Houston Music

Only Beast Is Ready to Maul Comicpalooza

Some bands are tailor-made for certain gigs, but few are as perfect a fit as Only Beast is for this weekend’s Comicpalooza. The Houston trio is no stranger to the Texas International Comic Con. The band’s members have attended as fans of the fest, but this year have the honor of playing the event. They’ll hit the stage at 1:30 Saturday afternoon in the George R. Brown’s Hall A3 and, if you’re there to see them, you’ll be part of an exclusive listening party for the band’s yet-to-be-released album, Again.

“We are perfect for this gig,” says singer Danielle Renee. “When we got the call, or the e-mail or what have you – ‘Hey, you wanna play Comicpalooza?’ We were like, ‘Fuck yeah we wanna play Comicpalooza.’”

She and her bandmates — guitarist/bassist Peter Bernick and John Salinas, her husband and the band’s drummer — are all confirmed fans of the convention and its offerings. Sci-fi, gaming, graphic novels, art work – everything that the convention boasts is something they enjoyed before they ever became a band.

“It’s just a part of who we are, we live it every day,” Renee says. “You should see our house – just the nerdiest movies, our bookshelves are filled with trades and oversized art books. We have a room in our house that’s just for music and movies and comic books.”

Still not convinced they’re most qualified? Consider the band’s name, lifted right off the pages of a Mike Mignola Hellboy graphic novel titled The Wolves of Saint August. It was a highlight when, at last year’s Comicpalooza, the artist signed a print for the band. The only thing that could trump that moment was being asked to play, Renee adds.

“This year, they were like, ‘Please be our guests,” and we were like, ‘Holy shit," she says. "We’re like kids in a candy store.”

But, even beyond the band’s name as homage to comic culture, even looking past the fact that they’ve attended the event before and follow all things comic con, there’s a tie to the music Only Beast makes and the sorts of anti-heroes that comics celebrate.

“We really identify with a lot of the themes that were presented by (Mignola) and we’ve kind of expanded that into a reality that we’ve constructed, the emphasis being that we each feel as though we’re living with a second skin most times. We come together and we contribute to this project and that’s kind of been our way of really living as our true selves.”

The band has been together nearly six years now and its fans appreciate the stellar musicianship, the song themes and especially the band’s action-packed live shows. Renee says that before she joined, the “boys,” as she affectionately calls them, Bernick and Salinas were already playing instrumental rock as a duo. She and Salinas were co-workers and he asked her to attend a band meeting at Amy’s Ice Cream, Renee continues, where she was given some MP3s of the music. Next, she was invited to the band’s practice space. At the time, she admits, she was singing “not for anybody, except the car. I would sing in my car.”

“You hear stories about bands who were practicing and they heard somebody yelling in a parking lot and they were like, ‘That guy!’" she says. "That’s kind of what happened to me.”

It’s hard to believe, if you ask those who have heard or witnessed what Renee does as the band’s front woman. She proved a natural fit for a band that thrives on creating music from an organic place.

“It was just the weirdest,” she says of that first night at the practice space. “I’d never experienced anything like what it was like to be in that room with those people. Just listening to them play I thought, I’ve got to be part of this. I’ve got to come back.”

Since then, the band released an eponymous album, a live recording from Notsuoh and has become entrenched with brothers- and sisters-in-arms like Devil Killing Moth, Giant Kitty, Purapharm and fellow Comicpalooza acts Project Armageddon and Vendetta Diabolique.

“We’re really grateful to be part of the Houston music scene," says Renee. "I’ve always said this, and I’m going to maintain it, Houston’s art scene, its music scene, has always been about collaboration rather than competition. That’s what makes it special. That’s why you find such amazing artists, because we support each other.

“For example, The Suffers were recently on freakin’ Letterman and Houston exploded, like ‘Congratulations!’ and ‘Can’t believe it!’" she continues. "All the music stores and artists and musicians were all over their Facebook and Twitter saying, ‘Don’t forget to watch them! Go Houston!’ It’s like a sports team, like the Rockets. I feel like if any of us are recognized nationally or globally, it’s a win for us all.”

The band is doing its part by building its catalog. Renee says Again is about 70 percent complete. It’s being recorded at SugarHill Recording Studios and she believes the iconic space is perfectly suited for Only Beast.

“I’m not afraid to say this – I feel, looking back at and listening to the first album that we did, I don’t necessarily feel satisfied with it, just because the process wasn’t really there for me,” she admits. “I’m not trying to talk trash about anything or the people that were running that studio. It just wasn’t my vibe. I feel like, when we’re at SugarHill, we’re all able to be isolated but still see each other, so we could play the tracks live, the way that we wanted to, and that energy is there.”

Like Future Vision Guy, if he was a thing that existed, you can catch a glimpse of what's to come if you're at Only Beast's set Saturday. The band will be playing Again in its entirety, Renee says, along with some older favorites. If the band was in the pages of a comic con offering, instead of onstage, they might be a group called “The Space Team,” an actual moniker they've adopted for themselves. And the storyline would be simple and timeless.

“It’s about these specific people, this particular Space Team, and what they can accomplish together that makes it so special and wonderful,” says our heroine. “I guess that’s a very roundabout way of saying, if I’m forced to examine my own lyrical themes, I would say I have a habit of highlighting my own personal desperation to do the work at hand and stay on course, and to do that despite any hopelessness or despair and to embrace the notion of never giving up on the idea that triumph comes in many forms.”

Only Beast performs at 1:30 p.m. Saturday at Comicpalooza, George R. Brown Convention Center, 1001 Avenida de las Americas.
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Jesse’s been writing for the Houston Press since 2013. His work has appeared elsewhere, notably on the desk of the English teacher of his high school girlfriend, Tish. The teacher recognized Jesse’s writing and gave Tish a failing grade for the essay. Tish and Jesse celebrated their 33rd anniversary as a couple in October.