“New." It’s one of the most exciting words a person can use when talking music. Whether it’s new material being released by an old favorite or a fresh slate of show dates that includes your city, the promise of something current and undiscovered is like lifeblood to the music business. The acts that make up this year’s HPMA Best New Act field are dripping with the good stuff that keeps Houston’s music heart beating. Many have been on the local scene awhile in other projects and some are literally playing their first shows anywhere, but all of them are giving Houston a transfusion of musical excellence. Here are the bloody good nominees:
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The Act: Pensive electronica with bursts of manic percussion and killer vocals, all making for a dramatic live set.
The Band: Vicki Lynn, James Templeton of LIMB, and Ed Gardiner, also known as birdmagic.
The Backstory: Vocalist Vicki Lynn was a LIMB fan and friend of Templeton’s. Songs they recorded “just for fun” in 2013 evolved into a record and what has become a popular live act in some of Houston’s best-connected venues, particularly since birdmagic joined this year to help write and produce new music.
Where You’ve Seen Them: “Walters Downtown has by far been the most accommodating venue, and my personal favorite to play,” says Vicki Lynn. “They have a reputation for being good to musicians, and I experience that every time we play there. To add to that, the sound there is consistently good. Terry Nunn is an incredible sound engineer. No matter what weirdo setup a band throws at him — and we do — he can make them sound great.”
Next Gigs: The Yes, Indeed! Festival, September 19; Houston Whatever Fest, November 21-22.
Lessons Learned: “People involved in the Houston music scene are for the most part good people who are supportive of one another," Lynn says. "My experience has been that if you have a project you love and believe in, the musicians, writers, promoters, etc. in this scene will support you and cheer you on. I don’t know if that is an anomaly as far as music scenes go, but it is something I’m grateful to be a part of.”
The Act: Indie synth-pop that’ll make even the too-cool-for-school crowd shake it.
The Band: David Gonzalez, Nicco Martinez, Ricky J. Vasquez
The Backstory: The high-school friends crossed paths in different bands until Martinez and Vasquez eventually began writing songs jointly. Gonzalez was producing beats. Seeing Dallas’ Ishi open for the Tontons gave the band its direction, with a sound that is heavily influenced by artists like Chromeo, Prince and David Bowie’s Young Americans and Let’s Dance albums.
Where You’ve Seen Them: House of Creeps, Fitzgerald’s, The Shop and Rudyard’s. “The sound guy at Rudyard’s is probably the best in town," says Vasquez. "He really knew how to blend the backing tracks with our live vocals, guitars and bass to make a clear sound for the audience.”
Next Gigs: A pair of shows at Walter’s a week apart – September 2 with Hank and the Cupcakes and September 9 with Satellite D’Homme and Moon Honey.
Lessons Learned: “I think the most important thing we’ve learned as a new act in the Houston music scene is that even though it’s huge with a lot of variety, there’s always people there willing to help out a young band,” Vasquez notes. “We threw ourselves out there and we’ve been fortunate to make bonds and relationships with other bands, venues, and people involved in the scene who have helped us along these past six months. Everyone kind of looks out for each other and I think it’s a wonderful thing. We’re really thankful for it.”
FIDDLE WITCH AND THE DEMONS OF DOOM
The Act: Local music veterans team up for an innovative blend of classical and metal to the delight of Houston most eclectic headbangers.
The Band: Jo Bird, Geoffrey Muller, SPIKE the Percussionist
The Backstory: Bird is one of the founders of fellow HPMA nominee Two Star Symphony and conceived this project in 2012 as a way to further explore her diverse influences. Bird was referred to SPIKE the Percussionist who shared her classical training and passion for metal and rock. Bassist Geoffrey Muller rounded out the trio.
Where You’ve Seen Them: Rudyard’s and Numbers.
Next Gigs: The band is working on bookings while it records a new single in Los Angeles.
Lessons Learned: “The Houston scene is vast yet well connected in many ways," shares the band. "Lots of talent everywhere but launching it out into the rest of the world can be difficult."
The Act: Always-on-the-grind rapper whose intelligent and heartfelt rhymes strike hard and without warning; known for teaming with burgeoning local acts from other genres (Catch Fever, birdmagic) to create something wholly Houston.
The Band: Guilla
The Backstory: “I can't really say that I have an origin, but I am a representation of what you get when you combine narcissism and crippling self-doubt," he says.
Where You’ve Seen Him: “The most accommodating venue in my opinion is Black Barbie," offers Guilla. "The engineer was passing me blunts on stage while I was performing at the BoyFriend show. I never thanked that guy. If you’re reading this, thank you.”
Next Gigs: August 22 with The Suffers at House of Blues; Yes, Indeed! Fest; Houston Whatever Fest.
Lessons Learned: “As a new artist I can say what I have learned about the Houston music scene is that there is more love in this world than what is surfaced," he says. "You have good-vibe people and you have bad-vibe people. Stay away from the bad vibes and show love to those who show love to you.”
The Act: Deep house for the year 2115.
The Band: Noah Clough and Chase DeMaster
The Backstory: Unknown. But the project brings together two of the city’s most successful producers from projects like Children of Pop and Josiah Gabriel for something exciting.
Where You’ve Seen Them: Free Press Summer Fest 2015
Lessons Learned: For an act that sounds futuristic, Kult Dizney has made a point of focusing on the present. The band says it looks to play off the vibe of its audiences in its performances.
The Act: Tighter-than-a-clenched-fist musicians backing a front woman whose expressive and powerful vocals are no-nonsense yet nuanced.
