Houston Calling

10 Questions for Down With The Scene

February 19th, 2005 · No Comments

With Hands Up Houston down for the count, there is an opening for someone to step in and put together showcases of local bands. Thankfully, a member of one of Houston’s best independent bands stepped up last year and formed Down With The Scene.

According to the DWTS website, Down With the Scene is a showcase of the best underground music from Houston and around the region, with a loose focus on indie, hip-hop, and experimental acts. It especially seeks to expose new audiences to local musicians working outside the mainstream.

I recently asked Matthew Brownlie, frontman for Bring Back The Guns (you may have known them as the band Groceries in the past), and brainchild behind Down With The Scene. He was gracious enough to respond.

The next Down With The Scene show is Friday (2.25.05) at Rhythm Room. The show features The John Sparrow [website], Rotten Piece [website], and God’s Temple of Family Deliverance [website].

Ten Questions for Down With The Scene

HC: Let’s start with your reasons for starting Down With the Scene. You go into a bit of it on your website, but what was it that prompted you to take such an active interest in promoting local bands? Did your experiences as a band member play into it at all?

MB: I guess that the main reason I’m doing this is to make Houston a more interesting place to be a musician. Not that it’s not interesting already. But I want to get people outside the 100 or so people who are already involved in local “underground” music–I have got to come up with a better term than that–out to these shows. I figure the bigger the audience, both physically at the shows and out there in general, the more rewarding it is to be a musician. The more rewarding it is to be a musician, the more music gets made.

I remember doing an interview with a 15-year-old girl in Katy for her ‘zine. Her friend asked what kind of music I was listening to at that time. I said something about being excited about some of the stuff coming out of New York. She started naming these relatively obscure New York bands. It struck me then that, thanks to the internet, there are probably kids all over the sprawl of this city who listen to really good music. And I wondered how many of them are aware of the people making really, really good music here in town.

HC: Speaking of your band, tell me a bit about what’s in store for Bring Back The Guns in 2005. You’re planning a tour later in the spring, right? I saw some stuff on MySpace — are you guys currently recording new songs?

MB: The big news is that the bulk of the work for our full-length is done! We’re going to try to find a label to put it out, but we’ll have CDRs of the unmastered record at our shows.

And yeah, we’re planning to do three weeks in the Midwest/East Coast in May. Some of that will be with our friends So Many Dynamos, a band from St. Louis that we’re also putting a split-7″ out with soon.

HC: There are a lot of good bands in Houston these days, yet Austin and Dallas often get more exposure in the press and nationally as well. What’s your take on the music scene in Houston?

MB: I firmly believe that we have as many bands making really great, smart, singular music as anywhere in the country. In fact, I think the fact that Houston is totally overlooked as music town makes for a really good creative environment, in a lot of ways. A lot of the musicians I know in this town aren’t trying to “make it” out of Houston. They’re making music for themselves and starting bands for their friends. They’re trying to impress no one. They’re not thinking in terms of a career. You know, that frees you up to take a lot of risks and make some real noise.

The downside to this, of course, is that a lot of these bands don’t even keep it together long enough to record anything. That’s kind of the problem I’m trying to address. Knowing that there’s an audience for the weird music you’re making can be an incentive to keep playing shows or put out a record.

HC: What’s the plan for DWTS in 2005? Do you have the shows planned out or are you making it up as you go? How would a local band get involved?

MB: Right now, I’m kind of making it up as I go. I’ve been too busy to book more than one month at a time. I need to get a few months planned in advance. I already have bold designs on next month’s show. I hope it works out.

If a band wants to play DWTS, they should contact me at downwiththescene@gmail.com or go to the website. But I should make it clear that DWTS focuses mostly on indie and experimental stuff, although I’d love to get more hip-hop onboard. Not to disparage anyone’s favorite radio station, but if your band would fit onto the Buzz’s playlist, you’re probably not right for DWTS. If you make more sense on KTRU, we’d love to hear from you.

HC: How about bands from other cities (Austin, Dallas) that normally would have a hard time getting gigs in Houston? You up for that as well?

MB: Totally! There are scores of bands from all over the region I’d like to book. I’d like to do one out-of-towner per showcase, if that ends up being feasible.

HC: Tell me about some of the bands you’ve featured in the showcases. You released a compilation CD (I Hate It Here, I Never Want To Leave) that just came out that also helps promote local acts — planning on putting out another one this year? How did you coordinate all of that?

MB: Actually, all I can take credit for on IHIHINWTL is the title (and my band’s song). It was put together and released by my friend Danny Mee from The Jonx. (Ed. note: My bad.) But it’s an amazing snapshot of the music being made in Houston right now and I’m so proud to be a part of it. It’s available at http://www.cdbaby.com/cd/hateithere.

As for the bands that have played DWTS, the website has a full list of who we’ve featured. So far, it’s no exaggeration to say that every band that has played has turned in a great set. I’m definitely proud of the shows I’ve done so far.

HC: Which local records stores are carrying it? Have you ever heard the OH Crap! CD? (http://www.ohcrapcd.com) A similar concept.

Wow, I’ve never heard of Oh Crap!, but that’s a really smart idea. The CD is available at Sound Exchange, Cactus Music, and Vinyl Edge.

HC: Do you need any help with DWTS? How can interested parties help you out?

MB: The thing I most need right now is some help with promotion. I live near downtown, so getting posters up around here and the Montrose is no problem. But I’m really trying to get the word out into Houston’s endless sprawl. If anyone would like to hang up a few posters and get rid of some fliers, I’d like to put them on guest list for the show. Email me. All other offers for help readily accepted, as well.

HC: Ever cover “Purple Rain” anymore? That was one of the best festivals I attended here — some downtown brewfest or something and then you guys (well, Groceries) just blew everyone away. Was great, for all that’s worth…

MB: Wow, I remember that show. It was silly. I don’t remember anyone being too blown away by our antics. I think we just bugged them. Which is okay: we got to drink free beer and piss off strangers. There are less fun ways to spend an afternoon.

But no, we won’t touch that song anymore. It got us a lot of attention initially, but we could see ourselves being known more for our Prince cover than our own stuff. It’s funny, we’re hopefully going to be playing some sort of tribute show to Purple Rain the album and movie for Diverseworks, and our only caveat to taking part was that we not cover the song itself. I think we’re going to do “Take Me With You,” another amazing song.

HC: What are you listening to these days? Any good albums you’d recommend?

MB: Right this second, I’m going through a big Stevie Wonder thing. And for a bunch of world-music hippie crap, that album Sung Tongs by the Animal Collective sure is great. And the Go! Team.

Special thanks to Matthew Brownlie for taking the time to answer these questions. Down With The Scene’s next showcase is this Friday night (2.25.05), and features The John Sparrow, Rotten Piece, and God’s Temple of Family Deliverance.

This is exactly the kind of diverse, excellent lineup DWTS is specializing is and is a rare chance to catch several great bands at once. The show is all-ages at Rhythm Room on Washington Avenue (near downtown).

Visit the Bring Back The Guns website. Listen to their music on MySpace. Read an article on the band here.

Advance warning: Don’t forget to make plans to attend Tody Castillo’s CD release show this Saturday night at Rudyard’s. Scattered Pages opens the show. This will be a great night of local music. More information on Castillo’s new CD coming soon.

Visit Tody Castillo’s website. Visit the Scattered Pages website.

Now Playing in My iPod: Various artists — I Hate It Here, I Never Want To Leave [Buy your copy here]

Tags: Music