Few Houston bands bend and blend genres more than Heptic Skeptic. Here's our conversation with three-fourths of the group -- bassist Alex Guzmn, lead vocalist Kamerra Franklin and drummer Robbie Vanveghel. Lead guitarist Andrew May was missing in musical action.
Houston Press: How did you start performing?
Alex Guzmn: I started off as a classical guitarist when I was 12 and then picked up the bass and started playing in high school bands. I've been playing ever since.
Kamerra Franklin: I started singing when I was five. I was at Greater Mount Carmel Missionary Baptist Church one Sunday, and the pastor handed me a mike, and I went off.
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Houston Press: For someone who has never heard your band, how do you describe your style?
Franklin: Each of us is bringing so much to the table that we can't just say we are one thing. So when people ask me what we are I say, "We're indie/reggae/soul/punk/rock/pop." It's a mix of early reggae, a little bit like the Fugees, but a lot less hip-hop and a lot more soul. We do about 95 percent originals, but every now and then we'll throw in a Marvin Gaye cover.
HP: What's an album that influenced you musically?
Guzmn: Pink Floyd's The Dark Side of the Moon.
Franklin: The Purple Rain sound track.
Robbie Vanveghel: The Beatles, (The White Album).
HP: What's a song you wish you had written?
Franklin: I wish I wrote "Thriller." "Thriller" is my ringtone.
HP: What's a song you wish no one had ever written?
Guzmn: Anything by Avril Lavigne.
Franklin: I have to go with any of Britney Spears's slow songs. I'm down with the dance tunes, I can get down with Britney, but on those slow songs where she tries to make me feel with her, I'm like, "I don't feel with you, ugh!"
HP: Is there an artist that influenced you?
Franklin: Jennifer Holliday, the original Effie in [the Broadway version of] Dreamgirls. She's the reason that I wanted to be a singer. She's amazing.
Vanveghel: James Brown, he just rocks. And Frank Sinatra, he rocks too.
HP: Okay, James Brown used to beat his wives and I think, they say, allegedly that Frank Sinatra ran with the "Murder, Inc." crowd. So, you admire people who beat their wives and have people killed?
Vanveghel: I guess.
HP: That's a serious question, though; does it matter to you what an artist does in his or her personal life when it comes to how we look at the art?
Guzmn: There's enough Behind the Music stuff out there to tell you that they are not really people that we should look up to like that.
Franklin: Like with R. Kelly, I swore after all that happened that I wasn't going to listen to him anymore, because, like, he peed on little girls, ugh! But man, [his music] is just so good. And it's the same thing with Ray Charles. He was a drug addict and I love Ray Charles. Ike Turner, he beat the crap out of Tina, and I still love all their early stuff. When it comes to music, I like to think about the music and not about what the artist is doing offstage.
HP: Okay, leaving James Brown aside, what's the best thing about your gig?
Franklin: Getting on stage. I'm addicted to performing. When I met [Alex] and Robbie, they hadn't been in a band in a while and it took a lot of pulling and convincing and "I'll make you famous" promises, but that's what I want to do. I can't really see myself doing anything else. When I'm in school, in class, I'm thinking, "I could be promoting a show right now. I could be booking a gig right now. I could be adding more friends to our MySpace page." But it's not just the performance, or the people looking at us; it's the audience hearing our music, them seeing our progression and our friends getting to be part of that ride with us. And, too, knowing that in the long run, we'll have a legacy. When we're not here anymore, our music will be.
HP: What's the worst thing about your gig?
Guzmn: That feeling after a less than perfect show. We know every little thing that went wrong, but then when we talk to people later on they don't remember any of that. All they remember is the good stuff. We're probably the only ones that really notice.
Vanveghel: The worst thing for me is loading the truck.
Heptic Skeptic will perform Friday, January 26, at the Fuel Cyber Caf, 120 East Main, Humble, 281-540-3170. For more information about Heptic Skeptic, visit www.myspace.com/hepticskeptic. Also, watch HouStoned Rocks, the Houston Press music blog, for more of this interview, including which Heptic Skeptic snores, who wants to marry Nancy Reagan and who thinks Bill Clinton is guilty of additional offenses that were never made public.
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