The Band: Moji Abiola, Troy Creagh and David Garcia
The Backstory: Abiola and Garcia bonded over conversations about music and musical influences and formed the foundation of MOJI in 2013. Several failed Craigslist responses later, Abioli spotted Creagh at a jazz open-mike, loved his improvisational talent and the band was complete.
Where You’ve Seen Them: The Nightingale Room and Warehouse Live.
Next Gigs: August 22 at Fitzgerald’s Benefit Series: Gender Infinity (as Janet Jackson); Yes, Indeed! Festival
Lessons Learned: “The Houston music scene is its own universe, it is ever expanding and seems to have more of an openness to hard-to-define acts like ours,” Abiola observes. “When I first started playing in Houston in 2007, venues seemed more apt to book cover bands, metal, country or hip-hop acts. It is really exciting to know that all genres are being embraced and the onus is really on the band to go out and search for gigs and other bands with whom they can share a stage. In short, there are far fewer barriers to creating the type of music you want, and it is easier to find an audience that is willing to listen.”
OUTSIDE AT NIGHT
The Act: Good, old-fashioned emo like your awesome but sometimes moody older brother used to listen to.
The Band: Joel McAda, Andrew Greer, Raul Galvan, Cody McIntosh and Edwin Aguirre
The Backstory: McAda began Outside at Night as a solo project, then turned to Craigslist to piece together the band. Greer was the first to respond and they realized they actually knew each other via mutual friends from high school. By the fall of 2014, the band had formed enough to begin playing live sets and later added Aguirre on guitar, giving McAda the freedom to focus on vocals and keys.
Where You’ve Seen Them: Walters
Next Gigs: ” We currently don't have any shows lined up so if anyone wants to have us play all they have to do is ask!” McAda says.
Lessons Learned: “As a fairly new act in town, we're quickly learning that the scene isn't eager to support bands that are primarily trying to get their name out through promoting songs online, even if they're free,” McAda says. “People want to see local bands put on energetic live shows fairly frequently, so we're definitely trying to make all of our work schedules align as much as possible to fit in as many shows as we can. Our best turnouts have been when we host free house shows, so there will undoubtedly be more of those in the future.”
The Act: Internationally-known blues band whose members’ collective ages are less than the age of most of the blues legends they emulate.
The Band: Sarah Kimberly (12) keys/vocals; Austin Morris (14) guitar; Daniel Holder (14) bass; Reagan Kimberly (10) drums
The Backstory: “Rusted Avenue was formed this year as a youth act to compete specifically in Memphis as part of the International Blues Challenge,” says Brian Kimberly, father of two of the band members. “Rusted Avenue was very honored to represent Houston and held the distinction of being the youngest band to perform in Memphis this year.”
Next Gigs: “The majority of the band is currently performing under the name Campfire Soul and can be seen August 27 at the Big Easy as part of the Houston Blues Society’s Monthly Jam and will also be performing at Houston's Buffalo Bayou Park's Grand Opening October 3,” says Kimberly.
Lessons Learned: “The Houston music scene, specifically the Houston blues scene, has been incredible to the members of the band," Kimberly says. "Houston is also blessed with many amazing blues musicians and has several fantastic venues in which to enjoy the genre. Houston is a very lucky city in that regard. The Houston Blues Society and the Big Easy specifically have been incredibly supportive.”
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The Act: No doubt-‘bout-it H-town rap from the duo that put the “Flava In Ya Ear”
The Band: Sauce Walka and Sancho Saucy, a.k.a. The Sauce Generals
The Backstory: “Sauce Twinz has only been performing and taking rap serious for a year. We have been dripping sauce together our whole lives,” says Sauce Walka. “We're the Sauce Twinz because we do everything the same — we think the same but it's like day and night. When I'm mad, he's happy. When he's mad, I'm happy. We think the same, we move the same. He's the light-skin version and I’m the dark skin version. Sauce Twinz.”
Where You’ve Seen Them: Warehouse Live and “of course every block party in the hood or ghetto," Walka says. "We love doing concerts in the community so people don’t have to spend money. They can just come outside and see the Sauce Twinz just like how we used to see our neighborhood stars (like) Fat Pat and DJ Screw.”
Next Gigs: Thursday at Power Center; August 25 in Lake Charles, La.
Lessons Learned: “Without a leader, we ain’t going to win," says Walka. "Any time Houston was on top of the game we had a leader to lead the movement. Houston thrives off movements. You have to have a movement out of Texas for Texas to stay where it's supposed to be — can't be one rapper, it has to be a movement.”
The Act: Dream indie-pop, affectionately known as shoegaze for those of us who love it.
The Band: Patricia Lynn, Nicholas Dudek, Jason Petzold and Cesar Inserny
The Backstory: The band lived a former life as The Watermarks. When its bassist, Jessica Brand, departed, the remaining members decided to regroup as Telephantom. Inserny wanted a female vocalist and Lynn was added. No novice herself, her backstory is Austin-based and includes performing as The Wind and The Wave with Dwight Baker and with the band The Soldier Thread.
Where You’ve Seen Them: “Fitzgerald's has always been great to us, and we're very grateful to them,” says Inserny.
Next Gigs: Thursday with Night Drive at the Nightingale Room and August 29 at Pegstar's Fitzgerald's finale
Lessons Learned: “I think what we've learned is that the bridge between the music-makers and the music fans in this town is not well known, so it's difficult for the fans to learn about the music created here," Iserny says. "This city could benefit greatly from an effective way to connect music fans and music makers. I'm not sure exactly how to do this, I have my own ideas, but I think this would need a bit of research.”