“Nowadays, you know especially as independent musicians, I think it comes from all ages. People are making their own terms, you know?,” says local synth wave psych-pop artist Rex Hudson when asked on his age near the end of a phone interview with the Houston Press. The 32-year-old League City native is days away from releasing his debut full length effort Persona (due September 6), and he isn’t convinced that the music game is for younger artists exclusively.
“You can set the terms and you can still be successful, you know what I mean? You work within your own guidelines,” he says with a laugh, realizing he unknowingly referenced the title of an early Persona single, “Guidelines” – a song that, in many ways, embodies the album’s driving spirit. Introspective lyrics about compromise shimmer through the surface of Hudson’s production, densely stacked with cascading drum fills and stuttering vocals.
“I definitely just wanted to make an album that was kind of dance-y and kind of drive-y but then also lyrically there’s some personal stuff to it which is kind of funny ‘cause I feel like the lyrics aren’t really, like, about partying and having fun or whatever. They’re kind of more personal.”
Though the set could easily find a home on a playlist alongside Washed Out, Beck, or Foster the People, it’s laden with ‘70s and ‘80s influences – “the stuff,” he says, “my mom used to listen to.” He adds: “I like to grab these nostalgic sounds and then sort of make them contemporary.”
Early album gem “Inhibitions” opens with a playfully pointed, synthesized laser-gun hook, accompanied by a digitized soundscape that would make Giorgio Moroder proud. The bridge of dance-ready highlight “She” incorporates a shivers-inducing, classic disco harmonic progression with a surprise ending chord, shining like a rotating mirrored ball hovering above Hudson’s supersonic dance floor.
Earlier this Summer, Hudson released a music video for album cut “Waiting,” a visually kaleidoscopic affair that finds Hudson and a Walkman in numerous Seabrook locations including the beach, a field, a cemetery, an unkempt swimming pool, and an abandoned Whataburger.
“They vacated it and boarded it up, and that was kind of cool – it was like this post-apocalyptic Whataburger,” he says. In the video, a straight-faced Hudson turns the parking lot of the whitewashed building into a makeshift living room with a rug, a plant, and a chair to sit in, tapping his foot in time to the song. It’s just one of the video’s many picturesque moments that may challenge the viewer to both chuckle and dance. If you find yourself at Axelrad this weekend though, you might find yourself doing the latter.
On Saturday night, Hudson and his band will take the Axelrad stage in support of the album’s release. Hudson says he loves performing “Divide” and “Guidelines” live, and that this will be his first performance incorporating visual projections onstage synchronized to various elements of the songs such as drum patterns and synthesizers.
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When asked what else audience members can expect from the show, he says: “We’re going to try to bring a lot of energy to our set, for sure. And just have a good time at the same time. We’re excited – we’ve been waiting for this for a while. We’re just happy to have this album done, released and just kind of show it to the world.”
You can catch Rex Hudson Upstairs at Axelrad on Saturday, September 7 with Camera Cult, Pitter Patter, and DJ Birthday Club. 8 p.m., 21+, Free.
Stream his music on Spotify below.