Houston Music

Artist of the Week: Hormone-Free Vocabularian Herds-Men the Jonx

Each Wednesday, Rocks Off arbitrarily appoints one lucky local performer or group "Artist of the Week," bestowing upon them all the fame and grandeur such a lofty title implies. Know a band or artist that isn't awful? Email their particulars to [email protected].

We first noticed The Jonx back in July at The Mink when, even though they weren't the headliners, they were the highlight of a show that featured a couple of other quality bands. Their show was loud, purposely abrasive and fun as all get out, and their previous album, No Turn Jonx Red, captured that nicely.

We got a peak at the trio's new album, Vocabularian Herd, and it is no less than at least as enjoyable as No Turn (and probably a lot better - we've only listened to it twice, so we're not quite ready to make any official declarations.)

Jonx, "Highway at Night"

Jonx, "Highway at Night"

To help commemorate the release of VH - it's actually finished and ready for sale, you just can't really buy it anywhere just yet - we got with the gentlemen to talk about how the dastardly Tiger Woods has affected their music-making ability, Tetris and deer.

Rocks Off: So, The Jonx, the thing nobody is really talking lately is this Tiger Woods. Apparently, it has had some type of adverse effect on just about everything. How has Tiger's infidelity thrashed your own sensibilities? Is this worse than the time Zach kissed Lisa and Screech saw?

Stu: I really wish I had no idea what you were talking about, but I do, and therefore I am ashamed.

Danny: I'm not really into art films.

RO: [laughs] Dudes, "I'm Getting Really Good At Tetris." It seems like there are a whole bunch of levels to that song. Like, so many levels that you guys might be brilliant. Or really full of yourselves. We're not sure. Either way, it is a proper good song. What say you?

Jonx, "I'm Getting Really Good at Tetris"

Jonx, "I'm Getting Really Good at Tetris"

D: Even though this record is just now coming out, some of the songs have been written for a long time. For example, I'm pretty sure we performed "Highway At Night" a couple of times in 2007. "Tetris" was one of the last songs we performed live, because it's very difficult for Trey to sing and play at the same time. Which created something of a problem in the studio, because he hates to do more than one take of anything. I'm pretty sure that he never had to before this record.

I think it's kind of bizarre how much our audience seems to like that song, since it basically has no chorus and its lyrics are simultaneously mundane and ridiculous. I mean, I like it too. My favorite parts of "Tetris" are the second verse, where Trey is having a conversation with himself a la David Lee Roth, and the rifleman's creed. We about died laughing when he was recording that stuff.

RO: Actually, we might need to back up a bit. The last time we heard you all was on No Turn. Give us a bit of info about Vocabularian Herds. Like, what is a vocabularian herd? A bunch of really loquacious deer, perhaps?

Jonx, "Hyphen Machine"

Jonx, "Hyphen Machine"

S: "Vocabularian Herds" comes from Danny's lyrics to "Hyphen Machine", the title of which came from Danny mis-hearing something Trey or I said, which seems to be the generative process for most of our song titles.

Anyway, Trey and I both liked the sound of it, and thought it was better than the other album title we were considering, which was Use Your Illusion: III.

D: It's actually supposed to be a group of words stretched across a landscape. The lyric to that song is "The hyphen machine builds compound words that stretch for miles in vocabularian herds." Obviously "vocabularian" isn't a real word, but aside from that it makes some sort of sense in the context of the song, albeit in a dream-logic kind of way. I think Trey picked that as the title solely for the purpose of making the name of the third record as hard to remember as those of the other two records. Thanks for proving our point with respect to No Turn Jonx Red, by the way.

RO: One of the things that was really enjoyable from No Turn was that it felt just a little disheveled; not sloppy, but authentic or passionate. VH has that same sort of feeling, but in a more polished form. "Back to the Farm," for example, starts out very crisp and formulaic and then gets all bonzo at the end but without really losing itself. What we mean to say is, will you make out with us? Or rather, is that something that you all have worked on purposely, or has it just come organically?

Jonx, "Back to the Farm"

Jonx, "Back to the Farm"

S: All of our songs are organic. No growth hormones or genetically modified riffs were used.

D: The standards for organic music have been so watered down they hardly mean anything anymore. You can put all kinds of shit in your music now. Harp, glockenspiel, electric violin...

S: Seriously, I think part of that feeling comes from the way Chris Ryan at Dead City Sound records us. He's actually recorded everything we've ever done - going back to 2003 - so he knows us really well. Basically, we track everything but the vocals together live, the way we practice or play a show, and end up doing very little overdubbing or re-tracking. So it's more of a captured performance rather than something that is constructed.

RO: We'd just like to add how happy I am that there is another nine-plus minute song on the new LP. B L A C K I E's new album is supposed to be seven songs long, but only about ten minutes in length. We don't know how one is related to the either, but that seems like something that should be mentioned.

D: I've heard B L A C K I E is good, so I guess I'll have to pick that up. I just hope it's not on a tape. Tapes sucked the first time around and they suck now.

S: Someday, we will play a set of just "Scent of Earth" [a 12-minute song from No Turn] and "Highway at Night" and then Danny's arms will fall off.

Check out The Jonx online at www.thejonx.org. Oh, and artist Sharon Lapin did the cover art for Vocabularian Herd. Buy some of her art.

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Shea Serrano