I Was An Alien:
Something Fierce Rules This Ruined City

Something Fierce pic #1
Steven Garcia. Photo courtesy of Something Fierce.
I know the Punk Revolution of the late '90s has come and gone, and punk as a musical genre is now all mainstream and accepted and moving upwards, but y'know what? It just hasn't worked for me. The bulk of punk bands who've managed to hit on some kind of success leave me cold, and it's not because I've outgrown the music or anything like that, but because the bands themselves just don't have much of a soul.
Seriously -- look back at the legendary first wave of punk bands, on either side of the Atlantic, and you'll see a crew of people who did what they were doing not because they thought they'd make a ton of money or get laid but because they felt a fire burning inside 'em to make music that was louder, faster, rawer, and just generally more passionate than the frilly pop of the day. They may not have been playing James Brown covers, no, but they had soul, nonetheless. Finding that kind of a punk band today is about as rare as stumbling across long-lost Egyptian treasure hidden in the storm drain near your house -- that is, it very nearly never happens.
Which is partly what makes Something Fierce so incredible to behold. The trio fairly exploded onto the punk scene 'round these parts a year or three ago, stunning audiences and critics alike with the fiery, poppy, Britpunk-throwback brand of punk rock showcased on debut full-length Come For The Bastards. It's roaring, blazing stuff, yell-along catchy and melodic but still sharp as a switchblade; the songs these three kids come up with may be punk, but they're also surprisingly subtle, complex, and focused. Think The Buzzcocks, The Clash, Stiff Little Fingers, and The Ramones, all rolled into one intense three-person package. Plus, each and every time I've caught a set, they've played like their lives depended on it -- even when the band had driven back from South By Southwest hours before and they were all sick with the flu -- and the energy they throw off is infectious as hell.
With the band's second full-length, There Are No Answers, soon to be released -- they've also got two 7"s under their collective belt these days, including a split on Manic Attack Recs with The Hangouts and a solo release on Indiana's Bitchin' Riffage Recs -- we figured it was time to catch up with the band. We managed to corral frontman/lead singer/guitarist Steven Garcia and pestered him with a bunch of seemingly pointless questions, and the poor bastard actually answered. Read on...
Something Fierce plays its album release show Friday, December 19th at Walter's on Washington (4215 Washington Ave., Houston, TX. 77007).

SCR: Since not everybody may be real familiar with you guys, could you give a bit of history on the band? How did y'all get started?
Steven Garcia: Well, the band started with Niki and I banging punk tunes around in a house in the Heights. We'd officially met online upon realizing that we lived in the same apartment complex. She had posted in a Livejournal community that she was moving and wanted someone to take over the lease, and I responded with something along the lines of, "Hey! You're the punk rock girl in my apartments! I know you play music, so let's rock'n'roll!"
Amazingly, she responded in kind to my blather. It took a long while to find a drummer that we liked when all of the sudden, thanks to the ever-credited Nile Walker, Andrew fell in our laps. Everything really started when he came along. Before that, we were a Halloween Misfits cover band with a crappy name.
Nile Walker? Is that a person or a band? And what was the Misfits cover band? You guys seemed -- to me, at least -- to sort of explode out of nowhere, so I'm curious about the pre-SF history.
Nile Walker is dude's dude. The real McCoy. Andrew and I had both known him since we were teenagers, but we didn't know each other and had met infrequently at parties. It wasn't until I was complaining that I couldn't find a drummer that Nile said, "Well, you know Andrew plays drums, right?" "Who?" "The guy with the big, red afro that comes to our parties." "Shit, yeah! What's his number?"
Andrew hadn't played with any bands before, so he had trouble playing with another person in the room. Thankfully, he picked up really fast, and we practiced as a two-piece with guitar and drums for a short time until I felt we were ready to bring in Niki. The Misfits cover band was a one-time deal for a house party we had thrown. That was the only show we'd done without Andrew.
I guess the reason why we seemed to come out of nowhere is because we did. I was playing in Gun Crazy, who later became Born Liars, for over a year before Something Fierce came together, so I had a leg up on most kids that don't know where to start as a band. I knew where I wanted to play shows, where I wanted to record, and how to do album artwork, stickers, t-shirts, etc. I just learned from the older, smarter rock'n'roll dudes like Jimmy Sanchez, Shane Lauder, and Geoffrey Muller. Guys that know how to do it right. I paid attention, and I used what I learned.

And is the house where the band started also the house where y'all miraculously brought the lights back on, post-Ike, using the power of punk rock?
No, that house was bought and relocated several years ago. Sixteenth and Beall St. The Marshall Law house is where the lights came back on, but that wasn't a miracle. That was CenterPoint Energy busting ass for our neighborhood. I dunno, maybe they read the blog about our punk show.
The big news of the moment, obviously, is the new full-length you've got on the way -- what's that going to be like? Is it a major change from Come For The Bastards?
I would say so, yes. We really had no idea what we were doing while writing Come For The Bastards, and it was very much a period of finding ourselves and defining our tastes. I think There Are No Answers will further carve out influences that were previously seen, but from the style of recording to the songwriting, I would say there is a healthy difference.
Would you say it's more poppy, more punk, more...?
Yes, it's absolutely more punk/pop than the last album. I've immersed myself in the school of '70s and '80s punk rock, which I've always loved, and at a certain point, I was able to listen and figure out why I enjoyed that era of music so much. Once I did that, I wrote smarter, darker songs in a whole new fashion. Most of the songs are not as hard as the first album, but I think there is a black humor to most of my lyrics that the songwriting can finally keep pace with.
Got a favorite song off the new album? And will the stuff from the post-Bastards releases also be on the full-length?
"Aliens." It's the song I've been trying to write for seven years, and it's just under two minutes long. The album will include all of the songs that were written for the 7" releases, offering alternate versions to a few, plus half a dozen more sweet, hot jams. Get those checkbooks, chain-wallets and/or failing stocks in GM ready to purchase this mammoth of a release!
Something Fierce record cover
(Music courtesy of Something Fierce.)

