The Rocks Off 200: Mlee Marie Mains, the Heart of Hearts of Animals
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.
Who? Another Mutation is a funny title for Hearts of Animals' third full-length album. No two of its lo-fi, sweet but melancholy songs are quite the same, but all are recognizably the work of the young woman who offstage goes by the name of Mlee Marie Mains. Mlee/Hearts of Animals (pronounced "Emily" and "Hearts of Animals") has been a dependable presence in Houston's indie scene since 2007, when just about every music-loving site in town including this one flipped its collective wig over her self-released short LP/extended EP Lemming Baby.
Photos courtesy of Hearts of Animals
Driven by the almost country-ish "Hearts Break" (hard not to think of Mazzy Star's Hope Sandoval on that one) and Casio-punk "Lostinthetranslation," Lemming was eventually remastered and released on iTunes last February. In the interim, Mlee recorded and released a second album, Cave Lights, in 2009. (That one is only available on Bandcamp, she says.)
She has also collaborated and guested live with a host of locals -- including a notable lead vocal on "Rust," from Linus Pauling Quartet's 2012 LP Bag of Hammers -- as Hearts of Animals has grown from a frequent solo act to a full-fledged band now also featuring her brother Joey.
A second-generation Houstonian who plays a number of instruments (sax, keys, guitar), Mlee was one of those kids who was cooler than you growing up, because her parents -- both local musicians themselves, whom she says were in a rock band through most of her childhood -- took her to shows like Cyndi Lauper, Big Audio Dynamite, Nirvana (jealous!) and lots more.
"This influenced me greatly as I wanted to be on the stage performing music like these guys and girls," Mlee says. "Sometimes we would play in a family band for friends' parties. I'm glad my brother and I are in a band together now; it means a lot to me."
Another Mutation was released earlier this month and is easily as endearing and wistful as Lemmings, if not moreso. It's hard to pick a favorite, but after a couple of listens we're drawn to the Breeders-like rocker "Money For That" and the power-pop goodness of "Jesus Drug." Mlee and the rest of Hearts of Animals are throwing a release party for Mutation tomorrow night at Rudz with her good friends and occasional collaborators Young Mammals. It's a free show, by the way.
Good War Story: "[I] almost got kicked out of the Proletariat for sneaking a drink from my flask behind the stage," she remembers, "and also for letting Cley of the Young Mammals have a swig of whiskey -- he was underage at the time."
Why Do You Stay In Houston? "I stay in Houston for many reasons," she says. "It is my home. I have no money or job offers to allow me to move anywhere else. I like Houston. I like the people and the food and even the weather!
"New York is too stressful and L.A. is cool but really expensive," she adds. "Anywhere else doesn't seem interesting to me!"
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