The soul of a good musician is usually restless and ambitious, always ready to expand their sound and talent towards as many ears and hearts as possible. Houston is blessed with many such individuals, including Mario Rodriguez, the curly-haired, bespectacled, wonky frontman of the electro-pop group Bang Bangz. We caught up with Mario as he and the band prepare to embark on a week-long tour of several venues in and around Mexico City.
Rocks Off: Hola Mario, como estas hermano?!
Mario Rodriguez: Doing good, man! Right now, just finishing rehearsal, brother.
RO: How are the rehearsals going? Any nervousness about the tour yet?
MR: Its going well, man. We've been in here every day for like four hours a day for a few months now. I don't think the nervousness has kicked in yet, thankfully! But we're really excited and anxious to be there already so we can perform these songs that we've been working on for a long, long time. Luckily, we've been getting a lot of good press from Mexico and everyone over there has been very supportive.
RO: How did the Mexico tour come to fruition?
MR: We've been in contact with Mariana "Malfi" Dorantes of MalfiCo, which is a PR and Press agency based in Mexico City. We were actually supposed to be in Mexico City last year, but things fell through, so we had to reschedule. But now they are ready for us and they really like our music, and the band is now on their roster. They also linked us up with their booking agency called Mad Avenue, who booked our shows and have really taken care of us. Now all we have to do is focus on the music and do interviews and do our best.
RO: Did you ever play Mexico with your previous band (Tax The Wolf)?
MR: No, this is actually the first time I've toured out of the country with any band. But its really exciting because my parents are chilangos (Mexico City natives), and I have a lot of family there. I haven't been there in over 15 years to visit, so its gonna be cool.
RO: How is the rest of the band feel? Are they anxious, ready?
MR: Everyone is really happy and really anxious, but I think we are all surprisingly calm right now. No one is worried or nervous just yet.
RO: Tell us more about the event this Saturday, which is the band's Mexico Tour Kick-Off show.
MR: Well, I'm still on track to launch Wonky Power Records later this year in December, and the location of the record label is right off of Navigation Blvd. We actually have a big open area right outside of the building, so me and my team decided to hold an outdoor concert right there. We built a huge stage and an awning, and we have a sound system, so we're ready to make a live show happen. Plus the location is kinda hidden, which is cool.
RO: What will you call this venue?
MR: Well, its not official yet, but I'm thinking something simple like Wonky Power Live.
RO: Have you dealt with many obstacles in opening this new music venue, be it with permits, restrictions, the noise ordinance, liquor license, etc?
MR: One of my business partners is fairly experienced with those sorts of issues, so we've been very fortunate so far with all of that. This Saturday, the beer is being sponsored by Karbach Brewery, and we will also have HPD providing security, so we're set.
RO: What's behind the name "Wonky Power Records"?
MR: Its just a weird nickname that I've held since high school. Probably because I was kinda out there and strange, and I had all these crazy ideas outside of the normal high school kid mentality. And now, the name Wonky itself, the pronunciation and lettering, it just really intrigued me. Then I put the word Power behind it to show a little bit of strength. I definitely wanted something obscure and different.
RO: Its pretty amazing that we live in a time here in Houston that a young musician like yourself has the ability to start a record label and open a new venue, especially without the resources of someone like Pegstar, for example.
MR: Yea man, this has always been in the back of my mind, going back to the Westheimer Block Party days, when it was just a handful of people partying outdoors. I just really wanted to do something cool like that for people. We might not attract the numbers like Free Press Summer Fest, but I just want to help out and do something cool and fun.
RO: Houston music fans have really turned their attention to electronic pop/synth rock music, either with your band or Wrestlers or BLSHS. Why do you think people are so open now this this style of music?
MR: I really think its incredible the response that we have received. The support for electronic music is amazing, and I feel like this sound is refreshing to people. I come from more of a rock background, and I never dreamed of working in the electronic realm. But I found the right person in Elizabeth (Salazar) to experiment the sound with, and the fans show lots of love for our band.
RO: Now you and Elizabeth share songwriting responsibilities, is that correct?
MR: Yes, that's right. With the lyrics, we kinda want to go into your mind like when you are in the middle of a dream, and capture that mood and sound. Her and I make a really great team. She has so many good ideas and we collaborate amazingly. Her side is certainly more positive and uplifting, which contrasts with the stuff that I come up with, which is more obscure, dark and dirty. But that's what makes us a great team.
RO: How do you deal with changing your mindset between your bands, because the sound of Tax The Wolf is so different than Bang Bangz and Satellite D'Homme? How does that work?
MR: Its kinda strange.... I don't really think about it. There's no switch or button or anything. I guess it has more to do with the atmosphere and the personnel. Each band brings a distinct ideology and imagery and sound. It just occurs naturally.
RO: Well, thanks for your time sir. We look forward to the show this Saturday and we wish Bang Bangz luck on the tour.
Bang Bangz is performing along with Satellite D'Homme, FLCON FCKER, and Senior Jukebox at 3534 Navigation Blvd this Saturday, August 23rd, from 7pm until midnight.
When he's not roaming around the city in search of tacos and graffiti, Marco points his camera lens towards the vibrant Houston music scene. You can follow his adventures on Instagram at @MarcoFromHouston.
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