Hank Williams may have moaned about having the lovesick blues but Houston’s The Lonesome Haunts are using heartbreak to fuel their killer new rock and roll EP Wreck You, due out on Saturday, September 10.
“It’s nice to get stuff out of your head, put it on paper and eventually get to sing it and scream it. It’s just nice,” says lead singer Bart Maloney, who started The Lonesome Haunts in 2018 and was sparked by a breakup to write the new batch of songs.
Originally the band was a three piece with Maloney on guitar, Roberto Rodriguez III on bass and Gabriel Alanis on drums. The three met playing music with The Umbrella Man where Rodriguez played his usual instrument, the accordion, and Maloney was on pedal steel.
After taking a five year break from music, Maloney was inspired to get back into but step away from the Gulf Coast blues and country sounds he had been creating for so long.
“I made the mistake of listening to too much Springsteen and I started thinking, I have shit to say and I've never fronted my own band as a singer, so it was terrifying but I'm glad I did it. People can hate my stuff but at least it's my stuff,” says Maloney.
When setting up The Lonesome Haunts, Maloney knew he wanted to try something different, not only by stepping to the front as a vocalist and songwriter but also by creating pure rock and roll sounds and experimenting with his own comfort level on guitar, and that of Rodriguez’s on bass.
“When I found out that he wanted to sing I was very surprised and intrigued. Of course I wanted to be a part of this project and see how this sounds. I might as well get out of my comfort zone because we were all doing it,” explains Rodriguez who really felt the pressure when asked to try his hand on bass.
“Both of us grew up with the swamp pop and the blues and of course, I continue to do it with other bands,” says Rodriguez who plays in a handful of bands including Luba Dvorak, Tremoloco and Goat Leather, all on accordion duty. “But for this particular project, he wanted to hear just straight rock and roll. That's what he wanted and I agreed with him because I don't want to do anything Tex Mex, we already did that.”
The result was just that as the trio played frequent shows before the COVID-19 pandemic where they brought on full powered rock and roll. Once they went into the recording studio to lay down some songs, Maloney decided to have Rodriguez go back in and add some subtle accordion parts to see how it sounded.
The band liked the result but when performing live continued to stick with their three piece set up and Rodriguez on bass. Post COVID, Maloney had a new batch of songs inspired by his heartache and decided to also take a new approach to the lineup.
The Lonesome Haunts added Kevin Bernier on guitar and Adam Castaneda on bass, both previous band members of Houston success story The Suffers. When Maloney approached his old friend Rodriguez about switching back to the buttons of his accordion, he did so with kindness.
“Of course he made sure I didn't get my feelings hurt but the fact that is it was such a huge relief because I’ve never been a bass player in my life until this band and I had never felt that amount of stress,” says Roberto describing how the bass is so front and center musically, a place where mistakes can be felt and heard versus the accordion where he can embellish on the buttons and make his magic on the spot.
“It was such a relief,” he says of the switch. “Adam is a true bass player and Kevin is very gifted too. I just fell in love with the fact that we were going to have two of the greatest players in Houston in our band,” says Rodriguez who still struggles in a way with being in a strictly rock band as an accordian player, something he had never done in his many years playing music.
To determine how to add a non-traditional sound with the accordion to pure rock and roll, Roberto tried to remove his previous influences from his playing and instead study how rock bands with organs or keyboards go about combining the instrumentation without taking over the entire sound of the band.
It seems the shifts in responsibilities in the band in combination with Maloney processing the end of his long term relationship paid off. Wreck You is a five track EP that burns from beginning to end with Maloney wearing his heart on his sleeve in every heavy track as he growls out his aggressively romantic songs with his tight and dynamic bandmates backing him up.
“That is one thing that's kind of different about us because deep down inside, I’m a softie,” says Maloney. “I think I'm a romantic person so I’m not afraid to sing that kind of stuff and I’m not going to put up the front that I'm a tough guy,” says Maloney.
Ahead of the EP release, the band released the opening track “Separation” where Rodriguez's soft and upbeat accordion additions add a nice contrast to Maloney’s guttural snarls to “leave him the hell alone” coming across as someone smashing a teacup with a lifted pinkie.
“We are a rock and roll band that has an accordion, not an accordion band that plays rock and roll because it's there, but it's not overpowering. It’s just filling in the holes perfectly. I think it just goes so well with our sound and me and Robert have played together for 15 years now so it's one of those things where I can't do this without having Robert.”
The Lonesome Haunts will perform with The Ramblin' Boys and KALO on Saturday, September 10, at Shoeshine Charley's Big Top Lounge, 3714 Main, 8 p.m., $10.
Wreck Me will be available for streaming on Saturday, September 10.
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Gladys Fuentes is a first generation Houstonian whose obsession with music began with being glued to KLDE oldies on the radio as a young girl. She is a freelance music writer for the Houston Press, contributing articles since early 2017.