Shoegazing and emo music are not really Rocks Off's resident snarky goth's glass of absinthe, but in our opinion, any Houston band chosen to represent our criminally unrepresented city deserves a look. So with some trepidation, we wandered into the realm of Football, Etc. and their new LP The Draft (Catch Your Lucky Stars).
One of the first albums we tackled as a professional music journalist was our own Giant Princess's self-titled debut, and what we most loved about that album was the way they took an extremely raw and rocky recording and turned its unfinished edges into exemplary art. The Draft takes the same approach, with a minimum of production that forces listeners to appreciate it on its own terms.
The guitars jangle and strum, and James Vehslage's drumming follows you like a creepy portrait in a horror movie. What seems to be the band soul concession to standard pop rock is the angelic, plaintive wails and moans of Lindsay Minton.
When she takes up the lyrical cause of isolation and social outcasting, you feel as if you are standing right beside her holding her hand. In a world where no girl in the Top 40 seems willing to stand without a dozen robotic decoys to flank and protect her, Minton's lonely vigil at the microphone comes across quite heroic.
The Draft is amazingly consistent, with few stylistic flourishes outside of Football, Etc.'s main method of attack. Normally, we'd scold them for lack of dynamics, but one must admire the purity of their approach. Like The Ramones, each song seems to be an essential part of the greater whole, despite often being echoes of each other.
Was that "Sudden Death" or "Hail Mary"? Sometimes you get lost without the map of the CD insert, but The Draft is meant to be appreciated as a whole, not as a collections of songs. It is in the end meant to be a cryptic aural exploration of self, not just background noise.
On the road to SXSW, Minton took a few minutes to talk to us about The Draft.
Rocks Off: Did you decide on the football terms for names before you wrote the songs, or did you write them and try to find a term that fit?
Lindsay Minton: We realize our band name is completely absurd. So we just kind of took it a step further by coming up with the football song names. Usually we find a term that fits after the lyrics are written. But sometimes people will suggest a football term and we will write the song around the name first.
RO: The recording comes across very raw and live, in a good way! Do you feel this approach best sums up the band, or is it more of an accident of the recording process?
LM: We recorded the record with Trent Bell in Norman, Okla., who has produced bands ranging from the Chemical Brothers to the Flaming Lips. I think he did a great job of capturing our sound. We did most of the recording live, then went in and added some second guitars and the vocals, maybe fixed something here or there. So what you are hearing is mostly live.
RO: There seems to be a theme of social exclusion in the lyrics. Is that something you've dealt with a lot in life?
LM: My lyrics are pretty cryptic, yet specific to things going on in my life. I find it interesting that they're being interpreted that way, but I'm not really writing about that.
RO: How do you feel about being one of the bands representing Houston at SXSW?
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LM: We are all really excited to be going to SXSW. It will be my first time there. We'll be the only Houston band on any of our shows. Most of the bands on our label and in our peer group come from the Northeast and Midwest. So we are excited to represent Houston and Texas at those shows.
Several of the bands we are playing with are playing with at SXSW are going to come play our record release show on Friday, March 18, at Vinyl Junkie in Houston. I hope we can show them a good time here!