Houston Calling

Arthur Yoria CD release show, interview

May 17th, 2007 · No Comments

This Saturday (5.19.07), local musician Arthur Yoria celebrates the release of his new album, Handshake Smiles, with a CD release show at Rudyards at 11pm. Local bands Spain Colored Orange (12am) and Southern Backtones (8pm) are also on the bill.

I recently asked Yoria a few questions, some of which appear in the May issue of Envy magazine. If you can’t wait until Saturday to get your copy–or would rather just have a digital copy–you can buy Handshake Smiles online now at Yoria’s MySpace page.

[photo by brandon holley]

Interview: Arthur Yoria

HC: Over the years, I’ve seen you play everything from sidewalk gigs to big shows in clubs around town, and I have seen many musicians struggle to pay bills if they choose not to have a day job. How has your opinion on what it means to be a working musician in Houston changed (or has it) in the time between I’ll Be Here Awake and your most recent releases?

Yoria: Unless you’re playing country, blues, jazz, or covers, it’s a tough racket as a performer in this city; no question. I took a little time off from the “guarantee” circuit while working on the new record but I’m ready to start making the endless number of phone calls to the few establishments in Houston that will pay singer/songwriters to play their own material. Honestly, I try not to spend too much time and effort on analyzing the scene; there’s too much work to do. I will say, however, that it seems as though there are less places that actually pay well than there were back in 2004. Oh yeah, there are always private parties and events; those usually pay well if you can deal with being sonic wallpaper for an hour or so.

HC: At one show last year (Engine Room), you said something to the crowd like, “I’d rather play to 20 good ones than 100 idiots.” It’s obvious what you meant, but I’m curious to what you think when you see seemingly apathetic crowds.

Yoria: It can be challenging to say the least. But at this point, i’ve stopped trying to figure it out. As a performer, that kind of an obstacle makes me work harder to make a connection with the room and that’s always a good exercise.

HC: What can you tell me about the making of Handshake Smiles? It’s a vastly different set of songs from your previous work — I get a real sense of classic rock influence (in a good way — I’m a fan of classic rock as well). I’m glad you chose to mix it up a bit in terms of just doing the same thing you’ve done before. Was that your intention?

Yoria: It was fun times working on this one. We did the record at my friend, George Easterly’s house using a decent mic that Tody [Castillo] let us borrow. Every instrument was recorded using just that one mic, including the drums. This time around, I wasn’t interested in getting a “big rock” sound. Go back and listen to some of the old Kinks records and you’ll notice that there isn’t much double tracking going on and the drums aren’t really in your face but the tunes still rock your face off; it’s all composition and arrangement.

The new direction has everything to do with the band that i’ve been playing with (Matt Taylor, Mike Poulos and Ron Segura). With very little direction, this is simply what happens to a song when I bring it to a rehearsal with these guys. Classic Rock? Yeah sure. What’s not to love about Classic Rock? It makes me want to have a good time.

HC: Do you record at home a lot or do you prefer working in a studio?

Yoria: Catch-22. Recording at home usually involves a relaxed atmosphere, convenience, more time to re-do things or re-think things but the potential down-side is also all of the above. I’m down with either.

HC: How has digital technology changed the way you make your music (or has it)?

Yoria: Editing in ProTools is always fun. Song structure can change, parts can stay and go, etc. There’s less pressure to get it right, I suppose, which could be a bad thing. Good questions, smarty pants.

HC: Are you worried about illegal downloads or do you support sharing music?

Yoria: Not yet. But if I put out a record on my own and suddenly everyone has it but didn’t pay for it then I sure hope that the “buzz” generated by the record would lead to other sources of income otherwise I’d be screwed, right?

HC: You tell some interesting stories in some of the songs on Handshake Smiles. Even the title track–and this is my interpretation and I could be wrong–seems to be about a struggling musician having to go out and kiss ass to play and get the bills paid.

Yoria: In “Handshake Smiles,” I’m acknowledging both sides of the coin — getting high with friends and laughing about all the crap is wonderful, making love with your partner is wonderful, but chances are you have to get up and and go earn an honest buck and some of us even have to go do things like catering to make ends meet. Easy gig, but I hated it.

HC: If forced to pick one, what song would you say you’re most proud of off the new album? And why?

Yoria: “Rim Job.” It’s in an alternate tuning and that’s a rare approach for me. I’m so relieved that it worked out. Lyrically, it starts off on a very base sexual level, hence the title, and then it turned into a kind of socio-political statement regarding gender. Women are smarter and stronger than us and even though I wish it were the other way around, I can’t help but to love them. Also, it still makes me do a little air guitar when I hear it.

HC: You’ve done a better job than probably anyone in Houston of getting your music heard outside the region, including The O.C. contest, etc. Do you have any ideas on improving how Houston musicians are viewed outside of the city/state?

Yoria: Hip Hop is definitely giving us (Houston) a much-needed facelift right now. So before anything else, let’s just take a minute and be thankful for that. Imagine if it was another Nickelback or something that was putting us on the map?

Houston rock needs either better songwriters or more outrageous characters that don’t give a shit. Both types have a tendency to garner national attention.

Thanks to Arthur for taking the time to answer these questions. Be sure to come out to Rudyards this Saturday night (5.19.07) for Arthur’s CD release show for Handshake Smiles.

Tags: Music

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