Bands start up in Houston almost on a daily basis, but few with the pedigree of Snooty Garbagemen. In 2013, Tom Triplett (OBN III's, Blaxxx, about 50 other bands, started the group as a collaborative project with close friend Josh Wolf of Secret Prostitutes, Sick Abuse, Crime Wave, and more. Now including Ari Alvarado of Thug Boots and Black Coffee on bass (the original bass player, Manie Chen, left recently), the band is currently celebrating the release of their debut self-titled album, released last week on Austin label 12XU Records.
The record itself is a masterclass example of snarling, noisy rock that contains elements of the other projects the members have worked on, yet with a more cynical edge and dripping with venom. The album marks Triplett's first time singing and writing lyrics for a band he's a part of, and he has a lot to say. Themes range from the annoyance of the mundane ("I Can't Find My Keys," "Answer Your Phone") to a more general feeling of being fed up with everything, especially on standout "I Quit." The LP is one of the strongest rock albums of the year, from both a local standpoint as well as on a broader scale. The Press caught up with Triplett at a local coffee shop the day before the record was released to discuss his latest project and what it was like to transition to writing and singing lead vocals for the first time in his long career.
Houston Press: How did Snooty Garbagemen form?
Tom Triplett: Me and the drummer Josh, we’ve known each other a long time, we’ve probably been playing music together close to eight or nine years. We had a few bands at the time, but most recently the band we had together petered out. I’m always writing. I never get writer’s block. I had songs and me and Josh just kept rolling. We played a couple of shows as just a two piece just to keep it easy. I hate scheduling. I hate calling people and getting people to show up to practice. I thought if it’s me and another guy that’ll be easy. We played a couple of shows like that but it was kind of fucking weak so we got a friend of ours, Manie Chen, to play bass, and he recorded the LP with us. At that point we had about an LP's worth of material. We recorded that in Austin and played a couple gigs last year. I think we’ve been playing two years, maybe rehearsing two and a half years.
Both you and Josh had all these other bands. What made you decide to add another one on top of everything else?
It wasn’t so much add on top of. We met when I was a teenager and started jamming together. We’ve been involved in one project and then personnel shifts up, but we’ve always had real good chemistry together and just kept rolling. Every time you jam with someone new it changes the dynamic, so a lot of the times it was based on who was writing the songs. We had one thing going and people leave for whatever reason or shit goes on, but we’re not going to stop playing music. We just put together some new music and keep rolling. Josh is a really creative guy too, and he’s always jamming out songs and projects on his own. We’ll have one off thing or he’ll record songs for a 7 inch, put a band around the songs, and go off and play a couple shows around here or regionally.
From a writing standpoint, what’s the approach you take with Snooty Garbagemen songs that’s different from other projects you’ve worked on?
I’d say the approach probably stayed pretty much the same for all the music I’ve done. I guess the biggest difference I’ve done for this is writing all the lyrics, and this time I’m singing and playing guitar, so that’s been kind of an adjustment, where previously I’ve mainly just contributed the music. I’d have someone else fuck with the lyrics because it never really interested me much, but that’s changed in the last couple of years. It’s been kind of exciting, a different aspect I never really considered before, how to fit lyrics into the music. It’s been fun. I still don’t think I’m that great at it, but it’s all a process, all this shit. I’m getting more and more comfortable with it, I think.
For songs like “I Quit” or “There’s No Such Thing As Superman” there’s a lot of general statements or sentiments of being pissed off. Are they supposed to be on anything specific?
It’s hard for me to start out with the concept of a song lyrically and build a song around that. I still generally start with like a riff or chords. What I’ve been doing is playing along and then shit just starts coming out your mouth. When you start to plug in and rearrange things, it’s kind of a weird thing where you get an idea for a line or chorus and start trying to cram more shit in there. I don’t know what it is about language, but generally a theme or some kind of general feeling seems to come out of that. That Superman song, it was that idea of there’s not a fucking Superman and the rest of the song touches on, if you’re in a jam, no one in real life is going to come save you. You have to figure that shit out on your own. But I didn’t start out saying like I need a fucking song about self-reliance. It just came out. That’s been an interesting aspect of the writing process.
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You said this is your first time doing the singing or lyrics. Was there anything you found that surprised you about the stuff you were writing?
I wouldn’t say surprised. Shit would come out and I’d be like yeah, I get that. I was kind of surprised that I was capable of writing some of that stuff. Some songs have a motif, but some others are less coherent really and sometimes I’ll put together patterns that makes sense to me, but I don’t know. It’s kind of fun letting other people read their own interpretation.
Are you hoping Snooty Garbagemen to be a long-term project and make more with it?
I’m hoping for now that it’ll have some staying power. I’m the primary songwriter. We’re about to record another few songs for a single next month and that will be out whenever. I don’t see it stopping anytime soon, unless I get taken out somehow. In the past I’ve been more dependent on other people, and you’re always dependent on bandmates, but I currently plan to keep it going for quite some time.
Snooty Garbagemen, Cop Warmth, Holy Money, Bottomfeeders and many more play "Saturday Summer Jam" this Saturday, July 18, at The Shop (6922 Harrisburg Blvd.) Tickets are $10; doors open at 5 p.m.