wanted, but I initially didn't know where or how to incorporate it...which resulted in the recording happening in a system of layers. We would record the parts we already had, and then record new alternatives, and in the end it was kind of a trial and error/elimination process. There were definitely a couple points where things started sounding really cluttered and confusing, but in the end I think it all got sorted out!

FPH: Were there any unexpectedly happy surprises in the process?

EG: Oh definitely. Lots and lots of them. I was super excited about the string and horn parts, and I'm really pleased with the outro of Ancient History and the big build up at the end of Under the Radar. After Lucas recorded lapsteel on Wild Things, we all kept listening to it and being like "Whoa that part's neat!" I was also glad to be able to incorporate some pretty dreamy instruments, and now have a new love for glockenspiel and omnichord.

FPH: How did you approach your vocals on the CD compared to your live performances. Did you find your phrasing change in the studio or was it pretty much just how it came out?

EG: Well, in general I think I tend to sing louder and more enthusiastically in the live setting, especially with the band...mostly to match the volume of the situation. On the recording I wanted it to be more of how I would naturally sing the song, even if only to myself. I get really nervous about recording vocals around other people, especially harmonies and "oohs" and "ahs". So I had to do a lot of those when there was no one else in the room, but I guess in the end however it came out wasn't completely planned. A couple little changes had to be made, such as having overlapping lines on Under the Radar. The reason is that the song is faster now than it originally was when I wrote it, and I had trouble fitting all the words in! Not to mention that some of the songs on the CD were first (home) recorded 6 months-a year ago...sometimes I start singing them a little differently throughout time without even realizing it.

FPH: I see Michael Rodriguez did the cover art. How was it working with him and getting the look that conveyed what you wanted for the CD?

EG: Working with him was went very smoothly and was very easy. We sat down once to talk about ideas for the cover art, and there were a few different directions it could have gone. There were also a couple different stages with different designs. I think what I initially told him was fairly vague, but I wasn't too worried because I've never seen anything he's done that I didn't like!

FPH: Was there anything you wanted to add that just wasn’t able to make it on the CD?

EG: Yes, but I think that would always be the case. I originally had recorded a piano song that was supposed to be on the CD, but it ended up getting ignored and was never finished. I would have liked to have a piano based song, and I didn't quite do as many crazy vocal harmony parts as I would have liked to. But hey, I'll save all that for the full length.

Elaine Greer CD release party with News on the March and One Hundred Flowers. $8 includes copy of disc. 9 p.m. Thursday @ Mango's.

(Note: that digital download version of the EP should be available in about a month.)


Thursday, May 14, 2024

The Large-Hearted Girl...Unleashed!

posted by april5k @ 9:26 AM

Sorry I was so negative last week. There has been a lot of good news since last week, so I'm definitely in a better mood. And as a first order of business HAPPY BIRTHDAY RAMON! Alright, now onto an early warning. Ten years ago there was a concert series called Hot Pop City organized by Left of the Dial mag's David Ensminger. To mark the anniversary he is planning Hot Punk City. Two nights of awesomeness and one special event that has definitely eased my return to Houston: LONDON GIRL 10 YEAR REUNION. Whoa. WHAT? STOKED...and yes, I was in London Girl, but suck it, this is awesome and you know it and if you're not coming you are the Kobayashi of eating dicks. Here's the info from the source:

Left of the Dial is celebrating the 10th anniversary of the groundbreaking Hot Pop City series, which took place in 1999 and 2024 and featured iconic alt pop/post-punk bands such as the Rondelles, Red Monkey, and Silver Scooter to performers such as Daniel Johnston and Britt Daniel (Spoon), by sponsoring Hot Punk City at the Mink, another two night event stretched over the exact same time frame as before: July 31st - Aug. 1st.

The shows both honor Randy "Biscuit" Turner of the Big Boys, Cargo Cult, and Biscuit Bombs, who was a 30 year veteran of the Texas punk and outsider art scenes, who died in August 2024, and will attempt to raise money for Peter Case, brilliant godfather of power pop and punk (The Nerves and the Plimsouls), who just underwent open heart surgery. Both Peter and Randy once joined each other on stage to sing a 13th Floor Elevators song! Old school Texas punk pioneers like AK-47 and Mydolls will join new upstarts like O Pioneers! and Guitars, along with the unexpected reunion of grrrl pop punkers London Girl (a 10th year anniversary too!) and friends from afar, like We Moderns from No Idea records in Florida.

