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The Rocks Off 200: Mlee Marie Mains, the Heart of Hearts of Animals

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.

The Rocks Off 200: Mlee Marie Mains, the Heart of Hearts of Animals
Photos courtesy of Hearts of Animals

Who? Another Mutation is a funny title for Hearts of Animals' third full-length album. No two of its lo-fi, sweet but melancholy songs are quite the same, but all are recognizably the work of the young woman who offstage goes by the name of Mlee Marie Mains. Mlee/Hearts of Animals (pronounced "Emily" and "Hearts of Animals") has been a dependable presence in Houston's indie scene since 2007, when just about every music-loving site in town including this one flipped its collective wig over her self-released short LP/extended EP Lemming Baby.

Driven by the almost country-ish "Hearts Break" (hard not to think of Mazzy Star's Hope Sandoval on that one) and Casio-punk "Lostinthetranslation," Lemming was eventually remastered and released on iTunes last February. In the interim, Mlee recorded and released a second album, Cave Lights, in 2009. (That one is only available on Bandcamp, she says.)

She has also collaborated and guested live with a host of locals -- including a notable lead vocal on "Rust," from Linus Pauling Quartet's 2012 LP Bag of Hammers -- as Hearts of Animals has grown from a frequent solo act to a full-fledged band now also featuring her brother Joey.

A second-generation Houstonian who plays a number of instruments (sax, keys, guitar), Mlee was one of those kids who was cooler than you growing up, because her parents -- both local musicians themselves, whom she says were in a rock band through most of her childhood -- took her to shows like Cyndi Lauper, Big Audio Dynamite, Nirvana (jealous!) and lots more.

"This influenced me greatly as I wanted to be on the stage performing music like these guys and girls," Mlee says. "Sometimes we would play in a family band for friends' parties. I'm glad my brother and I are in a band together now; it means a lot to me."

Another Mutation was released earlier this month and is easily as endearing and wistful as Lemmings, if not moreso. It's hard to pick a favorite, but after a couple of listens we're drawn to the Breeders-like rocker "Money For That" and the power-pop goodness of "Jesus Drug." Mlee and the rest of Hearts of Animals are throwing a release party for Mutation tomorrow night at Rudz with her good friends and occasional collaborators Young Mammals. It's a free show, by the way.

The Rocks Off 200: Mlee Marie Mains, the Heart of Hearts of Animals

Home Base: Mlee is a Montrose girl, saying she prefers to play and hang out at spots like Rudz, AvantGarden and Walters, which might as well be in Montrose.

Good War Story: "[I] almost got kicked out of the Proletariat for sneaking a drink from my flask behind the stage," she remembers, "and also for letting Cley of the Young Mammals have a swig of whiskey -- he was underage at the time."

Why Do You Stay In Houston? "I stay in Houston for many reasons," she says. "It is my home. I have no money or job offers to allow me to move anywhere else. I like Houston. I like the people and the food and even the weather!

"New York is too stressful and L.A. is cool but really expensive," she adds. "Anywhere else doesn't seem interesting to me!"

Story continues on the next page.

 

The Rocks Off 200: Mlee Marie Mains, the Heart of Hearts of Animals

Music Scene Pet Peeve: Thank God someone finally brought this up:

"There is a vicious cycle going on when it comes to shows being on time," Mlee says. "People expect the bands to not start on time, so they show up late, but the reason they expect the bands to not start on time is because the bands are waiting for the people who are always late to show up.

"The older I get the more obnoxious this becomes," she continues. "I have heard that this does not happen in NY because people have shit to do and their time is precious. I wish that we were more considerate of that here."

The Rocks Off 200: Mlee Marie Mains, the Heart of Hearts of Animals

Five Desert Island Discs:

  • Elliott Smith, Figure 8
  • Crowded House, Woodface
  • Mr. Bungle, California
  • The Breeders, Last Splash
  • Big Audio Dynamite II, Higher Power

Best Concert You Ever Saw: Fisherspooner, House of Blues, May 2009 -- "Mind-blowing performance that included beautiful choreography, with props like huge spinning mirrors and weird shit like that," Mlee recalls.

First Song You Fell In Love With: "I remember the song 'In Your Wildest Dreams' by Moody Blues really striking me when I was little," she says. "It came out in 1986, when I was four so. Even though I was exposed to and liked a lot of music growing up, when I think back to my earliest emotional reaction to a song, I remember that one the most."

Hearts of Animals play Rudyard's, 2010 Waugh, Friday night with Young Mammals and LIMB. Doors open at 9 p.m.; free show.

See the rest of the Rocks Off 200, and the Rocks Off 100's 2013 alumni, on the next page.

 

THE ROCKS OFF 200

DJ Navo, Bombón's Boundless Body-Mover Breelan Angel, Dirty Little Secret Keeper Michael Dauzat, Sr., a Rabbi and a Hate Nick Greer, a G Among G's Chingo Bling, H-Town's Own Versace Mariachi Quenton Rockwell, Melody Man in the Shiny Darks Southerland Nights, An Army of Accolades Stacy Hartoon, Rudz's Punk-Rock Heir Apparent Bowen Lyons, Keeper of the Trimms' Groove Chris Gore, Electronica Guru of BLSHS John Alton, the Madness of Cosmic Bug Loaf Reko Trill, of the Almighty Trill Brothers Jo Bird, Bow-Caster of Fiddle Witch & the Demons of Doom DJ Nando1, Who Fights to Keep the Party Poppin' Randall Hopkins, Featherface Drummer and Brilliant Video Director Roby Deaton, Open-Mike Pocket of Cool Nosaprise, Hurrah! for the Blushing Bridegroom Tony Vega, the Big Easy's Barnburner Leslie Krafka, Onward Through the Fog Michael Anthony Shanks, Houston's Merry Shankster DJ Baby Roo, Vegetarian Hip-Hop Veteran Rachel Bays, Filming Them Softly Punk-Rock "Newcomers" Screech of Death Erin Rodgers, the Keys to Glass the Sky Alex LaRotta, Crate-Digging Fistful of Soul Brother Alycia Miles, Triumphant Soul Singer DJ Piam, Poison Girl's Bacon-Fat Funk Specialist Mister Insane, Host of The Insane Show Jake Rawls -- Kemo For Emo Is Back Santos Pastrana, Sound Engineer and DJ Ninja Heading Upstream with RIVERS' Chris Tamez 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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