Something Fierce sounds like a punk-rock timeline of the past, a golden age when energy and attitude were over-the-top and people actually paid for their music. But lately the Houston trio's focus has become even narrower.
For the past few years, Steven Garcia (guitar/vocals), Nikki Seven (bass) and Andrew Keith (drums) have been inspired by the late '70s. For their most recent album, 2011's Don't Be So Cruel, though, they specifically stuck to punk released in the year 1979.
Something Fierce at SXSW
9 p.m. Saturday, March 17, at Valhalla (Dirtnap Records showcase), 710 Red River St.
Perhaps that's why the Houston band has had so much success: They have the ability to combine a distinctive style of the past with contemporary composition and methodology — in other words, they work their asses off.
The band has been following this timeline since releasing their first record, Come for the Bastards, in 2006. As Something Fierce has explored different realms of punk and pop, they have adapted and honed their sound, which has not gone unnoticed.
When SoFi's second album, There Are No Answers, was released in very early 2009, punk and garage rock enthusiasts all over the country quickly took notice. Portland indie label Dirtnap Records was impressed, signed the band and re-released Answers later that year.
This year they will join labelmates Mind Spiders (Fort Worth), Mean Jeans (Portland) and Sonic Avenues (Montreal), among others, at Dirtnap's St. Patrick's Day SXSW showcase. Garcia says Something Fierce has fit right in on the label, which mostly leaves them free to go their own way.
"The label provides some perks," he says. "We have a publicist pushing our music into blogs, Web sites and magazines, and the distribution of our records is surprisingly expansive. Other than that, we're on our own. It's comfortable and freeing and totally exhausting."
Fast-forward two years later — not discounting the hard work and occasional roadblocks — and Something Fierce's follow-up lived up to expectations. Don't Be So Cruel is catchy and riffy, but with inescapably appealing pop-song structures. The entire album is ripped specifically straight out of 1979, a year Garcia thinks was an optimal time for punk.
"I think something special happened in the late '70s and early '80s," he says. "Punk energy, coupled with a shitload of major-label cash to burn, really led to a fantastic era of music.
"The problem is [that era] will never happen again," sighs Garcia. "The music industry can't afford the risk. As for us, we do whatever we want because no one has paid us and said that we can't."
Upon the release of Don't Be So Cruel last April, the band proved that taking two years off to write new music didn't loosen their grasp on their audience. Fans took to their respective blogs and got the word out: Someone saw Something Fierce open a show in Philadelphia and later left a comment on Last.fm that they should have headlined.
"That person was most likely being generous," demurs Garcia. "We're often treated well before the show, but we earn respect on the stage. They probably thought we ripped...and we probably did."
The trio has been able to thank their fans by visiting almost every state they can reach in their van. It seems like every time we check in with them to see what they're up to, they're on tour. If what we've been seeing on the blogosphere and in punk sectors is true, they might be able to become a viable touring punk-rock band.
But will their reputation and relationship with their fans be enough for them to make a career out of touring? Garcia thinks it might be difficult.
"Even with the press that we've been fortunate enough to receive, nothing comes easy," he says. "Getting on the road and paying bills at home — not to mention maintaining relationships with the people we love — will always be a struggle. But we can't help ourselves."
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They really can't. Something Fierce is hands down one of Houston's hardest-working bands. It might be because the members of Something Fierce genuinely care about their music and musicianship, and carefully plan and execute each project they embark on.
Next up is a new album planned for a summer release. From what we've read, it might include some previously recorded tracks, but we couldn't get a straight answer from Garcia.
Could the next album be a look back at everything Something Fierce has accomplished thus far? According to Garcia, don't count on it.
"For now, there is still an urgent need to make music," he says. "The new record will be [a] continued evolution — half of it, anyway."