Roam Free, Wild Moccasins!:
Houston's Pop Heroes Hit the Road
(l to r) Andrew Ortiz, Andrew Lee, Cody Swann, Zahira Gutierrez, & Nick Cody.
Photo by Molly Rodriguez.
Some bands -- one in a thousand, maybe -- are really, truly, absolutely impossible to resist. There's no real formula for it, no, but they hit this magical sweet spot where it's damned near required that you wear this goofy, wide-open, childlike grin on your face every time you hear that band play.
The Wild Moccasins, well, they're that band. When they take the stage (or your headphones, or car stereo, whichever), they kick anything bad and irritating and dull and mind-numbing out of the way and play as if they were created in a laboratory for the sole purpose of Making Your Day Kick Ass.
Their music grabs all the best parts of those shiny, cheery late-'90s pop bands like Wolfie and Papas Fritas and Tullycraft and hugs 'em close, infusing the whole smiling, rambunctious -- but never mean or too rough -- mess with a heavy helping of the enthusiasm it gets harder and harder to produce the further away from youth you go. They're like the sonic equivalent of a warm, friendly smile from a total stranger when you're having a shitty day and are least expecting it.
Vocalists Zahira Gutierrez and Cody Swann trade sweetly off-kilter lines about surprisingly serious stuff like social status and love and language, over Swann and fellow guitarist Andrew Lee's jangly-but-not-twee, just-crunchy-enough riffs, over Andrew Ortiz's frantic, speedy drums and Nick Cody's serenely bobbing basslines, crafting these beautiful little indie-pop gems that the likes of Joe Ziemba or Carl Newman would be proud to call their own. Debut EP Microscopic Metronomes is packed full of 'em, nestled cozily together with cheeky little bits of exuberance scattered throughout (like, say, the recorded snoring of "Zzzzzzz").
With its release, the Moccasins have firmly cemented their place at the head of the current crop of Houston-dwelling popsters, dubbed "H-Pop" by cogent members of the local press who know a good thing when they spot it. I have to admit, though, that I'm a bit nervous now that the band's headed out of town, on tour for the very first time -- how's the Big Mean World outside these heat-flooded streets going to treat these brilliantly cheery kids? If it's got any sense, it'll praise 'em to the skies, but y'know... To allay the nerves a bit, SCR hit the Moccasins up with some questions; here're the answers.
The Wild Moccasins are playing their tour kickoff show Thursday, June 11th, at Mango's, along with Caddywhompus, B L A C K I E, & Urbane Guerrilla Sound System.
SCR: Okay, first things first: how about a little band history? Where did the Wild Moccasins come from, for those who aren't familiar?
Andrew Lee/Cody Swann/Nicholas Cody: Cody was really into Halo and skateboarding and almost went pro with both endeavors. Zahira decided to go out with Cody.
Cody started writing music. Zahira wanted to sing. Andrew Ortiz met Zahira at HCC Town & Country. Zahira would always have to get a ride from Andrew, since she did not own a vehicle at the time. Then one day they were talking about music, and Zahira found out that Andrew played the drums.
So then one day Cody, Zahira, and Andrew had a little get-together and wrote some songs. Nick popped out and said, "HEY! Y'all need a bassist. I'm your man." Then he pulled out his bass and started bassing around. Nick and Andrew O. had played in Elaine Greer's backing band, and Andrew Lee would often come out to see her perform. Then, after a performance, Andrew Lee ended up talking to Andrew Ortiz about starting a band consisting of only people named Andrew. Andrew Lee was in a prominent ska band called Dumbarton.
And then during a Sound Exchange show with Sunset, Hearts of Animals, and The Dimes, Cody approached Andrew Lee and asked if he wanted to come over to his apartment to mess around with a few songs. Cody really dug Andrew's style and invited him to play with the rest of the band. We later went on to playing our first show -- which was a secret, due to it being a Secret Saturday Show.
I caught the EP release show back in the spring, and I have to say, it was probably *the* most packed, most energetic show I've seen in a while. What the heck happened?
That night was pretty incredible, and I don't know if we can attribute it to just one thing, but it definitely helps to promote, have great bands on the bill like Teenage Kicks and Buxton, and give things away for free. I think our energy that night came from the packed house, and maybe in turn, their energy came from our excitement.
Where does the music you make come from? Do you all mainline nothing but out-of-print indie-pop vinyl or something, day in and day out? Who would you point to as influences?
Cody comes to the band with lyrics and chord ideas, then it's a group effort pushing and pulling until it's a song we all are happy with. A lot of the times, the feel of the song can change completely, but mostly it is working out the structures and details. Our influences are varied but I think we share a lot of the same styles. Some specific influences might include Of Montreal, obviously Weezer, The Smiths, etc.
(Music courtesy of The Wild Moccasins.)
The Wild Moccasins
B L A C K I E
Urbane Guerilla Sound System
One of the best things about the Moccasins, to me, is the wide-eyed fun vibe you throw out at every show and on every release; how did that come about? Is it just a natural thing, the way you are day in and day out?
We just really enjoy getting to perform for people and we reflect that a lot. I wouldn't say that we are always fun at every show. There are definitely shows we have played where we're not feeling it that night. Although we enjoy giving people a reason to come back for the next show.
There's been some talk lately about a wave of "H-Pop," with folks like you guys, Young Mammals, The McKenzies, and News on the March leading the charge. Are we looking at a bona fide movement, here?
Those aforementioned bands are all bands we enjoy hearing and it's great having their comraderie and being friends. I hope that the "H-Pop" scene gets more recognition, of course, and there's plenty of talent here to fill the pages of national tastemakers.
And speaking of fellow locals, anybody you've been really into lately from around here? How about outside of Houston?
The usual H-Pop bands, of course, Giant Princess, and others like Bolt whom we heard at the ArtStorm compilation release show. From outside of Houston, there are fellow Texans The Sour Notes and Sunset, whom we will be closing out the tour with in Austin.
I know this show's you guys' tour kickoff -- are you psyched about the tour? Terrified? How's it been shaping up?
I think we are all psyched about the tour. With that comes the obvious anxieties and restlessness to get out and play. I believe we've tried to prepare as much as possible leading up to this tour. As for the shows, there are a lot of stops/bands we are looking forward to.
Any special plans for the show itself?
For the show, we're planning on screen-printing shirts with limited tour designs. Just bring a shirt, and we will make it on the spot. As well as giving out limited tour posters, selling Microscopic Metronomes tapes, and decorations, all in addition to the great line-up.
What's next for the Wild Moccasins? Do you have any grand plans you can talk about? Any label-signing dreams for the future, or are you planning on continuing down the self-releasing road?
We're touring to support the EP, but have plans to record and release another record in the not-too-distant future. We haven't been contacted by any labels, so the plan is to keep self-releasing for now. END