Wild Moccasins

Near the end of their tour with of Montreal, Houston’s Wild Moccasins sat down with QRO. ...
Wild Moccasins : Q&A

Wild Moccasins : Q&A

Near the end of their tour with of Montreal (QRO live review), Houston’s Wild Moccasins sat down with QRO.  Singer/keyboardist Zahira Gutierrez, singer/guitarist Cody Swann, guitarist Andrew Lee, bassist Nicholas Cody, and drummer John Baldwin talked about the tour (including playing football with of Montreal in the shadow of Mount Rushmore), their upcoming new record, signing with New West Records, the Houston indie music scene, what their wear on tour, smoking with Jack Kerouac, and more…

 

 

QRO: How is this tour going?

John Baldwin: Going really well.

Cody Swann: It’s been awesome.  So far, it’s been really just a ton of fun, the shows have been great, the band has been awesome to us – they made an effort to hang out with us every night, bar hopping, beating us at touch football on days off.

JB: We just literally played football with them.

CS: They beat the crap out of us…

JB: At Mount Rushmore…

QRO: Mount Rushmore?!?

JB: We went to Mount Rushmore, and then played football with them at the RV park.

QRO: Have you done this much full-fledged touring before this?

Zahira Gutierrez: Our longest tour was in Europe; it was six weeks.  This one is three weeks.

CS: This is the first time we’ve done a full U.S. tour.  I think if we were going to do one, they’re usually spread out over more time.  So it’s kind of funny doing our first U.S. tour, and trying to cram it in three weeks.  They have the bus, so the drives are a little bit longer…

QRO: Because you’re from Houston, you can do one half (of the country), go home, and then the other half.  New York bands, they can’t stop halfway through…

ZG: Yeah.

CS: ‘Cause we’ll usually do a three-week tour, just doing West Coast, or Mid-West, or just East Coast and Mid-West.

We’ve done literally like the perimeter of the U.S…

QRO: Yeah – Mount Rushmore, that’s pretty far north…

JB: It’s pretty wild – hilariously so.  Driving over night, drinking way too much coffee, kind of getting weird…

You get used to this routine where you never know how you’re going to feel.

CS: Gas station mud, basically…

QRO: How have you fought ‘tour burnout’ on previous tours?

CS: I’ve been taking vitamins and stuff.

I think, what it is, your body naturally gets pretty tired the first week, but once you get to a week and a half, for me personally, you kind of get over a hump.  Then your body becomes like a machine.

ZG: You get used to this routine where you never know how you’re going to feel.

CS: It’s kind of a routine of inconsistency.

JB: Once you get used to not being at home, it just becomes home.  This is like our second family, our second home.  We’re used to it, at this point.

This tour’s almost over, and it’s kind of sad, because I think we all agree – we could have gone on a lot more long.

ZG: We could have done another four weeks, and it would have been fine.

QRO: How did you hook up with of Montreal?  You all seem like a good fit with them.

ZG: Some of the members of of Montreal have other bands, so we’ve played with them the last couple years.  And then of Montreal asked us to play their Paralytic Stalks (QRO review) record release in Athens, and I think from then on, we’ve played a few shows the past year.

CS: Hit it off, and it made sense.

ZG: We get along really well.

JB: It’s a good fit, but I think socially, it’s been fun, hanging out with them.  Because you hear horror stories, about going on a support tour, and it doesn’t go over so well, but with them, they’ve been really inviting.

ZG: It’s been very easy.

CS: They’re very hospitable.  They’re always sharing food and drinks.

JB: I think they said we were their favorite band – just kidding… [all laugh]

CS: Make sure that’s in there… [laughs]

QRO: I last saw you at South-by-Southwest (QRO recap) – how was that?

ZG: We only played one show.  We’ve done other South-bys where we’ve done the ‘ten show thing in three days’ kind of thing.

Because we’re also in the process of recording a record, we didn’t want to be at South-by for too long.  So one show was fine.

