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Smoke Signals

Indian Jewelry comes home

Indian Jewelry's Tex Kerschen, Erika Thrasher, Rodney Rodriguez and Brandon Davidson all used to call Houston home. But then they also used to call themselves a variety of names -- Swarm of Angels, Corpses of Waco, Turquoise Diamonds and NTX + Electric, among the most popular. The members of Indian Jewelry, most especially Tex Kerschen, who I interviewed, have developed a reputation for being difficult to interview, for giving evasive, dubious answers. It's nice to know that some things never change.

Houston Press: What was going on during those two years that you were working on your new CDInvasive Exotics that affected the music?

Tex Kerschen: We kind of bottomed out. To go on tour, you lose all your money. I had just gone out on tour for about three months straight right before we started to work on this record and just came back totally busted, busted in every kind of way, and then we started writing.

HP: When you say you lose all your money, you mean because it's so expensive to be out on the road? Or because it doesn't pay well?

Kerschen: All the money goes to middle men; it doesn't seem to ever find its way to the band. I kind of take it with a grain of salt after a certain point. I mean, after a while you lose any hope that you're going to make any money at it.

HP: Are you hoping your CD sales will make up for that?

Kerschen: No, I think that's almost mathematically impossible. The number of CDs a band has to sell in order to make money from it is astronomical.

HP: So, there's no money being on the road, there's no money in CDs, this sounds kind of dire, doesn't it?

Kerschen: Sort of. Luckily people get into bands when they're too young to have their brain fully working and then when they stick with it, that part of the brain never fully develops.

HP: Then what's the payoff?

Kerschen: The payoff? I guess we're just suckers for punishment. I mean, it beats working.

HP: Come on, being on the road is work. Chasing a record deal is work. Performing every night is work.

Kerschen: I guess it's work. But it seems that enough people want to do it, so that it must look like a vacation. Actually, we haven't worked that out, what the payoff is. We've just been doing it, kind of blindly, and are just now starting to see that there's probably no payoff.

HP: You've gotten to play around the country now. How do Houston audiences compare? Are they smart? Not smart? Savvy?

Kerschen: Our audience is about three people and they're pretty smart people, they're savvy. But we have to say that because they're our friends.

HP: Was Houston a good launching pad for you?

Kerschen: There are several ways to answer that question. I'm a sentimentalist and I've always loved Houston. It's an exciting place, and there are always a lot of exciting people. Musicians, our friends...they are very uncompromising and they always have been. There's a long history of that. Houston's adventurous, fun and subversive and dangerous and unapologetic.

At the same time, it's not a great place to be in a working band. There's just nothing there. And maybe that's one of the reasons that it produces such great music, because there is no outlet for anything and so nobody is trying to make it. There are enough people that are disabused of the notion that they're going to make it in any sense of the word, so they are just doing it for their own reasons, which produces much more interesting music -- and a much more bitter musician.

HP: Are you bitter?

Kerschen: Am I bitter? No, but I'm obviously homeless, so I don't have to worry about that. But if somebody had any kind of junior high notions of rock stardom, then I think you would be bitter. But that's the first thing you chuck out the door in Houston, those dreams of making it in a band.

HP: But you are making it, to a large degree. You have a new CD, you...

Kerschen: It was a pretty fine day [when] the CD went to print. The day after that, you realize that the majority of the copies are going to sit in the label's offices and just a handful are going to be dispersed one at a time throughout the country. That was a more pragmatic day.

HP: I'm always interested in why people play music. Is it to entertain, to educate, to enlighten, what?

Kerschen: I do it for all those reasons. I'm a painfully pretentious person, so I think music can do all sorts of things. Mostly for the person playing it. For good, for bad. It makes the world bigger, it makes the world smaller. It's a relief from everything else.

And besides, if you grow up like I did in Houston, all you can look forward to is a career in energy or medicine, I guess. Or you can choose to do something that's slightly more derelict, like be in a band. And derelict is a lot more fun.

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