The Rocks Off 200: Steven Higginbotham, Hard-Working Wheel Worker

Welcome to The Rocks Off 200, our portrait gallery of the most compelling profiles and personalities in the far-flung Houston music community -- a lot more than just musicians, but of course they're in there too. See previous entries in the Rocks Off 100 at this link.

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Photos courtesy of Steven Higginbotham
Who? Steven Higginbotham leads the vocals and strums the guitar in The Wheel Workers, who stay on top of their game by expertly crafting an endless series of indie earworms. Seriously, I think I've listened to "Chemicals" four times in a row, and you simply cannot get enough of its warm quirkiness. Higginbotham feels like a reborn avatar from the best moments of the early alternative scene, and brings a smile to the face of all who hear his plaintive voice.

He started on his path in the fourth grade with piano lessons and later the violin before teaching himself to play the guitar. Dedicating to the instrument took him away from the world of classical music and more in a rock direction, and he started writing his own material. He spent time in Austin as part of The Wheel Works, but brought the sequel to that band, if you will, back home to H-Town in 2005. Since then, you can find him and his colleagues consistently involved wherever good music is needed.

One of the things that define Higginbotham outside of his obvious talent is the incredible energy he brings to his enterprise. He writes almost all of the material, records most of it, and makes a light show/video projection for every song the Wheel Workers do live. Being in a band is far more effort than most people realize.

At the moment they are working with producer Dan Workman on a vinyl release of their last album, Past to Present, which will be released in late winter/early spring. The album will feature several remixes and new tracks, and a third full-length album is about halfway done. Look for it as early as summer 2014.


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Home Base: Higginbotham maintains a studio in his home that the Wheel Workers rehearse in, and it serves as his personal artistic sanctuary. When the time comes to play live, he prefers Fitzgerald's for the sound and ample room, not to mention a long history of support for his work.


Good War Story: "Well, we have been pretty fortunate overall," says Higginbotham. "But recently we played a gig where we got pushed into starting our set way before we were ready. Our monitors weren't working, or were blasting us with feedback, the keyboards weren't even on in the PA. It was pretty terrible.

"We ended up making comedic verbal sound effects through the mikes to replace the nonexistent keyboards," he continues. "The crowd seemed to enjoy it, so it wasn't a total loss."


Why Do You Stay in Houston? "Friends and family mostly," admits Higginbotham. "Plus, we feel at home in the local scene."


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Five Desert Island Discs:

  • The Flaming Lips, Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots
  • Iron and Wine, Endless Numbered Days
  • Wye Oak, Civilian
  • Sonic Youth, Daydream Nation
  • Fleet Foxes, Helplessness Blues


Best Show You've Ever Played: "Free Press Summer Fest 2012," picks Higginbotham. "We got to play the same stage the same day as the Flaming Lips. Amazing."


First Song You Fell in Love With: "No idea. Probably the Beatles, 'Yellow Submarine,'" he says. "I remember singing that a lot when I was a kid."


Jef has a new story, a tale of headless strippers and The Rolling Stones, available now in Broken Mirrors, Fractured Minds. You can also connect with him on Facebook.


The Wheel Workers play the Continental Club, 3700 Main, Friday, January 10, with Kenny the Spider, Spain Colored Orange, and the Voltage Drop. See the rest of the Rocks Off 200, and the Rocks Off 100's 2013 alumni, on the next page.



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