JB: And that one show was really because Davey [Pierce] & Doby [Nicolas Dobbratz] of of Montreal are in Yip Deceiver (QRO photos), and they hooked up the show.

ZG: They asked us, so we can’t say no to them…

QRO: What is it like for a Houston band at SXSW?  You’re not exactly a local act, but you also didn’t travel that far…

Nicholas Cody: It’s interesting, ‘cause they make a big deal about it in Houston – ‘These are the list a of Houston bands invading Austin.’  It seems like the press there is always really happy that you’re going.  But it feels like we’re not even going anywhere, because we do go to Austin all the time – for me at least.

JB: Even if we’re not playing a show, it’s not that far.  So we all end up in Austin often enough.

QRO: You can play one show at SXSW…

ZG: And it’s not a waste of time.  You don’t drive like two days to get there.

JB: We go there to see other shows.  It’s not uncommon for us to drive to Austin, to play a show, and not even stay – we’ll just like drive home sometimes; it’s so close.

 

We definitely didn’t meet George [Fontaine], and then be on [his] label [New West Records]. It was a really slow, natural, organic process. He’s like a father figure, in a way.

QRO: How did you connect with New West Records?

ZG: The part owner of New West, George Fontaine, he lives in Houston, so he’d seen us a lot over the years.  And he also is the part owner of the record store John & Cody work at.

CS: But before even that; we’d cultivated a relationship with him.  We just became friends; he watched the band grow.  I think the key word is ‘patience’.  Timing was really the key issue.  He wanted to get to know us, he wanted us to get to know him, and if it made sense, we were gonna do it.  We really trust him; it’s a very homegrown, organic thing.  Made sense.

JB: We definitely didn’t meet George, and then be on the label.  It was a really slow, natural, organic process.  He’s like a father figure, in a way.  He invested in the band, and we built a really great relationship with New West.  They’ve been really good to us.

QRO: You didn’t ever feel like, ‘Let’s get this moving…’?

JB: He met us, and shortly thereafter he must have contacted us, and was like, ‘Hey – I want to work with you guys.’

CS: He was trying to help out the band in any way he could.

JB: He didn’t say, “I wanna sign you,” but he runs a record label…  He gave us money to record before we signed.

CS: But definitely a no-pressure thing. He wanted to see where it would go.  He didn’t want us to feel like we had to, and we didn’t want him to feel like that also.

NC: I think the other labels contacted the band via e-mail and stuff – it just never seemed ‘real’, when there’s a real person who is actually friends with you, and actually, in person, sitting next to you, who believes in the band.  You’re a lot more interested in working with them when they’re there, rather than just some e-mail from someone that lives on the other side of the country or whatever.

CS: It’s almost strange to me to imagine someone just hearing your music online, or through a grapevine essentially, and wanting to sign a band and risk all this money.

Whereas this process was quite the opposite.  We hung out a lot, he came to a ton of live shows, see him at the record store all the time, buying records…  It led up to actual friendship.

‘Cause there’s definitely a flipside of frustration, where they’re like, ‘Oh, the set was cool! Is it on here?’ And you’re like, ‘Nope…’

QRO: How has this record making compared with making Skin Collision Past (QRO review)?

NC: When we made Skin Collision Past, we had a small budget, so we would record late at night, after the whole studio hours.  All the drum tracks, nine, ten songs – you’re doing it today.  And then the next day, you gotta lay down the bass for every single thing, then the guitar…

We did spend more time with the vocals, but it was in the little studio, whereas this, we’re able to focus in on a song at a time, and really hone in on a part.  Like, for me, whenever I did Skin Collision Past, I just played the bass as how I’d done it all the time.

But for this new album, we have a producer [Kevin Ryan], and we have the time, and so we’re listening back.  It’s like, ‘Oh, why don’t we try this way?  The feeling wasn’t really the best that you could have gotten out of your instrument at the time, or for the song.’  I think that’s what’s happening with this record.

