Tax The Wolf Agrees: Velvet Underground > The Strokes
For the night before Thanksgiving, there is a lot going on in Houston tomorrow. But with all due respect to Robert Ellis & the Boys at Fitzgerald's and the LAX/Young Girls show at Groundhall - not to mention, on an entirely different scale, both Bruno Mars and Devin the Dude at Warehouse Live - we think the return of our Reduxion series has got the drop.
For one thing, it's free. OK, so is Ellis, but ours is early; doors open at 8 p.m. And we've got this year's Houston Press Music Award winners for Best Progressive Rock, Tax the Wolf, doing the Velvet Underground's Loaded - that's the one with "Sweet Jane," "Rock and Roll" and "Head Held High" - plus a set of their own stuff (lots from this year's lauded debut Hold the Sun, we imagine), and a collaboration with equally progressive local rap duo JUZCOZ. And, to round it out, DJ Dirty Feet on the in-betweens.
But don't let Rocks Off tell you why you should come to Walter's on Washington tomorrow. We're kind of biased anyway. We'll let Tax the Wolf do that instead.
Rocks Off: How did you get introduced to the Velvet Underground?
Mario Rodriguez: I got introduced when I started listening to Nico many years ago. Nico collaborated with The Velvet Underground and after listening to their influential album The Velvet Underground & Nico I became an instant admirer of their sound.
Alan Garza: When i was about 15, I found a CD that was labeled "Velvet Underground" in my friend's car. I listened to it and it sounded like the Strokes to me on some parts. I later realized they were from the '60s, and an art teacher told me they influenced the Strokes and not the other way around.
RO: Why did you and the band decide on Loaded?
MR: When Rocks Off asked us to join the series we had many artists in mind. We had Gorillaz, Dr.Dre, Radiohead and Velvet Underground as finalists but we felt The Velvet Underground as being more [reflective] of our current style of music. The movement and experimentation that they created in their active years was so influential towards many artists/musicians that we now love.
The Velvet Underground's creations are still one of the best forms of music that we've heard. The lingering form of lyrics that dealt with their exploding culture and celestial/dynamic song structures on Loaded are a perfect blend of what we love as a band.
When we were creating Hold the Sun we also had the mentality of trying to load it with hit songs that could possibly be on the radio, haha. We really tried to keep a pop element in every song as bait for the listener. We gave it a shot at first, but then felt fake about it so we did what we wanted in the end.
AG: .I thought we would do a VU album that was fun, and that people would sing along to. This particular album had a few hits, and was an album written and produced towards radio airplay. It just seems like a fun album to do, it was a step away from their droning experimental sounds.
RO: Is that your favorite VU album? If not, what is? (And why?)
MR: My favorite VU album would have to be their debut album with Nico. It's a complete trip out of the ordinary and it has "Venus in Furs." I feel like they grabbed my nightmares and sweet dreams and put it onto a nice album.
Johnathan Presas: The Velvet Underground & Nico.
AG: My favorite album from them I think may actually be a tie between Loaded and the self-titled album. Loaded because it's a fun album to listen to and sing along to, and the self-titled one because of the songs "Pale Blue Eyes", "Jesus", and the song "Candy Says". They have a quiet desperation quality to them.
RO: Are you a Lou Reed or John Cale guy? Or Nico? What about the rest of Tax the Wolf?
MR: Lou Reed type of guy. His persona is quite sad but complex and admiring..I'm understanding more of the art behind lyrics and I really feel that Lou Reed was a mastermind as a principal songwriter. I love Nico as well,What a woman.
AG: I think I'm a John Cale guy. I like them both, but John Cale had a great voice and was a multi-instrumentalist.
JP: Lou Reed.
RO: What kind of influence (if any) has the VU had on the band?
AG: They have influenced me in the sense to just go out and do what you want. make some noise and have a good time.
MR: We all love The Velvet Underground and their role in Rock & Roll history. Learning their music and songs was a challenge. We all have to sing and play very differently from our own style of music. I'm the only one who sings in Tax but now we all have separate songs where we all sing and switch instruments.
There's a lot of movement and we had to really concentrate ourselves into each song while rehearsing. We took this Reduxion project very seriously and we also had a short timeline to work with. We thought Reduxion was cancelled and it was brought up again two weeks ago. Learning The Velvet Underground's music was very influential, hands down.
RO: Any response to Ramon Medina's comment last week that "Side 2 of Loaded is pretty lame and forgettable"?
MR: I smirked when I read the comment because I kinda agreed. It's forgettable, but I don't think it's lame at all. I feel like side two has more meaning behind each song than side one but they don't sound like "hits." I'm not very fond of "Lonesome Cowboy Bill" though.
RO: Did you know Sterling Morrison used to live here?
MR: We had no idea but that's a good feeling. We left rehearsal late a couple of nights ago and as soon as I turned on 91.7 KTRU they had "Sweet Jane (live)" playing, which we ended the night with. It was such a good feeling as well.
AG: I was unaware that Sterling Morrison used to live here. That is pretty cool since they were a New York City band and John Cale was from Wales.
RO: How did you hook up with the JUZCOZ guys?
MR: We had a show at Jet Lounge with Studemont Project and JUZCOZ two years ago under Wolves at the Door. They completely inspired and impressed all four of us with their mix of classic-hip-hop and electronica, harmonizing vocals, eccentric lyrics and vibrant stage presence. It was their first show as JUZCOZ and we knew that we had to collaborate with them.
RO: Any hints on this supposed collaboration you're planning for tomorrow night?
MR: We began collaborating with JUZCOZ a year ago and they perform with us at very rare occasions. It has to be a very special moment when they join our show and we only perform limited songs, including a fan favorite, "Picture Phone." We haven't released anything with them yet, but we will.
The collaboration has helped Tax and JUZCOZ a lot, since we both have different crowds. It's a lot of fun for all of us and that was the goal.
RO: Did you or anyone in the band go see Roger Waters?
MR: We didn't have the opportunity, unfortunately. I just read your reviews on the show.
RO: What are your favorite albums/songs to come out this year?
MR: We really don't have much to say for this one at the moment.
RO: How has the reaction to Hold the Sun been?
MR: The reaction has been astonishing. We are meeting more and more people that are enjoying what we are creating, or the message that we may convey as a band. The release of the album has definitely changed a lot of people's minds on our stance as a local band.
We weren't taken too seriously before our release, and now we are getting a bit more recognition. We are going to keep breaking some boundaries and taking some advantage of our growing success.
RO: What is one goal Tax the Wolf has for 2011?
MR: Our main goal is to tour and grow as musicians. We really want to continue learning from each other. We'll be working out tour dates very soon. Exciting stuff for 2011. Please keep posted with us!
Thanks Rocks Off for letting us perform!
Anytime, guys. Just to repeat, doors open at 8 p.m. FREE SHOW.