Seven years? Damn...what was the holdup with that one?
You ever try to tell someone why you love them without sounding like John Mayer?
Point taken. I noticed, by the way, that a few of the songs on the new album, including "Aliens," have shown up previously as products of your Les Veines "side project" -- does Les Veines act as somewhat of a feeder to Something Fierce proper, or is it separate?
It's all connected. There are times when I need to write without the constraints of time and band members. Not that any of them hinder me from writing, but sometimes I can't focus all of my energy on a song when we're standing around, sweating in a practice space.
It started when I hit that desperate, once-a-year, writer's block that can bring even the most prolific songwriter to their knees, and I needed a separate entity to demo my ideas and solidify a song before I took it to practice. Les Veines is the separate entity, but I always intended the songs for Something Fierce. I was so surprised that the keyboard and guitar recordings turned out well, though. I guess it has become a feeder to my "real" band.
How did the recording process go this time around? Where did you do the recording?
Four of the songs will be from sessions at the beloved Dead City Sound, and nine will be from the hard-working, and bearded, Pigeon Eater Studios. To be fair...Jeoaf only grows the beard while on tour.
Recording is almost always the same for us. We lay down the initial tracking, eat a lot of junk food, get retarded in front of the studio people, and make comments about Andrew smelling like either lavender, coffee beans, or ball funk. Sometimes it can be all three in one day! The most noticeable difference would be that the first album was recorded in two days. We've been working on this album for two or three months, and I think it will show in the final product.
How do you handle the songwriting? Is one person the primary songwriter? And were you guys listening to anything in particular as inspiration for the new songs?
I wrote the songs for this album. At times, I may have a focused, definite song that we all learn, and at others it can be a very fluid process that cannot be achieved without everyone in the room. Really, there were moments where I was stuck, absolutely annoyed that I couldn't finish a song, but all it took was getting Niki or Andrew in the room with me to get to the heart of what I was trying to accomplish.
I've basically been listening to a lot of punk/powerpop bands like The Marked Men and The Buzzocks, with darker stylings from Roky Erickson and The Wipers. Life has been good.
If you can talk about it at all, what's the deal with the Modern Girl 7"? I'm glad to see that it's finally coming out, albeit delayed quite a while...
We finished the album immediately after returning from the Teenage Mustache tour, but the label had financial troubles. For a while, we didn't think it would be released at all, so we decided to offer free downloads to promote the launch of HoustonPunk.com. Recently, the label head contacted us with good news that the record is on the way, and he's being very generous to make amends. He's a good guy and a good friend.
Something Fierce pic #2
(l to r) Niki Sevven, Andrew Keith, & Steven Garcia.
Photo by Valerie Tamburri; art by Steven Garcia.
You guys toured not too long ago; what was the reception like outside of Houston? Planning on hitting the road again for the new album, I'm guessing?
It depends on the city; every scene is different. We were well received in Chicago, though. The kids always loved us, but it wasn't always easy. We had to work for the crowd, and we've been repaid with good friends almost everywhere we go. We're heading west in January, and there is talk about an extensive East Coast tour in the summer.
I know you're very involved in the scene here -- what do you think of H-town music in general right now? Any bands/trends/clubs/etc. you think need to die a slow, lingering death?
I think this question needs to die a slow, lingering death. I'm sick of it. We need to stop talking about the "problems," as if we're the only city dealing with low turnout and bad promotion, and just be more productive in general. Do what makes you happy, whatever that may be, as long as you put your heart in there.
On the more positive side of that, are there any bands in town you particularly like? If you could drag somebody local out on the road with you, who would it be? How about from the out-of-town crowd?
Teenage Kicks! We already broke The Monocles. If I could choose, I would tour with Be My Doppelganger from Indiana or Statues from Canada.
Got a pick for the best album of the year?
We'll hold out for Young Mammals and Born Liars unreleased albums.
We talked a bit at the BandCamp thing; what did you think of that, in the end?
I thought it was good for some and bad for others. A lot of what was said during the lectures was common knowledge, and if there were musicians there that did not feel the same, they should probably work harder at making it their "craft." It isn't easy, but it also doesn't have to feel like a job. The open discussions were my favorite part, and I think it was the most effective way of pulling together the giant sprawl of scenes that we deal with.
I thought pretty much the same thing, although I'd figured some of that was due to me not being in a band but just Press Guy watching the proceedings. It's funny, but listening to "Hey Houston," off the new album, it feels like you guys are addressing some of the same complaints that got aired that afternoon. What did you get out of the open discussion part, out of curiousity?
I definitely was addressing those complaints, and I was basically saying "Get off your ass, stop talking down on your own city, and start this shit up." What I got out of the open discussions is mutual respect.
I could finally see where different people were coming from, and I think, thanks to attendees like John Sears [man behind the Grey Ghost micro-label] and Ramon Medina [Linus Pauling Quartet band member/Free Press Houston writer], they got a glimpse of our world, as well. It was all right.
You guys seem to be just relentless in terms of playing shows and recording and touring -- how in the hell do you do all of it? Do you just not sleep?
Sleep is for the weak! But seriously, I think a lot more could be done. A lot of bands manage to stay on the road six months out of the year, so I won't put what we've done on a pedestal.
Any quasi-political expounding you want to do regarding the state of America, the election, or whatnot?
Let's just be glad Bush is leaving office. That is a big first step to a new America.
Paper or plastic?
Plastic, but we reuse it for monster cat poop. We'd prefer a polyster blend. END