Löwin Is On the Prowl Again in Houston This Week

Löwin Photo by Sara Marjorie Strick, courtesy of Löwin

For the record, Sara Houser is okay with observers calling her band, Löwin, a female-fronted act; but, she says, there’s no need to overstate the obvious. Doing so means missing out on a lot and there’s a lot to like about the Austin band, which visits Notsuoh this Friday.

“For the first few years we were asked a lot to play ‘female-fronted’ bills which I initially rallied behind because it was a great way to encourage diversity when booking shows, but over time it just felt like the idea was being exploited. Like it was a, ‘Oh wow, hey look, they're women and they can play music! What a novelty act!,’" Houser said. “I'm not offended if someone describes us as female-fronted because I am in fact a female and write from my experience as a woman, however, all I've ever wanted to be considered was a musician. I don't think any musician wants their gender to overshadow their songwriting. It would be super weird to hear someone say, 'Wow, he's such a sensitive writer for a man.’"

Houser is front and center onstage. The band’s name is the German word for “lioness.” The songs are written from her perspective. But, she says, pigeon-holing Löwin diminishes the work she and her bandmates have done to establish themselves as one of Austin’s most promising acts. Along with lead guitarist Michael David Sanders, bassist Nathan Ribner, and drummer Chris Degeorge, the guitar-heavy rock act has played SXSW – a personal bucket list item for Houser – and is a past Float Fest act. The music is informed by diverse influences, including everyone from Radiohead to The Cure, Bowie to Beck, and even jazz great Sarah Vaughan.

“Hearing our music on the radio or meeting people who don't know me personally but love my songs is always a really big deal to me,” Houser said.

Those moments are becoming more commonplace for the band thanks to the work they've done. Houser said Löwin has been releasing singles periodically, including its most recent, "Ghost of Mine." It has a pair in the queue, currently being mixed by Stuart Sikes, who has worked with The White Stripes, Modest Mouse, and fellow Austin bands like Sweet Spirit and Otis the Destroyer. Houser said the band is working towards a full-length album release early next year.

We asked, if the songs were literary works in a bookstore, where would they be shelved? Romance? Autobiographies? True Crime?

"Probably the self-help section,” Houser says with a laugh. “I write songs for myself a lot to pull me out of whatever dark thing I've gotten sucked into. So, I suppose autobiographical works too.”

Ghost of Mine from Löwin on Vimeo.

The band formed four years ago, she said, “in the wake of a former band, The Couch, calling it quits. I started sending phone demos to Chris and we jammed as a two-piece while I wrote new tunes. I'd known and played shows with Nathan's other band, Young Tongue - formerly The Baker Family - and really liked his style of bass playing. Michael had been a fan of the band and through mutual friends found out we needed a new guitar player. It all happened pretty organically through the music scene in Austin and our friends.”

Houser said the band is excited to see new and familiar faces Friday night.

“We haven't been back to Houston in a couple years. We played at Walter's and had a good turnout for a band that wasn't from Houston. There are a lot of musicians that live in Houston that I really respect - Dollie Barnes, John Allen Stephens, Rose Ette, The Suffers - so it's been an important city to me musically when I'm booking any kind of regional touring for us," Houser said.

“I love tour because you get to potentially play for people that have never heard of you," she continued. "I consider a tour successful if we sell merch and play to a crowd - any size is fine - that has a good time. Bonuses would be zero car trouble, no lost or stolen gear and free places to crash.”

Houser said the band plans a brief hiatus following the current run. She’s getting married soon, then plans to complete the album and “hit every year harder than the previous one. More recording, more touring.”

And, more of being defined by the effort and the music the band creates rather than just the gender of its front person.

“A reviewer once wrote about one of our early shows, 'The fact that she can kick so much ass and look killer in a dress at the same time makes Löwin doubly awesome.' Eye Roll City, USA,” she says. “While I'm proud to be a woman in music and I own my femininity, I never want to be made to feel like it's marginalizing my work ethic or musicianship, which can happen with the whole ‘female-fronted’ business.

"Yes, we are women but we also have our own identities. Lumping every female-fronted band into one category does every band that has worked to create their own sound a disservice.”

Löwin returns to Houston with new songs and lots of momentum 9 p.m. Friday at Notsuoh, 314 Main. With Chicago’s North by North and King Finn. Free.
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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.