Houston Music

Artist of the Week: Somber Element

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].

Being a music critic is a really precise, technical job. We use strict templates to assign songs/albums/musicians quantifiable measurements, judging music with all the reason it deserves. Objective evaluations like "How loudly would I sing this if I were in the car alone?" and "Would I still be compelled to sing it if other people were in the car as well?" are absolutely vital and applicable to all tastes without disregard.

So you should definitely take our word for it when we tell you that sad-rocker quartet Somber Element is loads of cool. Still relatively new to the circuit, SE shows tons of promise with their stripped down, woe-is-me brand of music. Mostly, it's the mash of bluesy folk-rock and gloom that periodically pops its head up on the local scene, save for one glaring discrepancy: these guys don't sound like preening D-bags when they perform it.

We reached out and the foursome was kind enough to let us bother them for a few minutes. After the jump, read about the attitudinal disposition of Germanium, how they feel about being compared to Staind, and the top five sad rock songs of all time. 


Rocks Off: What exactly is a somber element? Actually, more to the point, which is a somber element? Lead has always seemed kind of melancholy or down to us. Sulfur too. Germanium, on the other hand, has always seemed a bit douchey.

Somber Element: Ah, the old Periodic Table. Well we don't know a whole lot about Lead or Germanium but we do know a little about C20H25N3O.

RO: ?

SE: Somber Element to us, and the reason it was chosen as our band name, is because of the somber tone in our music. It's the kind of music you hear when you're riding in the passenger seat staring out the window watching the world go by. Kind of makes you feel melancholy in a good way.

RO: Is the lead singer's name really Ben Bones, or is that his stage name? Why not go for the whole shabazz? "Breaks Bones" would be a fantastic name. And it'd serve as a warning to those who thought to bring ill will to the band. It'd be like a rattlesnake's rattle, but for your name.

SE: Bones is just a nickname that he was given as a kid that just kind of stuck. I hope we never have to see him become "Break Bones." However we will enjoy calling him Rattlesnake for awhile. Thanks for that one.

RO: Indeed. Have you all ever read an interview of a band and the interviewer asked the band how they all came together and then the band gave some really crazy, off the wall, story-not-to-be-missed answer? We haven't. Thus, we're giving serious thought to abandoning that question once and for all from this column. In the meantime, how did you all come to be Somber Element?

SE: We would love to give you the "really crazy, off the wall story-not-to-be-missed" story about how we came to be Somber Element, but we are saving that one for the Hollywood movie we are going to write. You want to be in it?

Seriously though, we just kind of found each other and realized that we needed to be making music together. We had been involved in separate projects but we had this kind of reserve of music that we weren't really getting to explore. One day we just decided to throw in with each other at an open mic night and everything just clicked. Bones already had dozens of songs written and the name Somber Element in his head. We just put the rest of the music together around him.

RO: You guys kind of have a Staind thing going on. And we're not exactly sure how we feel about that. We mean, on the one hand, we really, really liked Staind back in 2001. On the other, that was back in 2001. What say you?

SE: We have heard the Staind one before. Staind is a great band and we consider it an honor to be compared to them. We don't really see it in the music, but maybe a little in the tone of the lyrics. We've always had a hard time trying to describe our sound because our sound is still kind of evolving.

The truth is we know that we are always going to be compared to someone else, and that is something we are going to have to deal with as long as we want to play music together. In a perfect future though, maybe one day someone will be compared to us. In a perfect future.

RO: It's really hard to pull off that whole stripped down look-how-genuine-my-sadness-is sound without coming off like total A-holes, but we think you all pull it off very well. The music really does feel sincere. Walk us through what was going on when you all wrote "April's Love," which is what we feel like is ya'll's strongest track.

SE: Inspiration for music can come from a lot of places. It can be a bad breakup with your bipolar girlfriend, someone telling you to write some new material, or maybe some douche from California that comes to Texas and steals your girlfriend. In the case of "April's Love," it is a dream.

One April, Bones had an extremely vivid dream in which he held a dying girl in his arms after a violent car crash. He decided to write a song about it and changed it to a girl lying broken on the edge of a river. We never had the chance to personally meet April, but we believe when she died in Bones' arms she left a deep crack in his heart. You can tell that just from listening to him in the song.

RO: Top 5 sad rock songs of all time - go.

SE: "Commercial for Levi," Placebo; "Under the Bridge," Red Hot Chili Peppers; "Wing's for Marie," Tool; "Wish You Were Here," Pink Floyd; "Turn the Page," Bob Seger and the Silver Bullet Band

RO: When, where, and for how much can people see you all perform live next?

SE: We will be playing February 27 at Fitzgerald's. I think it's $10 to get in. We are going to be going on late. It's going to be a pretty big show for us, kind of kicking off the 2009 assault. You should come check us out if you are not too busy. We'll try to make you change your mind about that whole Staind thing [laughs].

Hit Somber Element up at www.myspace.com/somberelement and tell them you heard about them via Rocks Off and they will mail you $5. Or they won't. We're not fortune tellers, you know.

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Shea Serrano