Bang Bangz: A Rare Houston Band Brimming With Mystery

To make a gross generalization that's still pretty much true, most of Houston's better-known musical acts (God bless them) aren't exactly known for their subtlety. Slim Thug, ZZ Top, Rusted Shut, Linus Pauling Quartet, Venomous Maximus, B L A C K I E, Indian Jewelry -- no matter the genre, broad strokes and heavy mettle rules the day, and nuance can be in short supply. There's Lyle Lovett, but after him the list gets pretty thin.

That's why its been so refreshing to watch the mysterious, shadowy, alluring Bang Bangz steal so many hearts within the local scene these past few months. The electro-pop trio is eeirly reminiscent of Portishead, Massive Attack and Morcheeba, early-'90s UK groups who expertly wove trippy electronic sounds around a sensual groove and a fetching female vocalist.

Released in February 2012, Bang Bangz's eponymous EP is perfectly suited for all sorts of nocturnal activities, including the kind that take place under the covers.

Bang Bangz began when Mario Rodriguez, guitarist and singer of proggy Houston alt-rock trio Tax the Wolf, wanted to dust off some solo songs he had been working on for a while, some he had started at age 16. Instead of the muscular interstellar jams he writes in Tax, these songs and been inspired by albums like Thom Yorke's 2006 solo album The Eraser and Cafe Tacuba's Reves/Yo Soy. (Tax has already recorded nine songs for their next album, and plays a free show February 9 at Fitz.)

In early 2011, Rodriguez met Elizabeth Salazar and in the course of talking music with her, mentioned his solo songs. They had written four Bang Bangz tracks within a week of working together. They brought in their friend Vik Montemayor, drummer for excellent Houston synth-rock band the Live Lights, and debuted in front of a packed Mango's that August.

"We never expected such a heated crowd," Rodriguez says. "We instantly became motivated to continue the small project, and every show after was even better."

A different version of "All I Want" will appear on Bang Bangz's upcoming LP Red City.

Today Rodriguez and Salazar share a loft near Last Concert Cafe and Houston House of Creeps that doubles as Bang Bangz's rehearsal space. One of their neighbors is actually one of our fellow Houston Press staffers, who says the trio's rehearsals can get a little loud.

"We like being loud," Rodriguez affirms. "Those thick walls can't save our neighbors, but they're always welcome to sit in and have some beers with us."

A few weeks after performing after performing at the Houston Press' Artopia this Saturday, Bang Bangz will release their first full-length album, Red City, in March. In true Houston fashion, Rodriguez promises more of everything, especially more sexy.

"My goal was to compose seductive, simple ballads with electronics, guitars and drums," he says. "Elizabeth really accomplished something beautiful with every track, smoky vocals and dreamy melodies that triumph throughout the production.

"Vik has again made our songs powerful and solid," Rodriguez adds. "He walks into rehearsal and always has the perfect drum pattern to accompany the music. He's incredible behind the drums."

Bang Bangz performs with Bagheera and Poor Pilate at Houston Press Artopia, 8 p.m. Saturday, January 26 at Winter Street Studios, 2101 Winter, www.houstonpressartopia.com. In honor of Artopia, the group is offering its first EP as a free download to our readers on its Bandcamp page.

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