The Rocks Off 200: Heading Upstream with RIVERS' Chris Tamez
Welcome to The Rocks Off 200, 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 previous entries in the Rocks Off 100 at this link.
Chris Tamez of RIVERS
Who? If you like your blues heavy and your garage-rock trippy, then it's time to start getting to know RIVERS, the local quartet that has clawed its way up the ranks of Houston's rock scene show-by-show over the past four years. You can start with Chris Tamez, the shaggy Spring resident who does a bit of everything in the band: bass, drums and vocals.
Though his group has been compared to everyone from Blue Cheer to Zeppelin to Mudhoney, Tamez says that RIVERS has come up with their own term for their slick, fuzzed-out sound:
"We've kind of coined the term 'rock and soul' instead of rock and roll," says the multi-instrumentalist. "It's a little bit of psychedelia, a little bit of blues and a little bit of garage."
If it helps, picture a bigger, burlier version of the White Stripes, whom RIVERS will be covering this weekend for charity at the Fitz Benefit Show Series: Be the Match. If you'd prefer to start out with some original material, though, head on over to the group's Bandcamp page and check out their new full-length, called Fables in Slang.
That's what it's called at the moment, anyway. Tamez says that the record, inspired by a collection of 19th-century short stories by George Ade, isn't the first to borrow the book's title.
"Me and my bandmates came across the stories and decided it would be cool to write songs based on them," he says. "At the time, we figured that nobody had released an album called Fables In Slang. But about two weeks ago, a buddy of mine Googled the album name, and it came up under this other band's name. They released it back in 2001!
"We thought, 'Oh my God, we've been plugging this thing for a month! We've done album art and we're going to have to change the name!'" Tamez says with a wry chuckle. "But as of now, it's still Fables and Slang."
Home Base: "The Spring area," Tamez says. "I'm not, unfortunately, down in the Heights or the 'Trose yet, or anything like that."
Not unless he's playing a gig, that is. Tamez says that RIVERS can be seen and heard most often at Fitzgerald's, with DIY insane asylum Houston House of Creeps running a close second.
Good War Story: Hey, if there's any musical event in the States that closely resembles a massive military operation, it's got to be South By Southwest. RIVERS joined the melee just last week, and Tamez says they found the battle lines to be drawn in unexpected places.
"We had to fight tooth and nail with the stage manager," Tamez says. "I don't know what his deal was, but obviously, he wasn't a musician! What happened was, everybody's there, we're loading in and I'm trying to get the details on the show and sound-checking and everything. There's this other band there, one of the headliners for the day. They're sound-checking, and they actually end up sound-checking 15 minutes into our set.
"They actually cut into our set!" Tamez continues, incredulously. "I'm talking to the stage manager, and he's on me to have everything commence real quick with our set. He was just totally oblivious to us and our needs. He was like, 'Don't touch anything, don't move anything!' Now, just because we're human and we're accustomed to play a certain way, we had to tweak a little something here and there.
"He got so mad," Tamez adds, not sounding terribly sorry at all.
Story continues on the next page.
Why Do You Stay In Houston? "The band's here, my family's here, and I'm going to school here," Tamez says. "We've been playing and networking with other bands for three or four years now, and so we've kind of developed this little support team of sorts with the local artists around here.
"Houston's music scene is growing a lot," he adds. "You know as well as I do how fast it's taken off over the past three or four years."
Music Scene Pet Peeve: Tamez answers this one the way any drummer would: It's the heavy lifting!
"I don't know if this could be considered a pet peeve, but hauling gear, man," he says. "Hauling your own gear, breaking down, setting up, all that."
Preach, brother. But have you got any qualms about the local scene itself?
"One thing about the Houston music scene that kind of bugs me is this weird kind of competition that sort of comes up every now and again, typically between bands that are not of the same genre," Tamez says. "Normally, you would think these two punk bands would be like, 'Yeah, we're better than you!' or 'We play harder,' but that's not really it at all. Bands that are outside of their own genre seem to kind of dog on each other, which is kind of silly to me."