CS: To elaborate on what Nic’s saying, because we were doing it on such a smaller budget, we were kind of at the mercy of the recording studio.  So it was also spread out over a period of time, because if other people who were dishing up more money, aren’t getting the ‘friend budget’, they obviously get priority time.

Luckily, this time, although it’s still taking over a span of months, we’re able to go in for at least three or four days a week.

QRO: Live, do you play exclusively from the upcoming record, or any from Skin Collision Past?

ZG: We’re playing definitely most of the new record.  Because a lot of these songs, we’ve had for a while; we’ve just been wanting to play them live so much.  Like, most of our set, except for one song (“Skin Collision Past”), actually, is all new stuff.

CS: At maybe a few shows, we did two songs from Skin Collision Past sprinkled in, but for the most part, it’s been new-heavy.

It’s a pretty tight-knit community in Houston, so it didn’t take very long to find people who were playing in other bands, who were just looking to branch out.

NC: And “Gag Reflections”…

QRO: Which has already been released as a single (QRO review).  Will it be on the new album?

NC: Yes.

QRO: Are you at all a little frustrated that you’re playing these songs live, but you can’t give them, sell them to people who hear them?

ZG: Definitely – we’re definitely ready for the record to finally come out.

JB: I feel bad for people who think… Well, I don’t feel ‘bad’, but I know that they’re hearing these eight songs that they can’t buy.

CS: ‘Cause there’s definitely a flipside of frustration, where they’re like, ‘Oh, the set was cool!  Is it on here?’  And you’re like, ‘Nope…’  ‘When does it come out?’  ‘Soon?…’

QRO: Do you have any idea when the record’s gonna be out?

JB: August, that’s the goal.

QRO: Are you planning for a tour once it comes out?

ZG: We’re definitely going to tour a lot on this record…

NC: It’s not booked yet.

QRO: But that’s what you’re planning…

CS: We’re thinking a September tour, and then CMJ in October.

ZG: Maybe go back to Europe, for sure.

 

QRO: How did the band all meet?

ZG: Cody and I were dating, and sort of writing songs, and I helped him do that.

CS: She helped me flesh them out.  And then, pretty much everybody else we just met from going to shows, hanging out at parties.  It’s a pretty tight-knit community in Houston, so it didn’t take very long to find people who were playing in other bands, who were just looking to branch out.

NC: We had mutual friends that introduced me to Cody and Zahira, and it just happened that we just got along.

JD: When I joined the band, they knew me playing in other bands, going to shows together.  Me and Nic play in bands together when we were kids.

[Houston has] Great bands, great records, and they just really wanna go on tour, so no one knows about them.

CS: John’s other band played our very first show in 2005.

QRO: What is the Houston indie music scene like?  I don’t hear of a lot of bands from there…

NC: There’s a lot of hip-hop.

JD: The indie scene?  There’s a strong scene, but it’s definitely not on the radar.

ZG: A lot of bands don’t tour, so I think that’s just the major problem.  But there are a lot of good bands.

JD: Great bands, great records, and they just really wanna go on tour, so no one knows about them.

But there’s always been a lot of experimental music and a lot of hip-hop; that’s really prominent in Houston.  But I feel like, in the last five-to-ten years, you see more & more like indie-rock bands.

Hip-hop and noise are kind of two extremes, so we’re seeing more and more rock, pop bands, even dance music and all kinds of stuff that’s coming out of Houston.  I think in the next few years, people are gonna start noticing more & more bands outta Houston, and be like, ‘Oh, I guess there is something going on there…’

CS: And more bands are starting to tour in Houston.  They’re getting out, putting out more content.  I think it’ll just be a matter of time.

It’s kinda cool, though.  It’s a very, very tight-knit community.  Like on any given day, you could walk into the coffee shop, and wind up saying hi to twenty people that you know, that are all in bands.  The guy behind the counter, the guy sweeping…

 

Wild Moccasins’ music video for “Gag Reflections”:

QRO: What was making the video for “Gag Reflections” like?

