Day for Night Local Spotlight: Indian Jewelry

I should recuse myself from this feature, but I won't. I have an unhealthy affection for Indian Jewelry, a band whose twisted Phil Spector wall of sound psychically seduces hearts and minds without consent. A healthy band for unhealthy minds. Like a good little capitalist, I consumed everything they created before, during and after my virginal voyage into fandom oblivion. 

It was May 15, 2010. A friend summoned me to Mango's, and I thoughtlessly met him there. The small Montrose venue was packed beyond any lawful fire code, and Indian Jewelry's faithful filled every breathable space. As they took the stage, playing tracks from their 2008 album Free Gold and critically acclaimed Invasive Exotics, the flood of regrets that I had hours before dried up in an instant. The sound exploded into a million little pieces.

That same loud, obnoxious, sardonic sound once made bands like the Butthole Surfers and Ed Hall known commodities in the music world. That night, IJ's droning aesthetic stirred up fond memories of Spacemen 3. Their feedback swells were violent with these tiny, fragile melodies hiding within them. Mallets pounded tribal rhythms into the worst possible migraine headache. It was nauseating, intoxicating and blissful, Roky Erickson's many illegitimate children hiding in plain sight. 

Indian Jewelry's latest LP and one of 2015's most overlooked records, Doing Easy isn't just more of the same droning, psychedelic textures. The sound expands into electronic, beat-driven territories from early '80s Depeche Mode, with lyrics like mantras chanted during the track "Eva Cherie." "Guns" pretends to strip down its sound until the guitars buzz in like vultures circling a putrefied possum rotting on Highway 71 on a 102-degree day. What makes Doing Easy just as worthy as IJ's predecessors is that they have not lost their sense of adventure. 

Like many of the other bands who will be performing at Day For Night this weekend, their music creates Burroughsian landscapes that fits finely in an outsider art gallery. Tex Kerschen, one of Indian Jewelry's provocateurs, describes their upcoming appearance at the new festival in exuberant tones.

"We’re excited about Day for Night for two very different reasons," he says. "First, because we come from a place and time where people are obsessive about the band New Order. Second, because the local lineup is well-chosen, forward-reaching, and our friends." [Editor's note: As of September, Kerschen is also the Houston Press' Music Listings Editor.]

Indian Jewelry is with exceptional company; yet, their role in this festival is equally complementary to both the world-renowned and regional acts.

"The lineup is really well-done," Kerschen comments. "In my opinion, it shows a real confidence in the people of Houston, consisting of so many heady, adventurous artists and so few faddish duds. It’s like having a birthday party at Chuck E Cheese, except that we’re all in the animatronic band, and the food isn’t shit. New Order, Psychic TV, and loads of friends that we hold in the same high esteem: Future Blondes, B L A C K I E, Prince Rama, BOAN, Richard Ramirez, Millennial Grave, Hearts of Animals, Health." 

A Banksy-envisioned Disney World plays in these acts' favor, especially Indian Jewelry. Live, their sound creates a world of colors and sensory experiences worthy of those blessed with the condition of synesthesia. Despite their fans adoring familiarity with their dauntless stage show, Kerschen and the band take the approach of meeting the band again for the first time.

"Let’s start from the assumption that most people reading this have never heard of us, and that even most of those who think they’ve seen our name somewhere will have no idea what it is we do or even what we sound like," Kerschen says. "We’re on YouTube, and we’re in good record stores. Just the same, most people at this festival will have never heard of any of our music, and that’s our cue to just play whatever we feel like playing."

With a bulky back catalog of epic music, including a new album filled with requisite gems that demand listening, tailoring their upcoming set to meet the aesthetics of the art installations and glitch-based visualizations will not inspire a set list to match, Kerschen promises.

"Here’s us: our gear is usually on the fritz, we’re too strapped to fix it, and if by some chance we did have enough money to start repairing what all’s gone wrong, we’d probably just spend it traveling," he explains. "What’s more, we usually play in the dark, lit only by strobes, and that makes it rough on amateur photographers. And we don’t have a practice space, so our only chance to stay sharp is to think sharp, look sharp, and act sharp. We used to think tough, look tough, and feel tough, but ultimately it got expensive to dry-clean so many leather vests."

Self-deprecating humor aside, Indian Jewelry's aesthetic makes them a singular presence worthy of the company they share, making us proud of their entire accomplishments, this festival included. 

Indian Jewelry perform 5:30 p.m. Saturday, December 19 on Day for Night's Blue Stage. See dayfornight.io for further details.
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Stephan Wyatt