The Rocks Off 200: Jake Rawls -- Kemo For Emo Is Back

Welcome to The Rocks Off 200, our portrait gallery of the most compelling profiles and personalities in the far-flung Houston music community -- a lot more than just musicians, but of course they're in there too. See previous entries in the Rocks Off 100 at this link.

Who? Jake Rawls is the lead guitarist for a band I love a great deal and has had a somewhat troubled history. Kemo for Emo brought their power-pop/punk to Houston more than a decade ago, and for many years it looked like they were on their way up and out. However, a slew of breakups, hiatuses and reformations kept the project always on the edge of the scene, despite excellent recordings like What Happens In Omaha.

Now they're all a little older, a little more laid-back and Rawls has put his other act, Sundown Audio, on hold while Kemo tries to make their magic again.

Rawls was raised on steady diet of country music as a child, but never really cared. For the longest time, the concept of music really didn't click with him because of that; he just couldn't comprehend that someone could even have a favorite song. Then one day after junior high, a friend of his played Smashing Pumpkins' "Jellybelly" and he was blown away.

Heavier music opened up a whole new way to look at the world for Rawls, and he started to devour every pop-punk and darker-edged pop record he could lay his hands on. It was The Offspring's Americana that made him stand up and say, "I've got to learn how to do this."

Currently Kemo is in the woodshed shaking off the rust, but already have five or six new tunes they can't wait to bring back to Houston stages. Stay tuned.

Home Base: At his heart Rawls is a bedroom jammer, and that's still where he feels the most creative and at home. For performances he loves the upstairs at Fitzgerald's, though he hasn't had a chance to play it since the change in ownership. Rawls also has a soft spot for Scout Bar, finding the staff very open to different ideas on music.

Good War Story: "My first job was at Space Center Houston, where I had been working as a tour guide," he recalls. "One Saturday we were scheduled to be the local support for Allister at JavaJazz in Spring.

After work I raced all the way from Clear Lake to Spring to make it in time for load-in and sound check, but due to traffic and underestimating the drive I was hopelessly late. The other guys were also running late, so the venue assumed we were no shows.

When we do show up, the venue is obviously not pleased. They agree to let us play on their side stage, which we figured is the only way to save face with these guys in event of future gigs. We go on as the same time as Allister, whom obviously everybody was there to see. We played in front of the sound guy and Larry's [Sanders, guitar/vocals] wife.

Why Do You Stay in Houston? "Houston has this funny gravitational pull on me," says Rawls. "I've seriously considered leaving Houston three or four times in my life, and every single time I've gotten serious about it, something -- a job, a band, a girlfriend, etc. pops up and keeps me grounded here. But that's OK: I love this city and most of my close friends and relatives remain here."

Story continues on the next page.

Music Scene Pet Peeve: Rawls, like a lot of Houston musicians, feels like concert attendance just doesn't cut it these days. He doesn't blame acts who move to Austin, as getting an audience to come out to a show can be very difficult.

Five Desert Island Discs:

  • Idlewild, The Remote Part
  • Local H, Pack Up the Cats
  • Arcade Fire, Funeral
  • Why?, Alopecia
  • Johnny Flynn, A Larum

Best Show Ever: "Bright Eyes, when they were touring for their Lifted... album," Rawls recalls. "I honestly don't even care for Bright Eyes that much, but during the song 'Waste of Paint' you could absolutely feel the pain and agony in Conor Oberst's quivering voice.

"Near the end of the song, he was literally fighting through tears to finish it," he continues. "It broke my heart. That was the moment I understood the power of live performance. That's why the concept of a strong stage show has always stuck with me."

Jef has a new story, a tale of headless strippers and The Rolling Stones, available now in Broken Mirrors, Fractured Minds. You can also connect with him on Facebook.

See the rest of the Rocks Off 200, and the Rocks Off 100's 2013 alumni, on the next page.


Santos Pastrana, Sound Engineer and DJ Ninja Heading Upstream with RIVERS' Chris Tamez DJ Dayta, Keeper of That Good Good Matthew Davis Buehrer, Runaway Sun's Globally Thinking Bassist Fat Tony, Third Ward to "BKNY" Noon, Rapper With a Lot on His Mind Matt Cash, Clear Lake's Cassette Tape Wailer Jason Smith, Alkari's Space City Rocker DJ Penetrate, All Lit Up in "Neon Lights" Catch Fever Is Catching On Renée Jonard, Princess of Noise Pollution Junior Gordon, Big Man With a Big Sound Chad Smalley, Blaggards' Barse Player Damien Randle, K-OTIX Man of Action Kevin Anthony, 45 Southbound Man DJ Good Grief Knows How to Have Fun Robert Kuhn, the Well-Traveled Islander Gunnar Cushway, Insko's Feel-Good Utilityman Mario Rodriguez, Tax the Wolf/Bang Bangz's Wonky Power Monger John Smith, Goodtime Continental Club Manager Dwayne Cathey, A Good Man to Scare People With Walter Carlos, Guitar-Punisher of Funeral Horse Ryan James, Putting Up a Good Fight John Cramer, Guitar Apostle of Project Grimm Big Gerb, Houston's Hongree-est MC Steven Higginbotham, Hard-Working Wheel Worker Alisha Pattillo & Her Swaggering, Soulful Sax Brandon Ray, Punk Rocker Turned Filmmaker/Animator The Excitable Boys of Another Run Flash Gordon Parks, DJ as Funky Professor DJ Main Event, Kratez Crew JumpOff Man Odd Hours and Back to Back's Hank Doyle Legendary K-OTIX Producer Russel "The ARE" Gonzalez Dylan Bryson Sings the Blues (Rock) DJ Damon Allen, R.O.C.O. Fellow Tom Lynch, New Kid On the Block Ashley Worhol, Goth-Metal Queen of Katy Joe Ortiz, Clockpole's Master of Nonsense Marzi Montazeri, the Man Dimebag Darrell Called a Bad Motherfucker John Salinas, the Beat Beast of Only Beast Homegrown Cowboy Crooner Charles Peters Adam Bricks, NYC Expat Metal Journeyman and Blasé Bassist Alan Hilton Kyra Noons, Houston's Reggae Sunsplash DJ AudiTory, the Maestro of LuvItMane The Nephilim Terror's Death-Metal Growler Danny Carroll Tommy Grindle, Guitarist of Square and Compass The Bailout Bureau's Mysterious "Bob Bovary" DJ Twinkle-Toes, Won a "Dick-Measuring Vinyl Orgy" With Two iPods Beanz N Kornbread, Gmail-Loving Production Duo You(genious), Party Crasher Turned Musical Auteur Daniel Alexander, Klein's Backyard MC



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