In its earliest days, some music critics wrote punk rock off as a three-chord flash in the pan. Its musicians had all the rage, but little of the talent, some short-sighted early detractors surmised. What those folks couldn’t foretell was the genre’s staying power. They couldn’t predict how the music would ultimately spill over into more traditional genres. One of the most exciting examples today is a fusion of punk and Americana styles and one of the best examples of that union in Houston is Quiet Morning & the Calamity.
The band has been busier than usual this week. A Wednesday-night set at House of Blues was sandwiched between last weekend’s turn at Comicpalooza and a show tomorrow night at Shoeshine Charley’s Big Top Lounge. Music starts at 9 p.m. with Ruckus and The Grizzly Band opening. But before one ever hears its music, there’s the band’s unique name to consider, which essentially prepares listeners for the sound to follow.
“The band name originally started as ‘Quiet Morning' from a Joan Baez song, since I didn't want to use my actual name as a solo artist,” says Sean Ramos, the group’s lead vocalist. “But after a few years of playing the singer-songwriter circuit for a while, I assembled the first incarnation of the band — ‘Quiet Morning & the Masters of Death,’ in reference to Shogun Assassin. The sound at the time was a lot more spaghetti-western and not very marketable to audiences, so the Masters of Death soon died off.
“About a year after that, I re-banded and re-branded as Quiet Morning & the Calamity," Ramos continues. "As a writer, I've always liked the juxtaposition and it reminded me of something that a badass western would be called. And the name stuck!"
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The name stuck because the band stuck, thanks to well-crafted songs and the talent and experience Ramos assembled. The lineup now includes pianist Josh Artall, who is also a member of vintage country act The Broken Spokes, and, drummer Jakob Lindsey, who’s played for Giant Battle Monster and Handsome Ransom. Bassist Brandon Warnke plays for Mark Jones & Twenty Paces, Arabella Jones and Ranson Bandits and Justin Catrett is the band’s lead guitarist. He’s also lent his considerable talents to Handsome Ransom, The Southern Kill, the Jared Waggoner Band and The Early Birds.
“One thing that all of my bandmates have in common is that we were all at one time punk rockers," Ramos says. "It's a strange phenomenon, even in the major markets, that one-time punks are now slinging acoustic guitars and writing some of the best damn songs the folk/country/Americana world has ever seen — Frank Turner, Chuck Ragan, Mike Ness, Dustin Kensrue, etcetera. There's just something about the raw unbridled emotion and attitude that both true folksmen and country singers can relate to the DIY, anti-establishment of punk rock.”
Son of the Sad Soul, the band’s 2014 release, is chock full of those unbridled emotions and attitudes. Ramos said some of the songs on the record date back to 2009. The album took an entire year to record, mix and master, he noted. The blood, sweat and tears are literally evident in some of the songs.
“The titular track was actually written about a week after a car accident I was involved in with my lead guitar player, where a ‘90s Jeep Cherokee flipped — with us in it," he says. "And, I'd also found out a good friend and former bandmate in Yoko Mono, Rozz Zamorano, had passed away that morning. The album is a five-song testament to failed loves, lost friends and self-awareness.”
One of the standout tracks is “27 Years,” which features the refrain, "27 years, Lord, give me just another one," as a reminder of one's mortality. But, like the immediacy expressed in many punk songs, it also celebrates the here and now.
“'27 Years' started as a song about my fear of dying at 27, but quickly became so much more than that,” Ramos says. “It turned into a song about how much I've learned about myself being on the road, living, breathing and bleeding music.”
While three shows in a week’s time could be seen as hectic, it’s not unfamiliar to Ramos and the busy musicians he teams with. They play frequently and find Houston is an accommodating place for bands that want to perform as often as possible.
“Gigging is the only thing that makes sense to me,” he says. “Most of the band is in the same mindset where unless we're playing out, we're not living up to what we feel we should be. I'm the main source of the booking, but have a few friends that assist from time to time. Last fall, we were actually on the road for six weeks, traveling the entire West Coast and we hit about 12 states in that span.
“We actually feel most at home playing at the Continental Club," Ramos adds. "Pete Gordon is an incredible music supporter and the club just has the same feel that it would have when it first opened and the energy is still there and always alive. Big Top should be a lot of fun, too, as a sister bar, and we're really looking forward to playing it for the first time.”
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Ramos says anyone unable to catch the band this weekend will have opportunities in June. He plans to do some solo sets in the early part of the month, and the full band will join him June 27 for The Mosaic Hub at Ovations Night Club. New music is in pre-production and should be ready for the studio late this year, following an extensive U.S. tour in the fall, Ramos adds.
The band plans to be calamitous wherever it goes on that tour, before rolling down the trail to the next unsuspecting town the next quiet morning. But, wherever they roam, Ramos says Houston won’t be too far off in the sunset.
“The best thing about being a Houston artist is definitely the diversity in our peers," he bows. "Most towns have the one sound that it's known for, but Houston music is as big a melting pot as the city itself. I think we identify most about Houston because it's our Texas. This is the slice of Texas that we all grew up in and cut our teeth playing in, so we all appreciate the diversity of the city and we're not afraid to pigeonhole our sound.”