There’s something about happening upon a band, one you hadn’t heard of before but are immediately enthralled by, that is one of the great joys of being a music fan. It’s truly like finding a diamond embedded in the rough earth. Once you find it, you examine it, appraise it and make sure it's not fool's gold. When you know it's the real thing, you cherish it for yourself awhile and then you start showing the gem to anyone who will give you the time of day.
That’s what’s happening here. This particular jewel is Purple, a hard-rocking, stage-commanding, internationally-known trio from right down the road in Beaumont. If you want to see something that sparkles but also has the intensity to cut glass, be at Eastdown Warehouse for the band’s set at tomorrow’s Bayou City Bonanza. Of course, there is a chance you’ve already gazed upon this Texas treasure.
“We’ve played Mango's, Walters, Fitz, AvantGarden, Notsuoh, The Mink…that’s about all I can remember,” says Taylor Busby, the band’s guitarist and vocalist. “To be honest, I’m not that familiar with a lot of Houston acts except for our buddies We Were Wolves. But Devin Tha Dude would be rad to play a show with. We really do want to play Houston a lot more to try and get a better following. It seems kinda hard to do, but we just gotta keep hustlin'.”
The fact that a buzz band like Purple has to hustle to get a foothold here says something about the depth of talent in Houston’s present music pool. There’s lots of precious metal, crystal-clear voices and H-town bling, but Purple’s hue is garage-punk. Formed in 2009, it’s a sparse band, with drummer/vocalist Hanna Brewer and bassist Joe Cannariato rounding out the group. What they lack in numbers they make up in frenetic onstage energy.
I first saw Purple at Last Concert Café, during one of Visionary Noise’s For The Community events. I bought a beer just before the set began and still had most of it once the set ended. When a band stops a cold beer cold, it’s one you want to keep an eye on. I spent the majority of the set about five feet from Busby, who was sending fuzzed-out rock riffs to the heavens in Last Concert’s open air, from a pastel-colored guitar. Cannariato and Brewer were a steady backbeat, in spite of opposing stage presences. He played it straight, completely content with not having to match Brewer’s rambunctiousness.
The next time I saw Purple was only a week or two later on YouTube, in their “Leche Loco” video. It's full of bad behavior, good looks and great hooks. All that naughty energy makes the band’s origin story seem a little unbelievable.
“I use to be in a reggae band, and Hanna was in a Mormon cover band that opened up for us,” Busby recalls. “We both liked the way we were singing so we decided to jam together. Joe came in about a year ago. Our last bass player just couldn’t handle being on the road all the time.”
Part of the reason more Houstonians aren’t familiar with the band is because of its tour schedule, which has recently been filled with dates overseas.
“We got to play two 60-day tours in Europe which was a rad experience,” Busby says while offering some Purple highlights. “We met our manager Sandy Roberton at SXSW, who does wonders for this band. We got signed to a record label based in London called PIAS, who are an amazing group of people. And we [are] able to do a tour with The Subways. It was insane!”
Those gigs have further shaped the band’s live act. It’s so dynamic the band must do some outrageous warmup of some sort before hitting the stage, I guessed. Busby said I’d guessed wrong.
“We don’t really have any rituals," he says. "We like to drink whiskey and I got a long board that I'll skate around on at times. The worst part is right before a show just sitting there waiting to play. We are actually pretty chill people. We keep all that energy bottled up until we hit the stage.”
Busby says Purple’s continued ingratiation to Houston has them returning August 15 for Lone Star Beer’s Texas Heritage Festival at Silver Street Studios. The band just finished tracking the followup to last year’s (409), the album that features “Leche Loco,” “Dmt,” and “Beach Buddy.”
With so much talk about Houston and far-off places like France and Germany, we asked Busby about Beaumont. Bands like We Were Wolves, The Ramblin’ Boys, The Killawatts and The Ruxpins seem to be leading a new wave from I-10 East. And Purple might be the biggest of Beaumont’s breakthrough acts. That’s what I see through my loupe, but come to Eastdown and check out the clarity of this gem yourself.
“I think it’s in the water or something,” said Busby of Beaumont’s current music surge. “Also there’s nothing else to do in Beaumont except drink beer and write music. A lot of the venues have actually shut down, which is sad, but there is still a scene going and some cool new acts that are popping up.
“It is weird to think we are influential," he adds. "We are just a bunch of punks who drink too much and scream in the mike. Don’t try this at home, kids.”
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Jesse’s been writing for the Houston Press since 2013. His work has appeared elsewhere, notably on the desk of the English teacher of his high school girlfriend, Tish. The teacher recognized Jesse’s writing and gave Tish a failing grade for the essay. Tish and Jesse celebrated their 33rd anniversary as a couple in October.