The Houston area probably has as many aspiring bands and musicians as it does different ZIP codes, if not more. With the only condition being their subjects have never been previously profiled (either in these pages or elsewhere in local media), we asked a few of our regular music writers to tell us about the last local artist who really captured their attention.
BLSHS give vintage synth-pop a modern twist.
By Cory Garcia
Whether you label it retro or vintage, nostalgia never goes out of style, and it's easier than ever to make songs that sound as if they come from a different era.
Superficially speaking, you could call BLSHS vintage. Hear the synths in a track like "Blushes," warm and nostalgic and melancholy, and it's an easy adjective to go with. Now listen more closely. Make note of those 808 hits. Pay attention to those high-hat parts. Focus on the beat.
Yeah, this is synth-pop, but in the hands of Rick Carruth and Chris Gore, it's synth-pop with a hip-hop edge. It's the type of melding of sounds that makes them stand out not just among Houston acts, but among synth-pop acts in general.
Then come the vocals. Although Carruth and Gore have been producing music together for years, BLSHS didn't click until the addition of Michelle Miears, who sings like a ghost haunting your subconscious. She's emotive without being dramatic, vulnerable without sounding weak. The music and vocals enhance each other, and the result is songs that are gripping.
"I love songs that make your heart stop," Miears says. "I love songs that can make me cry."
It's not a sound that shares a lot with the eclectic Houston music scene. Bang Bangz and FLCON FCKER tread similar ground, but you can't book that bill every week. As such, BLSHS has had to share the stage with rock bands, acoustic acts and the occasional nu-metal group in an effort to get their name out. That sometimes leads to odd pairings, but so far the approach seems to be working.
"The reception we've been getting is good," says Gore. "One of the great things about Houston is that good bands recognize each other no matter what you play."
BLSHS had the type of rookie year that most bands only wish for. In March of last year, they decided to get serious about the project, passing song ideas and files back and forth digitally so that they could work on material while juggling their nine-to-fives.
Over the next 12 months, they ended up writing a bunch of music, playing their first four-song set in July and releasing their first EP, Abstract Desires, through Synth Records. They capped the year off by getting booked for Free Press Summer Fest. Not bad for something that was just a name and an idea at the start of 2013.
"We definitely dreamed of playing the Fest, but we had no idea it would be that quick," says Gore.
The group's feeling of excitement is palpable when you sit down with them. While their music may be melancholy, it's clear that producing and performing it makes them happy.
"I think the one thing you could say about us is that we're eager and motivated," Miears says. "We're very passionate about this."
"I love BLSHS," adds Gore. "Even if this doesn't take off huge, I'm still going to be doing it."
Looking to the future, the band talks about new videos, a Depeche Mode cover and eventually a new album. They plan on writing songs together in the studio in a more organic, traditional fashion, and starting on songs that push up the beats-per-minute level. Just because things are melancholy doesn't mean they can't be dance-friendly.
As for the present, the group says that while they know what BLSHS is, you may not.
"Don't be so sure you have us figured out yet," Gore says.
Singer-songwriter Libby Koch found an album in her ancestors' stories.
By Chris Gray
Plenty of songwriters have delved into the past for inspiration. Libby Koch dug into the roots of her family tree.
On her brand-new album, Tennessee Colony, the Houston native and seventh-generation Texan has constructed a suite of songs centered around her ancestral homeland, a speck on the East Texas map about 15 miles northwest of Palestine.
"I think there's a stop sign; that's it," she says.
The seeds of Tennessee Colony lie in Koch's maternal grandfather, whom Koch (pronounced like the carbonated beverage) describes as a natural storyteller. They were "super-close," she adds, and the album is her homage to him. She figures she first heard the story behind "Jess Carroll" when she was four or five years old. Both sides of her family settled in Texas in the 1830s and '40s, and eventually moved away, but wound up in Tennessee Colony again thanks to the Great Depression. But the story of the clan's original settlement in the Piney Woods also makes its way onto the album via "Wagon Train."