Bayou City

Guess Genes Take Their Sound Beyond The Norm on Debut

Guess Genes mix it up on debut full length.
Guess Genes mix it up on debut full length. Photo Karo Cantu

The odds are high that if you thought you were going to start a music project that was different from everyone else's, you'd be hard pressed to do so. Whenever someone tells me they have something different, I figure that it's already been done, even if I've never heard of it before. However, when you have two artists who come together over their love of dissonant folk, two artists who don't need the project they do together to go very far, what you'll typically get is something magical.

That's what Houston's Guess Genes is: pure magic. A project of Sergio Trevino of Buxton and Ancient Cat Society, and Chase DeMaster of Children of Pop and Get A Life, Guess Genes adds electronics to traditional folk, creating a sound like no one else in Houston. On their self titled debut Guess Genes, they mix genres and expand their sounds to give you something that's full of pop hooks and crazy beats.

The way in which these two begin a song is interesting, almost like the opening of a practice, found most on opening track, "Bones on the Beach," where once the beat drops, things get better and better. Complete with Sergio singing with a reverb vocal effect, and funky guitar from DeMaster, the track is funky, fun, and ultra-catchy. The song is essentially an electro-pop track, but has so many underpinnings of other genres it's a little insane. They follow this up with a dissonant folk track, "Mai Mai" where the electronics just add to the intriguing sounds of the track. The way the vocals are here, mixed with multiple effects with Trevino's endearing voice a top it all, creates a sound that is as different as it is hard to turn off, proving these two can mix things up however they want.

While they offer up the softer side of their sound on "Lilly Vine," it's the fourth song "Tangerine Balloon" that really sticks to you. Mixing echoed drums with spacey synths and an acoustic guitar, the sound complete with Trevino's happy go lucky vocals work like you wouldn't believe. The song feels catchy without trying to be, while they mix in varying sounds and electronics to craft something that doesn't sound like what you may be expecting. They keep the unexpected pop going on the following song, "Underneath My Clothes." While the song is much slower, and more electronics driven, there's something about how Trevino's vocals mix with the synths and the slower stride that creates a haunting sound that's hard not to love.

Two songs later they keep your attention with the spacey sounds of "Dr. Eamer," a slow burner that creeps up on you. The effects-driven vocals from Trevino add a depth to his already deep sounding vocals, while these ghostly synths stride the song along. Though a vocal driven sound is a gamble in many ways, it pays off with the duo offering one of the deeper songs of the album.  The same can be said about the following song, "Mailing Out," featuring some of the heftiest vocals of the release while giving you a thick pop hook and beat. They close things out with the super catchy sounds of "Waving at the Weeds." The heavy electronics and quicker pace give the song plenty of weight, while the more pursed vocals add a depth that's unforgettable in its presentation and execution.

This album is pretty hard not to like, though it's different from what you may expect from these two. By creating a sound that's a bit out of left field, Guess Genes makes music that's catchy and inventive in a world where a lot of the genres they're mixing, sounds like everyone else. What makes this project work so well is how they mix things together that shouldn't work, but they actually work out swimmingly. You can stream the album in all of the usual places or order you own copy from the band at their Bandcamp page. While they don't have any performances on deck, you should keep Guess Genes on you radar for whatever they have going on in the future.
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David Garrick is a former contributor to the Houston Press. His articles focus primarily on Houston music and Houston music events.