Art Rock

Howard and the Nosebleeds Get Weird on Debut

Howard and the Nosebleeds make psych rock sound original.
Howard and the Nosebleeds make psych rock sound original. Photo by Miranda Oxendine

Preston Dow, lead guitarist and singer for the band Howard and the Nosebleeds is just 24 years old. Let that sink in a bit, because it's important. On their debut record Get Psychic!, the four piece carves their own path in a genre that's seemed to follow the same path for the past ten years. In so many ways, the record sounds like a psych record made by someone who hasn't heard any of the many modern psych records that have come out in the past decade, and that's what makes it work so well.

Almost as if The Beach Boys' Wild Honey had members of Pink Floyd on it with Gaz Coombes of Supergrass on vocals, the record is full of strange additions that seem so far off base to what you expect a psych record to sound like, that it sounds like the first original psych record to drop in a very long time.

Opening with the almost grandiose beginning of "Weird Falcons," it's pretty obvious that this band is on a different plane. The way Dow seems to structure his songs, there's elements of free jazz, blues, and mysticism all over where the guitar seems to intertwine with the multiple percussive additions in a way that feels like you're on a strange trip, and maybe taking that fifth hit wasn't the best idea.

The funny thing is that they don't draw this out, the track returns quickly to its original idea, and circles back like those bizarre notations where just the drugs are talking. This gets followed the the pop infused and funky jam vibe of "Little One," that still keeps the psychic elements intact. As Dow mixes in little fret board runs with jazz structures, these bizarre backing vocals hop on and off of the track while he seems hell bent on taking you further down the rabbit hole. The song stays funky while all of these instrumental elements find their way onto the song, but don't deter from its intent.

The third song, "Unthink" keeps the pop hooks heavy, but still holds onto the bizarre in the best way possible. The song is almost like pop rock if you added elements of country, blues psych, and jam band notations while somehow not sounding disjointed. There's a lot happening on the song, there's plenty of instrumentation, but somehow the band keeps all that's going on under their belts without steering too far off the rails.

Two tracks later "Woodland Stomp" has plenty of elements that stay in your ears, without deterring you from the composition. Stylized vocals that sound like a ghostly spirit calling your name are met with multiple guitar tracks, making the song feel like you're lost in the desert and only Dow is there to guide you back home. Some of the most intriguing work on the record is found on this track, and it's almost as if you're allowed into the band's tripped out minds for just a moment, only causing you to want more insight from it all.

The sixth track, "Sunlight and Rain," has a cluster of pedal work on the opening riff and is the longest song of the album. The song sounds like what it feels like to wake up in a drunken haze where you aren't sick, but you're just a couple steps away from either passing out or feeling euphoric. The band keeps things more stripped down on the final track, "Toy Soldiers." Of course, stripped down for this band really just means its not as layered, where the song sounds closer to a party between multiple friends.

This whole album is a trip in that it feels like you took just enough drugs to have an experience, but not enough to find out the meaning to it all. In seven tracks Howard and the Nosebleeds add their stamp to an already crowded genre, while making it all their own in releasing one of the most original takes on modern psych rock music. You can stream Get Psychic! in all of the usual spaces, or order it directly from the band here. You should check out Howard and the Nosebleeds when they play around town next, because when you make music this original, you're definitely worth seeing in person.
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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.