Five Desert Island Discs:
• White Denim, D
• Less Than Jake, Hello Rockview
• Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, Déjà Vu
• Joy Division, Unknown Pleasures
• Stone Roses, The Stone Roses
Best Show Ever: "The best show, production-wise, would have to be Free Press Summer Fest," Tamez says. "We've played Summer Fest on their main stages for going on two years now, and that's the biggest thing we've ever done. The stage crew has always been great; the sound system has been great. Unfortunately, we didn't have too much air-conditioning during those sets!
"Best crowd participation has definitely been at House of Creeps and Notsuoh," he adds. "The very last one we did at House of Creeps, I swear, man, we were seeing people hit the floor with their faces. So much beer was just thrown everywhere!
"Then this one guy, totally drunk, just fell flat on his back on to my guitarist's pedal board and just laid there," Tamez continues. "Didn't even move! He laid there for about 30 seconds before he kind of rolled over. We've been playing shows for about three and a half years, and the best ones have all come within the last four or five months."
Rivers plays the Be the Match benefit Satuday at Fitzgerald's, 2706 White Oak. Doors open at 8 p.m.
See the rest of the Rocks Off 200, and the Rocks Off 100's 2013 alumni, on the next page.
DJ Dayta, Keeper of That Good Good Matthew Davis Buehrer, Runaway Sun's Globally Thinking Bassist Fat Tony, Third Ward to "BKNY" Noon, Rapper With a Lot on His Mind Matt Cash, Clear Lake's Cassette Tape Wailer Jason Smith, Alkari's Space City Rocker DJ Penetrate, All Lit Up in "Neon Lights" Catch Fever Is Catching On Renée Jonard, Princess of Noise Pollution Junior Gordon, Big Man With a Big Sound Chad Smalley, Blaggards' Barse Player Damien Randle, K-OTIX Man of Action Kevin Anthony, 45 Southbound Man DJ Good Grief Knows How to Have Fun Robert Kuhn, the Well-Traveled Islander Gunnar Cushway, Insko's Feel-Good Utilityman Mario Rodriguez, Tax the Wolf/Bang Bangz's Wonky Power Monger John Smith, Goodtime Continental Club Manager Dwayne Cathey, A Good Man to Scare People With Walter Carlos, Guitar-Punisher of Funeral Horse Ryan James, Putting Up a Good Fight John Cramer, Guitar Apostle of Project Grimm Big Gerb, Houston's Hongree-est MC Steven Higginbotham, Hard-Working Wheel Worker Alisha Pattillo & Her Swaggering, Soulful Sax Brandon Ray, Punk Rocker Turned Filmmaker/Animator The Excitable Boys of Another Run Flash Gordon Parks, DJ as Funky Professor DJ Main Event, Kratez Crew JumpOff Man Odd Hours and Back to Back's Hank Doyle Legendary K-OTIX Producer Russel "The ARE" Gonzalez Dylan Bryson Sings the Blues (Rock) DJ Damon Allen, R.O.C.O. Fellow Tom Lynch, New Kid On the Block Ashley Worhol, Goth-Metal Queen of Katy Joe Ortiz, Clockpole's Master of Nonsense Marzi Montazeri, the Man Dimebag Darrell Called a Bad Motherfucker John Salinas, the Beat Beast of Only Beast Homegrown Cowboy Crooner Charles Peters Adam Bricks, NYC Expat Metal Journeyman and Blasé Bassist Alan Hilton Kyra Noons, Houston's Reggae Sunsplash DJ AudiTory, the Maestro of LuvItMane The Nephilim Terror's Death-Metal Growler Danny Carroll Tommy Grindle, Guitarist of Square and Compass The Bailout Bureau's Mysterious "Bob Bovary" DJ Twinkle-Toes, Won a "Dick-Measuring Vinyl Orgy" With Two iPods Beanz N Kornbread, Gmail-Loving Production Duo You(genious), Party Crasher Turned Musical Auteur Daniel Alexander, Klein's Backyard MC
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