Cactus Flowers will perform as part of Wonky Power’s Live Sessions on March 18. The live sessions are open to a limited capacity and socially distanced audience who watch the band record their live stream which is available online.
Jessica A.M., lead singer and guitarist of Cactus Flowers, is clearly elated that the band will be able to perform again following the lack of live show opportunities in the past year.
“There's a lot of cool ways to actually get to see that performance and be a part of the stream, even if you don't feel comfortable necessarily going out. They are definitely helping to keep the scene alive in Houston and we are thankful for that,” says A.M. of Wonky Power.
“Everything was pretty lined up for great things for us but everything stopped but that's okay because we still got the momentum and we are lucky enough to have had a project already started so it was a nice distraction to focus on all of that.”
That “distraction” was Solace and thanks to artist grants the band received during the shutdown, they were able to focus their time and resources on not only recording Solace but also getting a physical release out.
The four track EP features songs written before the pandemic, but the band really used the last year to take them into the studio and along with producer John Griffin give them added depth and a straight rock and roll energy.
“He has just got this array of vintage equipment up there and it's a comfortable space to create so it's really easy to let him take the wheel and mix and produce and do everything. We were super grateful to have him in the realm,” A.M. says.
The band also took this time to make sure their release would be special, something they always try to do with physical releases. Solace is available digitally but was also released on green cassette tape and a ten inch orange vinyl limited to 250 copies. The album can be found at local record shops Cactus Music, Vinal Edge and Sound Exchange.
“It takes a lot of time to put those in the pipeline and get those going,” says A.M. of the pressing process. “Then with the global pandemic, all those vinyl plants were super backed up so we made a band decision to wait until 2021 to release it and everything fell into place with the date.”
The album captures the band's amazing live stage energy and is dripping with psych rock layers and a grungy fuzz that is hard to escape. A.M. explains how their sound is the product of intentional layering done with the tracks in the studio.
Each track starts out with a bang and holds the listener hostage till the end not only with their sheets of rich instrumentation, but also with A.M.’s raw and powerful vocals and gritty lyrics. All four tracks mesh well together but also stand out individually, a reflection of an intentional effort by the band this time around.
A.M. describes how after their performance at the 2020 BowiElvis Fest, Splice Records founder Shaun Brennan advised her to focus more on singles in order to cover more ground, as people generally do not listen to entire albums anymore.
“When I put out Incantations, when I was doing the lineup of songs, I more thought about it as a whole art piece not realizing that nowadays people listen to two songs and then they skip through the whole thing,” says A.M who adds that for Solace they were more focused on each individual track.
“Also, I think I was definitely more comfortable writing more rock-driven riffs in songs and really embracing being a little loud and fuzzy,” she says, laughing.
Though Cactus Flowers was formed by A.M. in 2014 and has seen various band members, she says it wasn’t until meeting drummer Mark Carcamo that she felt the band solidified. Most recently and for the recording of Solace, the duo teamed up with bassist Chris Dunaway.
“He added a lot of great bass layers and elements to the record that I think really helped to shape the sound of it,” says A.M. of Dunaway adding, “He did a killer job.”
In the early days A.M. says it was difficult for her to know what exactly she wanted to sound like or how she wanted to be perceived. Often the bookers would tell her they did not know how to bill her.
Clearly, as time has gone on, that has changed and the front woman is visibly comfortable in her own skin. “My favorite thing to do is creep on stage, got my cute little dress on or whatever and then I turn that pedal on and bam!”
“I’m not going to be afraid anymore,” she says. “I love the direction that it's taken so I don't know, it might get a little softer in the psych realm coming up with different stuff that we write and it might get heavier, but we're just going with the flow.”
Solace will no doubt continue to place Cactus Flowers in good company with Texas’s strong psychedelic rock community. The album artwork, done by Jaime Zuverza alone is enough to draw in the eye and take viewers on a little trip before they even get to the music.
The band is already working on writing for their next release. “You’ve got to keep going if you've got the inspiration,” says A.M. “There's a lot to be inspired by and write about. It's definitely a good tool to have during a pandemic to ease your nerves.”
A.M has also launched her own label and promotion company People.Parties.Places and is currently booking monthly shows at Rehab On The Bayou where she hopes to bring in some of the city’s younger and more diverse talent that she knows we have.
“I just think it’s a fun space to welcome more younger bands because it’s outdoor shows, socially distanced and I feel like it would be a great space to create new, fun show memories.”
Solace is available now on Bandcamp and at Cactus Music, Vinal Edge and Sound Exchange. Cactus Flowers will perform Thursday March 18 at Wonky Power, 3534 Navigation, 8:30 p.m., tickets minimum $3 donation.
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