The now-defunct but fondly remembered Mango’s was a place where magic could happen on any given night. The Montrose-based club certainly gave rise to many area bands, particularly the loud ones. It must have been the site of many romantic moments, too.
The story of Insolvent confirms these things occurred at Mango’s at least once, all in one night, back in January 2010. The death-metal band is readying for year four of musical mayhem by closing 2016 with a show tomorrow at Rudyard's. The band’s front woman and resident badass, Alice Lima, took some time ahead of the show to recall Insolvent’s origins and to discuss its exciting future.
“I am from Salvador, Bahia," she opens. "Salvador is the third-largest city in Brazil; it is a city known [as] the capital of samba and axé, two very popular musical styles in my state. I grew up around samba, bossa nova and axé music and started listening to metal around 17.
“I was a shy teenager and did not get along with the other girls in high school as much, so I would hang out with the boys, and that's what they would listen to, so I started listening to Sepultura, Death, Immolation, Napalm Death, Suffocation…and my mind was blown away by the energy coming out of that sound,” she continues. “I kinda started listening to other things after high school, a lot of hardcore and grindcore, and decided to start a band in 2002, which was called Suditos da Plebe (Servants of the People). Then, a couple years later I joined Tharsis. That was when I really started singing death metal. I've been singing death metal for almost 12 years now.”
Part of that time, of course, has been in Houston, her new home, which takes the story back to that January night nearly four years ago. Lima says she was visiting family in Houston and took in a show at Mango’s. She remembered the band that played that night, an Austin group called Yellow Fever. A fellow music fan, Joe Lovchik, who plays guitar for the visuals-heavy, instrumental stoner rock outfit Alone On the Moon, approached Lima that night.
“Joe started talking to me and by the end of the night, he got my email,” Lima recalls. She went back to Brazil the next month, but, she says, they Skyped nightly until Lovchik visited her in South America in July. After that, Lima says, he called her daily, every morning, and she’d “feel bad for the tons of money he spent on his phone bill during that period.”
At the time, Lima was finishing her law degree in Brazil. Once she graduated in December of 2010, she decided to follow her heart to Houston.
“Let me tell you that it was not easy, moving to another country. My English was limited. It is like you are being born again,” she says. “We then got married on January 29, 2011. We knew we wanted to be together for good.
“So, fast-forward to 2014,” Lima continues. “After I got situated with my new reality, I decided it was time to start singing again. I missed singing and the stage, so I started looking for people to jam with. Joe helped me to put the lineup together by recruiting Nate, and I found Tom on Facebook, but we could not find a bass player at all. Tom, Nate and I jammed without a bass player for a month or so, but then one day Joe offered to play bass until we could find a bass player. Tom, Nate and I decided that Joe was a good fit, and he's been with Insolvent ever since.”
“Tom” is Tom Longenecker, the band’s guitarist, and “Nate” is Nathan Smith, who drums for Alone on the Moon (and also writes for Houston Press Music). The latter says Lima’s brainchild not only gave her a chance to pursue her musical passion; it gave him a chance to broaden his playing.
“Playing drums in a death metal band was something that I'd always wanted to do," he says. "The intensity and athleticism of the style had always appealed to me greatly, but none of my friends ever had any interest in playing extreme styles, and the prospect of trying to put a band together using Facebook or Craigslist never seemed worth it. Alice moving to Texas changed that. She was very driven to build a band heavy enough for her vocals.
“When she was ready, she basically informed me that I would be playing drums in her new project, and that was that," Smith adds. "Her talent was too impressive to say no. Learning to play death metal and watching myself get faster and better has been really thrilling.”
Half the band is a married couple and, Lima says, “it feels really good to be able to do something you are passionate about with your partner. I feel lucky to have that.” But the group has solidified into a cohesive unit. It took them about a year to write Faceless War, the six-song EP Insolvent released in April. Lima says their writing process starts with Longenecker's bringing the riffs to rehearsals and the band's building from there. Lima writes the lyrics. Songs like “1984” and “Swallow the Sun” speak to the social and political issues that might interest a lawyer.
“The name Insolvent felt timely and appropriate," Smith says. "None of us in the band are particularly interested in Satan or obscenity for its own sake. Our artistic concerns and power fantasies are a little more street-level than some of our peers. The name was inspired by institutions deemed ‘too big to fail’ despite being unable to cover their own debts. The grim reality of social, financial and governmental hierarchies built upon bankruptcy and exploitation seemed upsetting enough to inspire our own extreme ethos. In that respect, I'd say that Napalm Death has been a primary influence on the way we seek to express ourselves. “
Is Houston a good place to express these sentiments, we asked Lima. Is America? Like many, she was disheartened by the presidential election results.
“Well, people are more open to listen to metal here in Houston than in my hometown in Brazil, that's for sure,” she says. “I guess it would be good to have more shows with metal bands of different styles here in Houston, lineups with grindcore, death-metal, thrash-metal and black-metal bands. Variety. Sometimes I feel Houston's metal scene can be very resistant to new bands.
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“I think that the election results were a shock to all of us," she adds. "This is the time to face what is in front of us and stop complaining about the election results. Keep yourself informed, be involved with your community and be more aware of your surroundings, meaning get out of the comfort zone and find out what happens in your neighborhood and how to help those in need. Just donating canned foods during Thanksgiving and toys during Christmas, it is not enough. Go to the city council meetings, find out what's going on. Anything we do to be more involved with our community and how to improve it, even if it feels like it's insignificant, adds up and it is better than nothing.”
For her part, Lima is studying for the bar exam. The band is writing new songs and plans to return to live action in March. If you need to kick 2016 in the ass on its way out, Lima suggests stopping by Rudz tomorrow.
“We are intense," she says. "That's the best way to describe our set. We want the crowd to feel what we feel. We always go onstage like it is the last time.”
Insolvent performs with Cryptic Void, Thundertank, God Fearing Fuck and Malevolent Force 10 p.m. Saturday, December 3 at Rudyard’s, 2010 Waugh. $5.