Houston Music

Happily, Locals Muddy Belle Ain't a "Hotline Bling" Kind of Band

Houston's Muddy Belle could have gone minimalist and meme-able a la Drake’s “Hotline Bling” for its new video. The band might have considered a literal re-telling of “Won’t Be No More,” complete with the over-the-top dramatic acting of Adele’s “Hello.” Maybe it even considered a storyboard that drew out nothing but close-ups of their pretty faces, like those Katy Perry and Beyonce bits.

Instead, the band chose to stay true to its roots by focusing on why it makes music at all. That music is drawing a following and many of those fans will be on hand for Muddy Belle’s video-release party Friday at Bohemeo’s.

Jerry Gonzales is lead singer, drummer and co-founder of the band, which he formed in 2012 with his cousin, the band’s guitarist, Ben Rowe. Gonzales said the video for “Won’t Be No More” tells a very familiar story and one that the band embraces.

“The premise of video was to film as many of our friends and family as possible having a good time together with Muddy Belle as the entertainment,” says Gonzales. “Muddy Belle shows up to the party in classic cars with hot women dressed very ‘50s, early ‘60s. The property is laid out with classic cars everywhere, a self-built baseball field where the models play a game against the band. Several little locations all shot showing people coming together and having a good time, which is my favorite and most fulfilling part of playing music.”

Which is why the group is celebrating its video release with a jam-packed show Friday night. The band will be joined by Handsomebeast, Disfrutalo! and Sik Mule, which will give the night’s live sets the kind of diversity that the host band enjoys.

“We chose these bands because they all are mostly close friends of ours or we have played and established a mutual liking and appreciation for each others’ music," Gonzalez explains. "Handsomebeast is a funky, sexy, rock and roll group recently signed to Wonky Power Records. We have played a lot together in the past and absolutely love these guys. Disfrutalo! are old friends of ours (from) growing up in Pasadena. Sik Mule is a band we ran into through Handsomebeast and eventually ended up doing our monthly Thursday night at AvantGarden together. We liked that they are a trio with such a great sound.”

As for Muddy Belle, Gonzales and Rowe have been playing in bands together since they were teens. While they based their ultimate sound on the blues, Gonzalez says the rest is accounted for by “the different flavors and sounds and attitudes from growing up in Houston that we couldn't help but naturally absorb." Traces of soul, R&B, hip hop and jazz make Muddy Belle a “Gulf Coast gumbo,” he said. Gonzales and Rowe added Phil Peterson — aka Bassman Pep — and the singularly-named Moskie on percussion and harmonica to round out the group.

The band elected to shoot for “Won’t Be No More” because it proved to be one of the more popular songs from its first EP, Mercy Me. Producer Matt Ashton and James Hogsten of Slice Productions teamed to film and edit the work, which was shot in Conroe on property owned by Gonzales’ aunt and uncle. He says the video features “lots of trees, long country roads, big pond, all that stuff.”

Come see for yourself the finished work, Gonzales says. The night will also feature a free 8th Wonder tumbler giveaway, with the purchase of an 8th Wonder Brewery beer. AllBaked Up Cakes is providing a cake for the event and Jay Sauseda from FM 90.1 KPFT will be on hand to record some songs for air his Night Sounds show that evening. Following Friday’s fun, Muddy Belle gets back to work to prep for recording at SugarHill Studios with producer/engineer John Allen Stephens. Gonzales says the new songs will feature “a super-talented horn section” with trombonist Billy Cohn, Bruce Harrison on saxophone and trumpeter Rochelle Sloan of Soul Creatures.

But Friday is about one song, which epitomizes the band’s ethic. Nothing fancy like “Hotline Bling," just good, honest music.

“The song is about being heartbroken and missing someone, but with the understanding that it’s how life goes, that heartache is inevitable,” says Gonzales. “Very simple, only consisting of three verses and three choruses, an old blues, simple and raw approach to the lyrics.”

Bohemeo's, 708 Telephone Rd., hosts Muddy Belle's music-video release party Friday night at 8 p.m. with special guests Disfrutalo!, Handsomebeast and Sik Mule. Free.
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Jesse’s been writing for the Houston Press since 2013. His work has appeared elsewhere, notably on the desk of the English teacher of his high school girlfriend, Tish. The teacher recognized Jesse’s writing and gave Tish a failing grade for the essay. Tish and Jesse celebrated their 33rd anniversary as a couple in October.