Everything that comes before a band’s first live show is behind-closed-doors stuff, moments that prove alluring to the act’s respective members. Vocalists and drummers and guitarists keep coming back for more, seduced by the titillating creativity of these enchanted encounters. It’s sexytime, for sure. But once caution is truly tossed to the wind, as with many affairs, these events ultimately lead to bringing another child — sorry, band — into the world. One that really isn’t born until it’s squeezed out into a room, bare and vulnerable, as gawking onlookers comment on how much it resembles its parents.
But just what sort of thoughts and emotions appear right before that moment of musical birth? We found Endmaker, a grindcore band that makes its live performance debut tomorrow night at Rudyard’s. Its members are bassist Jonathan David, drummer Jason Allen and guitarist/vocalist American Dave. All three have birthed bands before this one. We asked how they met, and got an answer that speaks to the modern nature of these flings.
“Endmaker formed in July 2015, resulting from the very safe and reliable Craigslist," says American Dave. "I threw an ad together asking for fellow punk/D.I.Y./day-job folks and Jason reached out. Jason and I got pretty far writing as a two-piece while we looked for a bassist. A year later, Jonathan responded to an ad, which finalized the lineup. Jonathan was a trooper, hitting the studio so quickly after joining.”
Those first moments were particularly enticing for David, who had played in various punk and metal bands since high school in the mid-1980s. Following stints with El Paso’s FT-13 and Last Will from Austin, he moved to Houston and started Dixie Waste with Travis Maherg and Damon O’Banion. David hasn’t played since he last gigged with that band in 2005.
“I have been traveling extensively for work for more than ten years, and pretty much there was no way to do that and play in a band," he explains. "I really started getting the itch to play again and finally decided I was going to find a way to do it."
Some new parents bite their nails and pace nervously in the maternity-ward hallway. The members of Endmaker are excited to play their first live show together, but the dozens of years they collectively bring to the project mean they’ll be cool. American Dave recalls literally being a nervous wreck for his very first live performance, though.
“My first show was as a bassist for a tiny high-school punk band in 1995," he says. "I’d skipped school to play the show, and prior to playing, I managed to back my car into someone else’s car. Of course I left the scene and was terrified I’d be caught. I am not proud of this. Regardless, the show was amazing. I was nervous, happy and instantly addicted.”
He hails from northern Virginia and moved to Houston only a couple of years ago, about the same time he posted that Craigslist ad; he maintains ties with the Washington, D.C. act Pigeon Down. Allen performed and recorded with groups like Terminally iLL, Anomaly, Crystal Jukebox and Ghosts of Dogma before “allowing my instruments to collect dust bunnies and cobwebs.” He’s now drummer for Radio Flyer and The Wagoneers, which supports Ventura, California’s Three Day Holocaust this Sunday at Satellite Bar.
Allen says the first show he ever played was with Terminally iLL at Houston’s legendary Abyss, for several hundred music fans who’d paid eight bucks for eight bands. “I was overwhelmed yet high on adrenaline, and the moment I heard the echo of thunder from my drums through a PA, I was hooked,” he admits.
David said his first gig was in El Paso; he was jamming with a group and, he says, “met this punk-rock guy who said, 'I have ten original songs.'" Within weeks, they were opening for one of the area’s biggest punk bands.
“I don’t remember being real nervous,” he says. “That’s what’s cool about punk rock and the D.I.Y. scene — you just do it and don’t worry about too much.”
Despite these first-time success stories, the members of Endmaker are aware of the work that must occur before the inaugural live set. They’ve done it, beginning with recording the four-song EP House of Butterflies, which they released last December. They unveiled a video in February. They’re planning a split with D.C. heavy-metal act Lord, and using their growing connections to book gigs. American Dave says his interactions with Great White Fire, tomorrow’s headlining act, led to a friendship and got them a spot on the show. The band plans to play cities outside of Houston to help build a regional presence, he adds.
“I personally hope to play Austin sooner rather than later," American Dave says. "Jason’s other band played a gas station and I hope to replicate that event most severely. I’ve never played a gas station. For longer-term plans, certainly more recordings. Tours, video projects, other creative things will happen as well.”
Hearing Endmaker’s hopes for tours and projects is like listening to a new dad talk about his kid one day being the star outfielder or class valedictorian. One thing they have learned since starting in music is it takes a village to raise a band right.
“Growing up near D.C., I was fortunate enough to have benefited from a really dedicated and helpful scene," notes American Dave. "You can have your dream in music, just simply do it yourself. If you embrace this, you can benefit from working with really dedicated and passionate people. When I started, there wasn’t really the Internet, let alone social media. Recording was expensive. The world has changed for the better, so long as you’re not hoping someone else will come along and do things for you.”
“Being a musician today is both easier and harder compared to ten to 20 years ago,” Allen suggests. “Easier to make music, but harder to make a living making music. Still a hot-button topic for some artists, technology is both a blessing and a curse. However, regardless of how people feel, [the Internet] does save time and [is] changing the music industry in a way that gives more control to the individual or band. It facilitates direct channels of communication between fans and artists and allows for things like Endmaker to become a reality.”
Endmaker is a reality, a fully-formed body ready to see the light of day — or, to be accurate, the dim lighting of Rudz on a Friday night. You can be there for its actual live birth. Its band members have lived through this moment before, and say there’s still nothing like it.
“With the power of being able to play music for people comes the responsibility of playing it well," Allen says. "As long as I do my best to prepare and execute my parts, the rest seems to fall in place."
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“I still largely feel the same about every show as I did in 1995. There’s a magic to working and performing with a really creative and supportive community,” American Dave confides. “My personal thought about this week’s show is that I hope our work contributes to that community.”
David gets the last word in on the matter.
“Yeah, just get out and do it and have fun,” he says. “Life’s too short to worry about too much of anything else.”
Endmaker performs Friday, April 14, with Dead Stuff, Beyond Oblivion and headliner/host Great White Fire at Rudyard’s, 2010 Waugh. Doors at 8 p.m., $8.