During the day, 12- 6 p.m. on Saturday, the Mink will also host a Punk Flea Market, a free event featuring vendor tables full of zines, DIY clothes and fashion, art, books, music (of all stripes and formats), posters, etc. Space is limited, so if you wish to be a vendor, please contact There is no vendor fee, and we welcome anyone working within the punk and DIY umbrella.

Ok, now that I've got that special announcement out of the way, let's get down to this week...

The Hollisters are doing the Discovery Green thing today, I'm not sure what time, but I bet it's earlier, so know that, first. Later on tonight Her Space Holiday would be my pick of a good time. He (is he playing alone?) are at Walter's with City Light. If songs about sleepy tigers are a bit too limp wristed for you then get your ass over to The Mink for Golden Axe. Also aboard for the face-smashfest are The Jonx, Stinking Lizaveta and Darsombra. If you're crusing for some lush indulgence then maybe head to Mango's to catch Flowers to Hide, playing with Chris Velan. Sidenote, though it is mindblowingly weird being in the old Oven, the new Mango's is hells of tight. Back to the line-ups. El Ten Eleven are Rudzin' it up with Novox and finally over at SHFL, The Cave Reverend and Generation:Landslide! are doin' their things.

FRIDAY MAY 15, 2024
Far and away the best thing you could Friday night is go to the Rober Ellis album release at Mango's. Robert Ellis is one of the hell of a singer-songwriter, with touchstones ranging from the country soulfulness of Willie Nelson to a quirk-free version of John Darnielle (to me that's a breath of fresh air). And this is going to be a flat-out fantastic show with Buxton and listenlisten as guests. I'm very hesitant to alert you to anything else going on Friday night, but I will, but I won't give much away...Ladyheat are playing their final Houston show (good for them!) with The Watermarks at The Mink. O Pioneers!!! and This Year's Tiger are playing with some other bands, the names of which bring to mind post-post-post-hardcore-emo-pop-punk youths not buying alcohol at Walter's. PLF are kicking of a tour at The Rat's Nest (2305 Lyons Ave) with Nibiru and HRA and a bunch of other brutal outfits. And for the vets there 500 Megatons of Boogie over at Rudyard's with But for real Come See My Dead Person. Oh and The Hangouts from College Station are playing Notsuoh. But for real Robert Ellis.

I can't fight it I know everyone's going to go to the ArtStorm Compilation Release there are a bunch of bands some good some great and it's at The Mink, you already know about this, you already know it's cover songs and you're already pissing your pants. Good on you. But there's also the Heavy Leather Record Release Party with Golden Axe & No Talk at Big Star, despite the controversy regarding the "no shows at Big Star, EVER" thing, I'm glad that the bands that have played there were of the Beaumosexual variety, and not indie-retirement-blues. At SHFL is the Do It Together Fest featuring every loud and grating noise punk in town and it starts at 2pm. It'll probably be awesome, so you should go to that too. Austin psych-dudes Amplified Heat will be at Rudyard's just in case you don't feel like standing around and doing a fest/release frenzy thing. And just in case you missed him last night, Robert Ellis is playing a second release show at The Local in Lake Jackson. (worth the driiiiiiiiiive.)

SUNDAY MAY 17, 2024
It really must be summer, because people are starting to part a little harder on Sunday's. See if you can make it to work Monday morning after hitting the TMMC Warehouse (2305 Lyons) for some more No Talk rock action. And then starting at 3pm you've got the Summer Jammie Jam (I love Jammie Jams!) at Azteca's with a whole bunch of bands, that I swore played there last weekend (ok, correction, the wrong date was originally listed). Finally you've got a really good band that you should be thankful came through Houston, The Dears at Warehouse.

I'm skipping straight to Wednesday because you should probably take a couple days off to assimilate and get geared up for The Vibrators at Jet Lounge. How good is this going to be? AWESOME. That's how good. Whoa.