Indian Jewelry are infamous for their frenzied live performances. The band got its start in Houston and has built a solid fan base as it honed its stripped-down, psychedelic sound. Formed in 2002 by Erika Thrasher and Tex Kerschen, the band is riding high on last year’s Free Gold and recent vinyl reissues of the band’s earlier work.
In anticipation of South By Southwest 2009, Indian Jewelry’s Tex Kerschen recently answered a few questions for Houston Calling:
Houston Calling: How did Indian Jewelry get started as a band?
Tex Kerschen: Erika and I started Indian Jewelry in 2002 as an offshoot of the Swarm of Angels and a continuation of music we had worked on in our older bands, Japanic and The Fever. It was then called NTX, ELECTRIC FUCK ALL, Perpetual War Party Band, and Corpses of Waco, among other things, but we bowed to the interests of poetry and national pride.
HC: What are you most looking forward to doing at this year’s SXSW?
TK: SXSW is a fine vacation for dogs like us. We go for breakfast tacos and to catch up with friends from around the country and for the feeling of immersion in music good and bad. If a few new people get wise to our ways this time around then so much the better.
HC: Free Gold got positive reviews. Are you pleased with how the album turned out and the response from fans and critics?
TK: We’re very happy with that record, as we are with all of the records we have made so far. We recorded it and mixed it ourselves in order that we could be the ones to decide when it was finished, so naturally it sounds great to us. It actually sounded even better before it was mastered, but that was our primary concession to our record label. The record’s critical reception has been hot and cold. It is something of a sleeper of a record, intended to grow on a listener over repeated listens rather than to hold hands with any current trends, and I think most people who have heard it are smart enough to figure that out. A few internet bedbugs have taken potshots at us, but that’s all part of the game. Our fans on the other hand, however few and far between they are, seem to like the record. But people are fickle so who knows.
HC: With the experience you’ve had over the past couple of years, what do you think many Houston bands (or “local” bands in general) do wrong when trying to get their music exposed? Once thing I noticed about Indian Jewelry as opposed to other local bands is that you guys got a national PR company involved. I think far too many Houston bands miss opportunities to get their music heard by a wider audience by basically putting out an album or EP and letting it basically die on the vine without any real promo. What was your experience with that? Do you have any advice or pointers to new bands or bands who want their music heard outside of their city?
TK: In the beginning we toured for years and we always did our own press. And truth be told we received a lot of good press even then, albeit from the kind of journalists who don’t wait for a master consensus when forming their opinions. Since then, our record label has hired a publicist, and that affords us more time to hang out at the dog park and more opportunities to be misquoted by ding-a-lings. More or less all the middlemen in the music world just do what most bands already do for themselves, but generally they have better lists of contacts. I don’t think Houston bands are doing anything wrong if you consider that there isn’t any pot of gold waiting for them at the end of the rainbow. Paying for promo is just another vanity unless you really want to go all in for a lifestyle that has dubious recommendations. Houston is an invisible city, and you get what you want out of this world. If you want to work in the shadows there is charm in that too. We wanted to tour and to hustle and to force our music into mostly deaf ears so we adapted our lives. We have been nomadic. We have lived with little income, almost no security, but only small amount of privation. It hasn’t been so bad, in fact it has been a fun education and at times a grand adventure, but it probably isn’t for everybody. A lot of bands like to make music and keep a regular life and comfort is its own reward. As far as we’ve seen, once any band leaves their practice hole they enter into a shitsling of a labyrinth made obscure by smoke and mirrors and dominated by the most inane examples of failed humanity imaginable. And I don’t mean bands, I mean their handlers. Music as a culture can be alternately exhilarating and degrading, but music as a business is a zero sum game.
HC: Your music is some of the most original to come out of Houston in a long time (in my opinion), and your live sets are something of legend around here. How do you approach the songwriting process — I assume it’s a collaborative process?
TK: Thanks. We just write music as it comes to us and then like anyone else we work and re-work it painstakingly. Songs have to feel like broken-in boots. As far as good original music in Houston, there’s a lot of it. Off the top of my head we’d have to point you to a lot of other people like our friends The Wiggins, Future Blondes, Twisted Wires, How I Quit Crack, Wicked Poseur, Concrete Violin, Balaclavas, Exterminating Angels, and A Thousand Cranes. And those are mostly our dogs.
HC: What are the band’s plans for 2009?
TK: We making a DVD of music videos. Travel. Work. Learning to cook new dishes. Mexico of the mind. Television and revision. Gaza handclaps. Poetry. Trucking.
HC: What are some of the bands you’re looking forward to seeing at this year’s SXSW?
TK: 2009 doesn’t look like much of a hype year, which is too bad for the douchebags, but it looks like a good year. Silver Apples. Genders. Celebration. The Wiggins. H.R. Band. Gardens. Clipd Beaks. Naked on the Vague. PJ Harvey. Jana Hunter. Primal Scream. Balaclavas. Mugu Guymen. Human Eye. Tyvek. White Mice. Future Blondes. Leslie Keffer. The Sonics. The Woggles. Dead Prez. These Are Powers. Daughters of the Sun. Pong. Andre Williams. Foot Patrol. Nite Jewel. Entrance Band. B L A C K I E. Jucifer. Drop the Lime. Edie Sedgwick.
Here’s a video of Indian Jewelry’s “Swans” (by Ivan Shumaker, Beggars Will Ride):
Indian Jewelry plays its official SXSW showcase on Saturday, 3.21.09, at the Dull Knife + Load Records showcase at The Independent (501 N IH 35) at midnight. The band also plays the following day parties: Thursday, 3.19.09: Todd P party @ Ms. Bea’s (9pm); Friday, 3.20.09: Holographic Resonance party @ Moose Lodge (5pm).
Visit Indian Jewelry online at www.swarmofangels.com/indianjewelry.html.