If you’re a visiting band from Austin vying for attention outside your (ahem) city limits, how might you accomplish that?
Sure, killer songs help. Lots of bands have those, though. Maybe your group is photogenic. We all know that can’t hurt. Possibly you’re industrious enough to reach out to the press in these nearby towns you plan to conquer. You might even score an article about a gig you’ve planned. But, that won’t ensure readers will actually make the effort to attend the show.
If you’re Austin’s Madisons, you’ve got all this going for you, and a few other things that set you apart. First, there’s your penchant for eye-catching, evocative album titles. Some might consider this a ploy, but it’s a proven one. It worked for Jello Biafra and Fiona Apple and scores of others. Your latest is No One’s Ever Gonna Know Your Name and it’s the showcase piece for a Saturday-night CD release at Notsuoh.
“I’ve always liked the idea of having interesting album titles. I take a lot of pride in writing, so whenever there’s an opportunity to use words, I don’t want to waste it,” said Madisons front man, Dominic Solis. “One of my favorite books is titled Another Bullshit Night in Suck City. I thought that title was so cool!
“When we decided to title our last record You Can Take Your Sorry Ass Back to West Texas!, some people advised us to change it because it had a cuss word, and it was too long, which made it not as marketable. That made me want to keep it even more,” he explains. “During that same conversation, I mentioned that Neko Case’s last record had a very long title and I thought it was an amazing album. The response was something to the effect of “Yeah, but that’s Neko Case. Now that she’s successful, she can do what she wants.’ I think it’s ridiculous that just because someone doesn’t know who you are, you can’t make what you want. The artist should dictate what is created, not the market. I like titles that put an image in my head. I’m not making art I don’t like just to sell records.”
That’s a second thing you’ve got going for you, Madisons. You sound folky, even a little twangy, but you’re punk as fuck. You’ve self-described what you do as “garage folk,” which sounds about right on songs like “So Long West Texas,” the new album’s opener, which details one hard knock after the next, but still sounds hopeful. Or, when you sing a line like, “I’m not responsible for the way you say you feel/ That’s what therapists teach assholes so they don’t have to feel like assholes.”
If you don’t want to be just another string-heavy band from Austin, you have to bring some H-town attitude. You have it in bunches, Madisons.
“We’ve only played in Houston once before, and we played at Notsouh," Solis says. "It’s the perfect venue for us! We’re not background music by any means. Notsouh has a lot of people who want to listen to live bands, not just have music playing while they have a conversation. It’s also a perfect size to be able to engage an audience. Our good friends, Jealous Creatures, an amazing Houston band, helped connect us. We’ve caught on to Houston for sure, and we’re hoping to come back as often as possible.”
So, you’ve also taken the time to get to know us, Madisons. Good on you. Houston doesn’t have an inferiority complex when it comes to music, as some would have you think, and you recognize that. It’s a two-edged sword because you know we will expect you, Mr. Solis — and your bandmates Oscar Gomez (trumpet), Thomas Damron (bass), Mike Rothschild(drums), Cameron Cummings (guitar), Heidi Garcia (violin) and Nick Kukowski (banjo) –to bring it.
“I think if you’re a fan of ‘genuine’ art that kicks ass, you’re gonna make a connection with our live show. Every artist likes to describe his or her art as genuine, but it’s hard to put what that means into words,” Solis noted. “For us, the best description of that is given in the live performance. If you want to feel an intense connection to every emotion you have at once for 45 minutes, come see Madisons, the people’s band!”
“If we’re anything, we’re a band who loves to meet cool people,” Solis continued. “We’re not very good with or impressed by music industry folks, but we never pass up an opportunity to hang out with people who listen to our music. I’d much rather drink a beer on someone’s porch and talk about how their kids are doing than listen to some other band tell me how we should all be wearing matching outfits.”
As we get to know you, Madisons, we’ll learn that you’re named after a former bandmate, Rachel Madison, without whom the current band might not exist. And we’ll learn that you finished third in Best Performing Folk Band– behind a Grammy nominee and a contestant from The Voice – in the Austin Chronicle’s Music Poll. And, we’ll learn – if we didn’t already know – your NPR Tiny Desk Concert submission was featured on the wildly popular contest’s Tumblr page.
This is Hustletown and we see you, Madisons, on your grind. When you come here, we expect you to keep it trill. The new album’s songs, co-written by Solis, Benjamin Blair and Charles Short, seem to have that covered.
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“All three of us have a similar story and attitude about life," says Solis. "We all have a rough background, we’re hard partiers, we work hard, we play music, and now, we’re finding out who we are. I think that in order to tell the story honestly, I needed to put songs together that were written while we were experiencing the sadness, happiness and loneliness that the songs convey.
“I think being in a place where I’m comfortable with myself allowed me to finally put the songs in an order that had an ending," he continues. "‘No One’s Ever Gonna Know Your Name’ was the missing piece. For me, that song is saying, ‘Calm the fuck down. The world sucks, but you’re being an asshole, too. Stop taking yourself so seriously.’”
You don’t have to take yourself too seriously, Madisons. But we might, now that we know you better. See ya tomorrow night.
Madisons’ No One’s Ever Gonna Know Your Name is available on Amazon, Bandcamp, iTunes and the band’s Web site. Their Houston CD release is 8 p.m. Saturday at Notsuoh (314 Main) with special guests Colonel Peter’s Pig, Stephen Heiman and Fox Parlor.