The Rocks Off 100: Danielle Renee, Only Beast's Destroyer of Walls
Welcome to the Rocks Off 100, our portrait gallery of the most compelling profiles and personalities in the far-flung Houston music community -- a lot more than just musicians, but of course they're in there, too. See the entire Rocks Off 100 at this link.
Who? Drummer John Salinas and guitarist Peter Bernick spent several years working together in various instrumental bands before deciding to try working with a vocalist. Who they got was Danielle Renee, a waify ball of fire with a huge voice able to match Bernick's Cure-ish guitar wail and the progressive thunder of Salinas's drums.
Only Beast is still working toward their first album, and the only way to get a good look at them is through YouTube videos or, you know, actually going out to see them, but the band clearly has some rock potential and an ability to shine through amateur recordings.
Onstage, Renee is a whirl of motion, dashing toward an audience with a mess of hair in her face, voice always on the edge of a break but never quite going over it. Even in slower numbers like "90 Minutes," she uses every beat in a dance-like gesture while waltzing through her range in a style resembling Linda Perry on questionable substances.
It'll be a real treat to hear her in a studio setting rather than just conducting the riot in front of her.
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Home Base: Only Beast, a three-piece, has the honor of renting the smallest space available at Rock Center. You can catch them live onstage at Rudyard's, Fitzgerald's or literally any place they can find a place to load in.
Good War Story: "Well, the guys immediately voted for 'The Time a Wall Fell Down While We Were Onstage,' so I guess we'll go with that one," says Renee.
For this particular show, the boys had set up on either side of me, so we were all about the same distance from the crowd. We had just started playing the last song of the set when an entire panel full of rusty electrical junk fell over and pinned me to the floor.
So you know, John jumps over his drums, Pete throws down his guitar and they have it off of me before anyone in the crowd can react. I'm told I was unconscious for maybe 15, 20 seconds at the most? So it really wasn't a big deal at all. I collected myself, assured everyone that I felt fine and we finished the set. I think we started the song over.
I actually don't remember a whole lot about that night, but I remember getting a tetanus shot the next day. The doctor was looking at me kind of funny, checking me for concussions or whatever. 'Where did all this bruising come from?' 'Oh, my band had a gig last night.'
It was something that I was sure would be forgotten in a week, but every time we play that venue, someone always brings it up. Usually it's the bartender. That guy is never going to let me live it down.
Why do You Stay in Houston? "Houston is awesome," she says. "There are these pockets of progressive life, these secret little places full of adventure. We live in the Montrose area; it's got everything a musician could want: parks, museums, great bars, great restaurants...plus, it's close to the Heights and the downtown area, so there are plenty of gigs in our immediate vicinity. There's also a small population of radical individuals here, and that's who we end up connecting with the most."
Music Scene Pet Peeve: "We're more about focusing on solutions rather than problems," says Renee. "You have to take the good with the bad, and while keeping a positive attitude is difficult sometimes, it's essential to our survival.
"There are a lot of musicians here in Houston, plenty of street artists and clothing designers and writers and painters and dancers and everything, but what makes it special is that there's an air of collaboration rather than competition," she adds. "That's what we want to focus on, and that's what we hope to reflect."
Five Desert Island Discs:
Quasi, American Gong
The Cure, Disintegration
The Kills, Blood Pressures
Amy Winehouse, Back to Black
First Song You Ever Fell in Love with: "Just Like Heaven," says Renee of the '80s classic from The Cure's Kiss Me Kiss Me Kiss Me. "It might sound corny, but it's a song that my mother played over and over throughout my childhood; as I grew older and began to experience more of what that song was really about, the emotions that came along with it were enhanced rather than diluted, which is rare for me.
"To this day, just the beginning of that song makes me want to scream and dance and laugh," she adds. "I can't hear it without wanting to sing it at the top of my lungs."
Only Beast plays the Continental Club Friday, March 8, with Easy Credit and the Upside.
See who else has joined The Rocks Off 100 this year on the next page.
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