ZG: It was a lot of fun.  It took two days, ten hours each day.  We got to build the set, and make it look exactly how we wanted.

CS: Basically, it took a day for each room.  There was the blue room, and there was the red room.

JD: It was really fun.

ZG: It was a lot of fun.  It was a lot of waiting around to get lighting, and perfect angles and stuff, but it was worth it, how it turned out.

JD: We filmed the whole thing in a local venue called Walter’s – it’s a legendary music venue.  We’re really close with the people that work there, who own it, so it was cool getting to make our video in a space that’s very Houston.  Even though, if you watch the video, it doesn’t look anything like the club – we know, so it’s cool…

QRO: Did you do first the red room and then the blue room?

ZG: We did the blue room first.

QRO: Oh – was that a lot more sitting around, since that was one person each?

NC: It was hard because we had to fill in sequence, like one shot.  Someone would walk out – like John would walk out and Zahira had to walk right in.

ZG: If I messed up…

NC: If Zahira messed it up, then John had to redo his whole part.  So there was some of that.

QRO: Did that put extra pressure on whoever was going last?

CS: It put a lot of pressure on her, but she got hers first take.  You got the MVP award for that day… [laughs]

NC: And the guy who did the video is also the guy who’s producing the record.

JD: We really like him, and it’s been our choice to have him be the guy working with us on a lot of the art direction with the band.

It was cool getting to make our video in a space that’s very Houston. Even though, if you watch the video, it doesn’t look anything like the club – we know, so it’s cool…

ZG: Creatively, we mesh really well with him.

QRO: Do you guys plan your stage outfits, or is that just want you normally wear?

CS: Any given Tuesday at the record store, I’ll be wearing a suit.  Zahira works at a vintage boutique and she wears this stuff.  Pretty much everybody wears what the wear.

QRO: You don’t get hot on stage?

CS: We’re from Houston…

ZG: I think we do, but…

QRO: You might not – I was thinking more of [the guys wearing suits]…

JD: It can’t be helped, anyways, if you’ve got a tank top on.

CS: I’m gonna sweat the same amount, no matter what.

JD: I think we all dress like we dress, on stage, but I think sometimes if we’re playing a show – Zahira said it best, when I first joined the band, I was like, ‘What should I wear on stage?’  ‘Just be the most dramatic version of yourself.’  I thought that kinda sums up the way we look on stage.  I thought that was kinda perfect…

CS: Just you, but…

ZG: The best version of you you can be…

JD: I get bigger glasses…

CS: Beard grows out, [Nic’s] got a hat with a mullet on it…

QRO: Do you have a favorite tour story, or at least one you can tell?

‘What should I wear on stage?’ ‘Just be the most dramatic version of yourself.’

JD: We’ve had an animal fly through our van…

CS: That’s not our favorite!

JD: That’s not a ‘favorite’ – that’s just an example…

CS: That’s our horror…

JD: I feel like every day something kind of crazy happens.

ZG: Yeah – for example, last night we decided, in the middle of the night, at one in the morning, to break into a cemetery in Boston, just to see Jack Kerouac’s grave.

CS: We lit a cigarette and we put it on his grave, and we had a cigarette, so it was like smoking with…

ZG: So it’s kind of like every night has its own story.

CS: It’s raining in the cemetery while we’re doing it…

ZG: It’s raining, there’s lightning; I’m terrified…

QRO: You were smoking while it was raining?

ZG: Yes…

CS: It was kind of the perfect cue – it started raining, we were like, ‘Alright – I think he’s had enough; we’ll get out of here…’

JD: I think we spend so much time driving in cities, just to play for forty minutes, that after we’re done playing, it’s like, ‘Let’s go do something!”

Categories
InterviewsSlider
  • Anonymous
    at
  • No Comment

    Leave a Reply