MiddleChild Makes an Even Better Band Than Motorcycle Gang

just left a @houstonpress interview. stay tuned #steelcitypops

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Now that I think of it, I guess it’s not that hard to get to my heart. When I arrived at Boomtown Coffee in the Heights, a couple of fellows lined up behind me were talking about an episode of X-Files one of them had just watched. Those fellows turned out to be Middlechild guitarist Josh Cano and bassist Matt Ferris, who also ordered coffee and followed me outside to sit in the blistering heat. It was then that singer/guitarist Ricky Ramirez walked up in a Pinkerton T-shirt and solidified my affection for the group — so much so that when he said he didn’t like any other Weezer, including the "Blue Album," I continued to have a conversation with them.

Our conversation went on much like that: full of pop-culture references and genuine passion for music. The whole thing is summed up pretty well in singer and songwriter Ricky Ramirez’s transition from discussing the sources of all good music (“ex-girlfriends and dead families”) to “There’s a Rattata on the table!” in a matter of moments.

From our fake-rodent-infested table, we can see across the street to Vinal Edge Records, where MiddleChild will be performing this Sunday (July 31) to celebrate the release of their new single. “First Times,” the A side of their upcoming physical cassette release, was digitally released earlier this week. The adjectives upbeat, happy and bright were lovingly used in descriptions of its sound. When the band wrote “First Times,” its summery vibe and simple structure made it the only song of theirs like it. Although plans for an EP are very much in the works, it was decided that this song should have its own release in the summer, with a brightly colored cover to match.

Having already listened to the track upwards of a dozen times, I can personally cosign on the terms used. Both the new music and its cover art stand in stark contrast to those of the group's most recent release, a minor-key, self-titled, self-recorded album adorned with a dreary-looking black and white photograph. “First Times” has all the feelings, distortion and songwriting prowess you would expect from an early-'90s Pavement or Dinosaur Jr. radio single. As it plays, the imagination runs wild with goofy music video ideas that are too good not to strongly consider whether emailing early-'90s Spike Jonze is even possible. 

“We don’t care about tone,” Ramirez said. He then glanced at fellow guitarist Josh Cano and corrected himself — “I don’t.” In MiddleChild, Ricky’s exclusive focus is songwriting and the guitar is there only to aid in that process, while Josh has both the freedom and the desire to explore that territory. Josh is the true gearhound of the group — he has even resorted to hiding his amps from Ricky, who has owned a guitar for only the last year.

Playful jabs aside, the three members (drummer Carson Wilcox was on tour with one of his many other bands) of MiddleChild that I spoke to have the type of easy rapport that comes only with years of friendship. Neither these philosophical disagreements on the concept of gear ownership nor an amateur music writer’s false attempts to stir controversy could produce any significant band friction. When I referenced Josh Cano’s other project, Newport American Dream, the best I could get was a playful “Are we not good enough for you?” from bassist Matt Ferris.

As for the future, they’re still taking it slow. Their last release was a year ago, and after this single, they don’t have any concrete plans for a while. “We haven’t been trying to be anything other than slow,” according to Ferris. An EP (on which there could be anywhere from four to seven tracks) more suited to a winter vibe is tentatively planned for a November 2016 release. A full-length album is even more nebulous in the future.

At one point Josh joked, “The real reason we haven’t been writing a lot of music is ’cause we’ve all been riding motorcycles.” Though they assured me they are a band first and a motorcycle gang second, the selfish part of me wishes they had all the free time in the world to devote to making albums for me to listen to. When asked about unlikely influences, Ricky revealed that “there used to be some practices where we would not practice; we would just listen to country music, like old country-western music.” Another influence that may not be picked up on first listen is rap — “We listen to rap music pretty consistently,” Matt says. Josh added, “Really, Drake is our biggest influence.”

The point is: I’m going to be at Vinal Edge this Sunday, and I have a feeling you should be too.

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