Houston's the Beans Grind Out an Album the Natural Way

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The Beans have noticed a pretty insane trend lately: The Houston band has found itself compared to the likes of Texas rock legend Janis Joplin and Brittany Howard, vocal impresaria for the Alabama Shakes.

The only problem in this equation? It's a band chock full o' dudes.

They're cool with it, though. I mean, it's freakin' Joplin. Girl comparisons be damned -- they'll take it.

Throwing caution to the wind, the Beans have also done the unthinkable and released their debut album sans Autotune. (Somewhere, Flo Rida's mind has been blown by the mere thought.)

Focusing on musical ability from the jump, the Houston natives have put an emphasis on incorporating psych-soul and raw vocals into a frenzied sound that hovers on the line between engulfing the audience and simply falling apart. It can be a fine line, as you can imagine, but the band takes pride in their lack of sugar-coating, and folks are beginning to notice.

Led by vocalist Sam Griffin, with Christian Galatoire on guitar, Daniel Taylor on bass, and Brendan Hall on percussion, the Beans have found themselves amidst a bigger buzz as of late. (Disclosure: Brendan is the brother of Houston Press freelancer Nicholas L. Hall -- ed.)

Fresh off a Tuesday-afternoon SXSW gig at Austin's Maggie Mae's, The Beans are set to open for Robert Randolph at Fitzgerald's tonight, followed by shows in Waco and Dallas. They've also landed a sweet spot on the 2013 Free Press Summer Fest lineup, playing among some pretty big names.

They're pretty proud of the work they've done so far, as one might expect, given that the Beans already opened for the likes of Wanda Jackson and the Meat Puppets. Rocks Off sat down with Brendan Hall, resident drummer for The Beans, by phone to brush up on our knowledge of one of Houston's own.

"We've built up this great rapport with Fitzgerald's," says Hall. "That venue is hot to a lot of great artists, and they do a really good job of bringing in some strong names. We had the honor of opening up for Wanda Jackson there, who's a living legend. It was really badass.

"Early on in our career, the folks at Fitz offered us the spot to open for the Meat Puppets," he adds. "A couple of the guys hadn't heard of them at that point, but those of us who had were like, 'Hell, yeah, we want to open for them'."

Citing legendary blues artists like Lightnin' Hopkins and Howlin' Wolf as some of their biggest influences, the Beans still like to take it old-school, with a Townes Van Zandt cover here and there.

"Townes Van Zandt has this song, 'Waiting Around to Die,' that was one of our first covers," says the drummer. "We'd play it in our jam sessions and when we were first performing. We still love playing that song."

The Beans are often compared to who you might expect; Black Keys references and Zeppelin nods have been made, oh, once or twice. However, they've noticed a surprising trend as of late that is both gender-bending and awesome.

"Some of the earlier comparisons we got about our sound were pretty interesting; when we first started out, we heard some references to AC/DC, but now we get things like hints of Robert Plant and Led Zepplin, and we hear Black Keys too," says Hall. "We've heard ourselves compared to Alabama Shakes, which seemed to start a trend of comparing Sam to a bunch of girl singers. Janis Joplin, people like that."

The Beans pride themselves on a sound that is very much their own, and they've focused on recording an allbum that is true to what you'd hear at one of their live performances, rather than releasing a sound that has been edited and remastered digitally.

"We wanted to put together a natural sounding album," says Hall. "We'd previously recorded a three-song demo, but it didn't have that raw, live sound that the album has. We got lucky this time; John Griffin at SugarHill has this natural way of recording that really worked for us.

"There's no Autotune, not much editing or sampling," he adds. "The album really speaks for itself; it's Sam's voice and our instruments with no sugar-coating."

Stripped down didn't equal effortless in the recording equation, however. As a newer band on the recording totem pole, the Beans found themselves sacrificing quite a bit of time to pay their dues with the studio.

"The studio, the techs, they've all got a life of their own and we weren't first on their list. They had bigger names to work with," Hall says. "So we'd have these delays, a couple weeks in between recording, and you'd have to get back in the studio and work it out."

The work was worth it, though. The Beans are quite happy with their debut album, and are happy to call it their own.

"We got lucky," says Hall. "The album really speaks for itself. It's Sam's voice and our instruments, no sugar-coating."

The Beans open for Robert Randolph & the Family Band tonight at Fitzgerald's, 2706 White Oak, www.fitzlivemusic.com. Doors open at 7 p.m.

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