Woodlands Wonders

They say that the road to fame is a bumpy one. Well, so is the road to the rehearsal space of Woodlands-based rockers Paris Green. Actually, to call it a "road" is sort of like saying that the shaving cream-and-sombrero birthday song at El Patio is an authentic Mexican tradition. We're talking a tire-bumping, suspension-shaking, pothole-strewn trail on which we pass bassist Matt Gosney -- on his way out.

"I had one of those bacon mushroom melts from Wendy's," he groans, hanging out the window of his pickup truck. "It's not sitting too well." Upon arriving at the large metal industrial building that serves as a rented rehearsal space for Paris Green and a few other bands, drummer Mike Potter explains Gosney's abrupt pre-interview departure. "He went over to the grocery store. He wanted to use a bathroom that he knows has been cleaned every so often."

Happily, a Gosney delivered from fast food agony soon reappears. Singer Matt Patin and guitarist/DJ Will Moran are on the premises. Though manager Jason Price has brought along a case of Heineken, guitarist Justin Peña prefers to suck on his 40-ounce Olde English 800.

Perhaps he's thinking back to the day in 1997 when he sat in chemistry class at Woodlands High School, ignoring the arcane pleasures of the periodic table, daydreaming about a name for his fledgling band. Suddenly, a female classmate next to him popped open a textbook and the insecticide "paris green" jumped out.

Today, the band is anything but poison to die-hard fans spread across several states, who often call in to request their songs on several regional radio stations. In fact, their extremely marketable and infectious blend of metal, punk, rap and scratching could make them yet another in a line of bands "sure to break" out of Houston. Hell, next month they've even got a showcase lined up for labels at L.A.'s Viper Room.

"The shopping process has started. We will be signed by the end of the year," Price confidently predicts. "The bottom line is that this is a kick-ass live band." And it's either that belief -- or the high price of studio time -- that led to the decision to tape an upcoming gig for their next release, a live CD. And no doubt, dozens of teens and twentysomethings with near-messianic dedication to the group will be out in force, a sea of Paris Green T-shirts all singing along.

"Those guys are really important to us. We realize those are people who genuinely like our music," Moran says.

"We really want to have a relationship with them that goes a little [deeper] than being in 'a band,' you know?" Patin adds.

Yeah, we've never heard that one before. But coming from Patin and band, that rote statement seems like more than just lip service. After all, none of them is older than 23; they're not far removed from Woodlands High, where classmates Peña, Peña's brother Jason and Gosney started the band. After original singer Dave Underwood was exiled following an inauspicious debut gig, Patin soon filled his shoes, and an EP called Neptune Wide was released shortly after that. With the addition of Moran, the band's sound really started to gel. They joined the then-hot rapcore sweepstakes that had its hits (Incubus, Limp Bizkit) and misses (Slipknot, Crazytown).

"For a while, it was just a trend to have a band with a DJ," Moran notes. "For it to work, the DJ really has to add something to the music that [wasn't there] before."

"We wanted a DJ in the band to complement our style. And Will can mix some crazy shit," adds Patin, whose powerful voice anchors the band.

After recording their 2000 full-length debut, Simplevision, drummer Jason Peña left the group to pursue a college degree. In came Willis resident Mike Potter, who instantly raised the bar for the entire group. And while the rest of the band's influences included Def Leppard, the Police, Zeppelin, punk and rap, Potter brought in another cornerstone.

"I'm from Willis," he explains, and though little further clarification is necessary, he gives it anyway. "I was stone country." (Potter took home Best Drummer honors at this year's Houston Press Music Awards.)

The quintet then launched on a schedule that averaged a show a week for two years and ranged from a side-stage gig at the Woodlands Pavilion (during, naturally, a Def Leppard show) to headlining stints at northside dives to a three-week East Coast tour consisting of 17 shows in ten states last winter. It was on this last swing that the boys learned how meager life could be on the road for a struggling band.

"You have to live on limited food, limited alcohol, and you have to sleep in the van," Patin says. "Potter would stay up on No-Doz and drive. The whole thing brings you closer."

"When we got back from that trip, we were ten times better, because it was like having a really amazing practice every day," Potter says. "But we really froze our balls off in New York. Everyone else there had on turtlenecks, and the boys from Texas had about five layers of clothes on."

And the best gig? It was one for a crowd of mullet-wearing bikers in Baltimore. "They were these old dudes, but they were the nicest guys!"

For now, though, the band's focus is on adding to their short discography, and perhaps Price was right about their being best caught live. Paris Green, their most recent CD, contains all of Simplevision plus two new tracks ("Reset" and "By Opinion"). Extra tracks or no, what the CD can't capture is Patin's patented onstage thrashing vocal exorcisms that find his eyes rolling toward the back of his head while the band builds a cacophonic sonic wall behind him.

The band's lyricist is hardly a cheery sort -- song subjects range from the end of the world, heavy-handed government and (in the case of "Reset") his Eminem-like relationship with his mother.

"It's almost nonexistent, but for a reason. She doesn't try, and therefore I don't try," Patin answers via e-mail some weeks after the question is first posed. "I believe that kids need love from both parents, and when one is missing, things go another direction and they learn not to trust. The song is about starting over and growing and forgetting about all the things that waste life when you are mad and upset."

Patin is more confident about Paris Green's strong bonds with other area bands, including Blue October, Faceplant and Hollister Fracus. "Houston bands have been getting a lot more recognition and interest in the past year or so from people outside the city," Patin offers. "And I think we should support each other and bring each other up. That's the way to do it."

"When we started, things were very competitive and hostile, but I'm seeing some of that going away," Peña adds. "People are really cooperating."

That probably includes the sharing of information important to all local bands that find themselves eating with little cash at odd hours. And Gosney has some vital info on that end from personal experience. "I won't eat the bacon mushroom melt ever again," he grins. "Ever!" Paris Green will record a live CD Saturday, September 27, at the 19th Hole, 202 Sawdust Road, The Woodlands. For more information, call 281-363-2574.

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Bob Ruggiero has been writing about music, books, visual arts and entertainment for the Houston Press since 1997, with an emphasis on classic rock. He used to have an incredible and luxurious mullet in college as well. He is the author of the band biography Slippin’ Out of Darkness: The Story of WAR.
Contact: Bob Ruggiero