Houston Music

Wake Up to Black Coffee's Blistering New LP, 'For the Birds'

Black Coffee’s record release show on Sunday has been a long time coming. The local hardcore scene fixtures have been active since 2011, and in that time, they’ve put out four pit-ready EPs, played a few dozen sweaty warehouse shows and gone through ‘round about 168 rhythm sections. But they’ve never put out a full-length vinyl album until now. At 16 songs, For the Birds is Black Coffee’s longest, most ambitious musical statement yet. It’ll be available Sunday on LP and cassette, so bring money.

Or just show up to hear it live. As has become de rigueur at record-release shows, the band will be playing their new album in full two days from now. It shouldn’t take too long — Black Coffee doesn’t like to dally about onstage or in the studio.

“We’ve always played super-short and fast songs,” says guitarist Halston Luna. “I’ve been watching hardcore bands for years and listening to hardcore for years, and you can use it make some sort of a definitive statement. But there’s really no reason to stay on the same page for a long time and make some big, dramatized event out of it. Our first two EPs are both eight songs, and they clock in at just under seven or eight minutes altogether.

“The songs have been so short and the sets have been so short because we get onstage, say whatever we have to say and then just get off,” he adds. “It’s always been very short and to the point.”

Bashing out violently direct tunes as quickly and efficiently as possible might be what Black Coffee is best known for around these parts, but that doesn’t mean they’re afraid to stretch a little.

“Not all the songs [on For the Birds] are super short this time around; there’s a couple of them that are nearly two minutes long,” says Halston with a totally straight face. “It’s all connected with noise that our friend Dennis Polk did, who’s now a pretty prominent photographer at hardcore and punk shows. He did the noise on the record, and it sort of connects all the songs together. It all runs together pretty nicely and flows to make a really cohesive piece, I think. I’m really proud of it.”

The band is getting creative with the venue for the record’s unveiling, too. Black Coffee has practically moved into Walters Downtown over the past four years — Halston can sometimes be found working the door there. But they’re going a different route for this show. Halston’s constant bandmate and writing partner, singer Ryan Taylor, owns the Cutthroat Eastside barber shop on Telephone Road and the Wired Up record/book store next door. That’s where fans will get their first complete earful of the songs Halston and Taylor have been working to get pressed into wax for nearly two years.

And just to up the novelty factor, Black Coffee will be hosting an interesting choice for the opening act: Anthony Obi, the Houston rap wunderkind better known to some as Fat Tony.

Hardcore and hip-hop on the same bill? It’s been a while since anyone has tried to pull that off in Houston. But Halston says Fat Tony makes more sense at his show than you might initially expect.

“I’ve been playing in bands with Anthony for years at this point,” the guitarist says. "He’s been really involved in the punk and hardcore scene here his whole time playing music, as well. It’s a rare opportunity to have some sort of collaboration with him, show-wise, because usually we’re playing on punk and hardcore bills with punk and hardcore bands. Since we get to do whatever the hell we want right now, we’re just going to do whatever the hell we want.”

"Whatever the hell we want." That’s a pretty punk-rock sentiment — one that Halston sees fresh wave after wave of rebellious youths try out at his shows and others’ at Walters, the cherished home of Houston’s lively hardcore scene.

“I get to watch all sorts of new kids get into hardcore and start coming to shows and get involved,” Halston says. “It’s awesome! It’s incredible. There’s so many good bands that pop up every week.”

Halston and Taylor are in a few of them. They also play in the group Thug Boots and have plans to explore additional musical endeavors together, as well. If that seems like a lot of hardcore for two guys, well, maybe it kinda totally is. The pair shares an obvious passion for pointed, aggressive music, and it’s that passion that has kept Black Coffee going through all the opening slots, departing drummers and record-plant errors.

“Whoever else comes into the picture is up to fate, but I think me and Ryan are definitely going to keep writing music together and Black Coffee is going to put out more records.” Halston explains. “We’ve had a million fill-in people throughout the years that we’ve been together, and I always think to myself, ‘Is this going to start seeming like work, or am I still going to be able to feel it?’ Whenever we play shows, I have felt it every time, no matter who’s playing with us or how many times somebody fucks up — everything is so quick and violent, I personally don’t really even notice.

“It’s always been really chill that way,” he adds.

Chill with Black Coffee and Fat Tony at 6 p.m. this Sunday at Wired Up, 1318 Telephone Rd.
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Nathan Smith
Contact: Nathan Smith