Houston Music

Artist of the Week: Tax the Wolf

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].

Several weeks ago, we saw a middle-school-aged kid wearing a T-shirt that simply read "Tax the Wolf." We assumed it was a band, and since we were also wearing a shirt that supported a band (Austin electronica/indie-rockers Sounds Under Radio), we went ahead and asked him about it. It was a bad move on our part.

We pretty much ended up just standing there for a few minutes modestly saying things like, "Well, have you heard of X, do they kind of sound like that?" while he responded with "I don't know about X, but have you heard Y, it's a little like that." It was unexpectedly awkward and, in hindsight, we would not be surprised if he went home and told his parents that a pedophile attempted to pick him up. Such is life.

At any rate, we Googled "Tax the Wolf" and found them to be a very enjoyable indie-rock quartet. Their biggest achievement is that they shift nicely between ethereal spook-rock and somewhat bubbly pop with relative ease, particularly when you consider that they've only been in their line-up for about a year or so.

So we hit TTW up and asked them to talk about how one song reminded us of a movie starring the seventh-greatest action star of all time (Antonio Banderas), the Latino uprising in the local music scene, and "Merkexlla," our sleeper pick to make this year's Best Local Indie-Rock Songs list. Enjoy.

Rocks Off: You know what's cool about that song "Korea"? The first few seconds of it sound just like the first few seconds of Desperado, that bomb-ass movie with Antonio Banderas. Smart move, because that movie owns.

Tax the Wolf: It began as a slow, melodic introduction to a show but stretched out to a full song. We really enjoy playing it live. The actual sound and imagery it gives is something we're trying to aim for heavily. Some sort of dark melancholy and unexplained vibe.

The lyrics mention "Children being swallowed by bombs coming from the sky but as an individual you bring all the bombs down to save your fellow friend." "Korea" is just a preview, and we've thankfully gotten a lot of great feedback. I can hear the Desperado sound in there. We have to keep it real for the raza [laughs].

RO: You know what we've noticed, and we're Mexican, so it warms our heart to say this: it seems like we - "we" being "us mojados" - are beginning to flex a little muscle in the indie-rock scene. It's cool, right? And don't give us that "Oh, I hadn't even noticed" nonsense, because we know you have. We know you've been out at some of the shows and thought, "Man, there sure are a lot of Zacks here and not very many Slaters."

TTW: It's really awesome that you mention us Mexicans and our existence in the indie-rock scene. We're slowly progressing upwards and being recognized [as something] other than being mojados [laughs]. We gladly appreciate being noticed in any local scene, because it's quite an honor in a city filled with millions. Just a year ago, we were dying to play shows anywhere. No 'ifs' or 'buts' about playing live. We just do this for the sake of releasing stress and playing what we love.

Now that we've played more and more shows it's overwhelming in a very good way. We're four Mexican-Americans from the southeast side of Houston and we're being noticed! But aside from all the wonderful fans/local artists we've become friends with, it's still a tough competition and we've slowly noticed how this local scene works, from people playing favorites or to bands just performing with only certain others.

This is all like the high school lunch hall and no one wanting to look for change but just sticking to their table of pretty friends. We Mexicans don't have time for clowning around; we just want to go to class and see what's next after this. Hopefully we can reach out to all the Zacks and definitely all the Slaters very soon.

RO: Tell us the story behind "Merkexlla," because it ends up being the best of the bunch, and when we eventually hear it played somewhere when we're out we want to be able to tell everyone something really insider-y about it and sound like we rock the shit.

TTW: "Merkexlla" is one of our other favorite songs to perform live. The actual meaning behind the song has nothing to do with the title. The lyrics for the songs are written by Mario but they always seem very abstract, as if it were the last coating of a painting. You don't really understand the true meaning but it makes the outcome that much more enjoyable. [The] lyrics are about a town blowing up in flames while money-driven characters are undoubtedly out to grab what they can for greed.

We made it one year ago while we were trying to stop sounding like the Strokes or Interpol. We definitely sat down and grabbed some acoustics and told each other to make something worth listening to. After hours of some "stop playing that shit" or "Do you know what B minor is, pinche cabron?!" the melody stuck out to us and there was "Merkexlla."

Follow Taw the Wolf and download their free EP at www.taxthewolf.com. The band plays a free show with the Manichean, Female Demand, Perseph One and Palit tonight at Mango's, 403 Westheimer.

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Shea Serrano