For two battle-hardened rock and roll road dogs who spent two decades touring the world as the rhythm section for dada (1992 MTV hit "Dizz Knee Land"), Joie Calio and Phil Leavitt of emerging power duo 7Horse could not be happier with the results and reach of their first album, Let the 7Horse Run. The pair got tired of waiting for action on the dada front and decided to record an album, do a tour and see what stuck.
And stick the album did. Not long after its release, scratchy blues-rocker "Meth Lab Zoso Sticker" was selected for Martin Scorcese's wildly successful movie, The Wolf of Wall Street. The tune not only made the movie soundtrack, it was also used in the film's trailer.
Then NBC picked up the tune for use on its Sunday-night NFL preview show. The tune also made it onto Jeep commercials in Canada, so quite a bit of mailbox money began to show up.
Having just completed dada's 20th anniversary tour, Leavitt and Calio released their second album, Songs For a Voodoo Wedding, on June 10 and are hitting the road hard in support of the album.
The duo have developed a love for the Bayou City, even penning a kiss-off tune to Nashville and Austin following their last visit to Houston. Driving west after working some radio, a show at Fitzgerald's, and a couple of nights on the town, Leavitt knocked out the lyrics to "Famous Faces" on the road across Texas after leaving Houston. The tune became an interim single between the two albums.
Rocks Off caught up with Leavitt Sunday night.
Rocks Off: You gave Houston some nice props in your tune "Famous Faces." Run that down for us. Phil Leavitt: We played Nashville a few days before we came to Houston and it was such a bummer for us, just the attitude we encountered in Nashville. We ran into a whole lot of jaded attitude, this been-there-done-that posing.
We didn't really know what to expect in Houston, didn't really know much about it, and then it was like everyone we met was laid back and cool and friendly. That's one thing that struck me about Houston pretty quickly, a lack of attitude. Much more like a big small town. It was a nice change.
You've actually been back once in a non-working mode since that Fitzgerald's gig.
Yeah, my wife was with us and she really dug Houston too, so we took a long weekend and flew in.
What is it that strikes you?
Well, being from L.A., the first thing that struck us was how relatively inexpensive it is. We hit some great bars, some wonderful restaurants, and we kept thinking 'do you know how much this would cost in L.A.?'
The last time you were through, you were on your first 7Horse tour, your album had just dropped, and the future was uncertain. Then you got a big shot in the arm with the tune in the Scorcese movie. How did that happen?
(Laughs) We really don't know how it happened. No one ever had a definitive answer to that question. We were getting some good airplay on The Loft program on Sirius XM, and as best we could ever tell it seems like either Scorcese himself heard the song or someone working on the score heard the song.
How did the deal actually happen?
Man, it was so random. I just answered the phone one day and this person says they represent Martin Scorcese and he wants to use your song in his movie. And so I said, "Well, yeah, how much is that going to cost us?"
So what happens at that point? You get an attorney?
Actually, I just did the negotiation myself. I called a few people in L.A. and got their advice, then we had this meeting and I threw out a number and they said, 'OK, that's fine. We'll let you know if it makes the final cut, otherwise you'll never hear from us again.' So we sat around for months wondering whether they were going to use it or not.
Story continues on the next page."Meth Lab Zoso Sticker," the song that started it all for 7Horse.
So you eventually heard back from them?
(Laughs) No. Actually I was at the airport flying to a dada gig and I got a text from a buddy that said 'Just heard your song on the trailer for Wolf of Wall Street.'
That had to be pretty heady.
You know, we're this brand new band with this brand new album. And with dada we'd been on I.R.S. records, we'd been with Geffen, big labels, and suddenly we're doing this stuff ourselves on money we borrowed. And, bang, we get this sort of validation that maybe we're on to something with this 7Horse thing.
And then NBC picked the song up for their Sunday-night NFL pregame show, and we get it onto Jeep commercials in Canada. So good things seemed to be happening.
So if you hadn't gotten these breaks, what would have happened?
I'd probably be doing voice-over work again, you know, commercials. I did that eight years and had a pretty good career going. But I love playing drums and doing shows, and I wasn't necessarily all that happy with the voice-over work.
You've broadened your sound a bit on the second album, added a bit of twang that wasn't evident on the first one.
Yeah, we've been listening to some country on our drives, and there are some tunes that popped out that needed just a hint of that. "Flying HIgh (With No I.D)" needed a bit of country feel.
Is your show changing or do you just stick to a game plan every night?
I'd say our show is much different than what you saw the first time we came through. We've just got more material and things evolve.
"Headhunter Blues" rocks pretty hard, even by 7Horse standards.
Yeah, that's a fun one. I like to box -- I'm actually going to a gym here in Houston to work out -- and I'm a big baseball fan, so both of those got worked into the lyric on that one. But it's just a straight rocker that's fun to jump on and play fast.
Is it just us, or are there a lot of weed references on this album?
(Laughs) Well, with medical marijuana available in California, that stuff is everywhere now. You have to understand, we actually have weed doctors. You just make an appointment and go tell them your problem and it's pretty easy to get a prescription.
But you have to have some sort of condition that needs treatment, right? Glaucoma or something?
Yeah, you have to answer some questions, they have to fill out some forms, complete the required state paperwork and all that. (Pulls out his California medical marijuana I.D. card and shows it.)
So what is your specific ailment?
Oh, can't you tell? I have high anxiety.
So that lyric 'I've got an all-day sucker from the pharmacy,' that's somewhat biographical?
7Horse performs 8 p.m. Wednesday, August 13, at Under the Volcano (2349 Bissonnet) They will do an in-store performance at Cactus Music (2110 Portsmouth) this evening at 5:30 p.m., and DJ at Poison Girl (1641 Westheimer) later at 10 p.m.
ROCKS OFF'S GREATEST HITS
The Ask Willie D Archives Houston's Top 10 Hipster Bars, Clubs & Icehouses 2014 Today's 10 Most Promising Young Metal Bands Hip-Hop's Seven Best Breakup Songs Houston's Top 10 Rooftop Bars and Lounges
Keep the Houston Press Free... Since we started the Houston Press, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Houston, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Houston with no paywalls.