Mercifully, Darius Rucker is about to be blown out of the building. I guess there’s nothing all that bad about the former Hootie. His CMT music video playing on the big screen television is a mostly non-offensive thing. But we’re at White Swan, a venerable Houston music spot better known for ruckus than Rucker.
We’re visiting with Mind Kill, the up-and-coming hardcore punk band that’s closing in on a year together. In that short time, they’ve hard-worked their way into venues like Walters, Black Barbie, Eastdown Warehouse, the sorely missed Mango’s and others. But, if they have a home turf, it’s White Swan, says the band’s guitarist, Matt.
“Out of all of our shows we’ve played here the most," he figures. "This place has been here for a while. I know there’s been a lot of good shows here for a long time, like the Punxmas Fest used to get done over here. Just a lot of good shows. Drown with Homewrecker was here, the place was packed wall to wall. Everybody knows about this place.”
It’s show night here east of downtown and Mind Kill is opening the Lesser Degree CD release. About three-quarters of the audience is wearing black t-shirts and Country Music Television is playing to no one’s interest, so before any bands even arrive we know we’re in the right place. MK filters in around 8 o’clock, just a half-hour before its set time, hauling drum kits and amps from pickup trucks and SUVs.
The band’s eager to do its thing, which turns out to be a crowd-pleasing half-hour run of songs from its EP, Society Scam. They haven’t played a show in a month, Matt says, which feels like a long time for a young band putting in work to get more and better opportunities. Still, eager as they are, we coerce him and the band’s bassist, Nic, into talking music with us before the set. Zach, the band’s drummer and vocalist Sam head to the back pool table at White Swan to lay out merch for new and approving fans.
“Me, Sam and Zach have been jamming since we were freshmen in high school,” says Nic. “Us three had an old band, but we didn’t really go anywhere, we were just kind of playing around. This is my first serious band.”
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That begs the question: when does an upstart band know it’s serious? In this age of ProTools and social media, anyone can record and promote a record. What makes a band serious, it would seem, is its ability to play shows at home and elsewhere, and to see those shows get bigger in scope. One measure of Mind Kill’s growing ambition is they’ll be the kickoff band at Fallcore in December, a perfect first note to the multitude of bands to follow that weekend at Walters.
“It’s pretty exciting because we go to that show every year, just as fans,” Nic notes. “Now that we’re playing, it’s so awesome.”
Since the band hasn’t hit the stage yet, talk turns to any rituals they may have for gig night. Do they meet anywhere for a pre-show pep rally? Does anyone in the band have a pair of lucky underwear reserved just for shows? The band says it relies less on superstition than the tried-and-true to ensure a quality performance.
“We don’t have any specific thing we do, but we don’t go and play a show and just wing it. We always have to jam the set the day of or the day before,” Nic said. “We like to plan out like, ‘Okay, we’re gonna go into this song this way,’ so we’re really nitpicky on stuff. Our CD, in my opinion, sounds good, but our stage performance has to sound even better.”
Another secret to Mind Kill’s early success?
“We kind of make it a point to stretch,” Nic says.
Hopefully, audience members have also limbered up via Pilates or tai chi or something, we think, once Mind Kill unleashes its high-decibel assault. A few dozen audience members do not take Sam’s advice when he tells them to get closer to the stage at show’s onset. They’re content to stand in something like a wide semi-circle until songs like “R.Y.M” and “Enemy” force them into the pit, where they thrash in spastic, arm-flailing fashion. The music is a full body blow to listeners. If the music isn’t moving the audience, it might be Sam’s delivery of lyrics like “I really don’t give a shit about how much money you make/You underestimated us now pay for that mistake.”
Jumping ahead to the drive home, we listen to our copy of Society Scam, free at the show and available at no cost to you on Bandcamp. The title track has us fist-pumping in the car on a Tuesday night, to the probable shock of drivers surrounding us. Another new favorite, the album opener, “Death Toll,” has a cool chant of the truism, “the more things change, the more they stay the same.” That sense of pride that this band will represent Houston on an October mini-tour of Louisiana, Kansas and Arkansas cities creeps in.
“We’re going with Blunt, another hardcore band and they’re good friends of ours, their singer made our shirts," says Matt. "They’ve helped us out a lot and we’re appreciative of anybody that’s helped support us."
We think they’ll do well on the road since they have developed a sentence-finishing bond we notice in our discussion of Houston music. It’s good to see a young band take its place in that scene and to now that White Swan continues to afford bands like Mind Kill a place to become “serious.”
“Support local music, doesn’t really matter what kinds of bands they are. Come out and see what the city has to offer because (the music scene) is growing,” Matt says. “We’re starting to get noticed in Noisey and Vice and all that. It’s getting bigger and better,..”
“Maybe if you don’t like hardcore, go out and support others,” Nic interjects.
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“Like The Suffers, Devin The Dude…whoever,” Matt continues.
“If you go to a huge show at House of Blues you’re gonna pay like 30 bucks,” Nic jumps back in. “If you come to ours you pay like five bucks,…”
“And,” Matt finishes, “you’ll be a part of history.”
Mind Kill returns to White Swan this Friday, September 18. All-ages show; $5 donation.