The Rocks Off 200: Meagan Chambers, Don't Gag Her Gorgeous Guitar

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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Betsy Baker
Who? Gag Me, I'm Gorgeous is one of those bands that makes me sad I don't run a column on band names anymore because the name alone is thing of beauty. Over and above that, they have a unique sound that is truly difficult to describe -- a mixture of incomprehensible metal growls and progressive changes, mixed with a style of alternative rock almost like the Breeders. It honestly might be a bit too much, even for a city like Houston that breeds musical madmen like others raise dachshunds.

Part of that genius is Meagan Chambers, whose guitar style compares to everyone from Robert Smith to Tom Morello. She started out life as a band nerd playing the trumpet, but picked up the guitar in high school at the behest of a Bible study teacher who taught her hymns on an acoustic.


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The Rocks Off 200: Justin Nava, the Voice of thelastplaceyoulook

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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Photo by Marco Torres
Justin Nava with thelastplaceyoulook at Warehouse Live in July 2012
Who? It's hard to believe that it's been eight freakin' years since Justin Nava started thelastplaceyoulook, but it's true. He's one of the hardest-working men in all of Houston music, always on the go and showing up where you least expect him. He also has a voice like a pagan god, and we are lucky to have him.

Right now TLPYL is going through changes. Guitarist Derek Young is moving on, and thelastplaceyoulook plans to proceed as a four-piece. The space he formally occupied in the creative process is to be filled by more programming from Nava, who says he's excited to see where that takes him. Again nominated for Best Modern/Alternative Rock this year, the band has graciously agreed to perform at this year's Houston Press Music Awards concert August 7 at Warehouse Live. In addition, Nava is pursuing an acoustic solo act, restarting his old project Black Sex, and working on remixes with BLSHS. Busy guy.


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The Rocks Off 200: Donnie Houston, Halftime Entertainment

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 by Marco Torres
Donnie Houston during an interview with D-Solo of "Street Flava."
Who? Donnie Houston is a producer and DJ who, fittingly, was born and raised in Houston. This Houston Press Music Awards nominee (Best Producer) was first introduced to music by his mother and older sister, who played him all the music from their eras -- Sam Cooke, Otis Redding, Bobby Womack, Marvin Gaye, Aretha Franklin and other legends of the '60s and '70s from Mama Houston; Donnie's older sister chimed in with '80s hip-hop.

"I actually remember her going to the store with me and buying my first rap cassette," he says of Run-DMC's Tougher Than Leather album. "It's because of those influences that I eventually started DJing in around the year 2000 and later picked up producing in 2006."


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The Rocks Off 200: Chase Harris, Deep Cuts' Rather Deep Thinker

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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Photo by Lauren Holshouser
Who? Props to Deep Cuts' Chase Harris. Not only does he have a pretty astute bead on what goes on around the Houston music scene (as far as we can tell), he's the first person we've asked to join the Rocks Off 100/200 to give us five Desert Island Discs we've never heard of. He's also solved the mystery of Cat Power's odd behavior at Free Press Summer Fest 2013 for us. Well played, sir.

Harris' right-hand man in in the two-year-old group (a current HPMA Best Pop Act nominee) is his best friend/co-founder/collaborator Zach Alderman, with whom he's been tight since the two were four years old. If their band name somehow isn't a clue, Harris says he's been into music since about that age as well.

"I've loved music since I was a kid," Harris says. "My parents said when I was little I would go nuts listening to CCR's 'Susie Q.'"


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The Rocks Off 200: Dave Callier, Grindcore Guitar God

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 by Stanislav Smrcak
Who? If you're at all interested in Texas' extreme-metal scene, you're going to run into Dave Callier at some point. A total sucker for unchecked speed and aggression, the guitarist serves as the front man for P.L.F., Houston's thrashiest international grindcore export.

The band just recently returned from a 32-date European tour promoting their new LP Ultimate Whirlwind of Incineration that took them from Barcelona to Moscow and every weird little hamlet in between. But one band could never be enough to contain all of Callier's hyperspeed riffs and mucous-burbling shrieks. He also fronts the speedy local death-metal standouts Oath of Cruelty and shreds brutally in the long-running blackened death outfit Morbosidad. If it's loud, fast and heavy, he's into it.


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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.

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Photos courtesy of Hearts of Animals
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.

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.


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The Rocks Off 200: DJ Navo, Bombón's Boundless Body-Mover

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 by Marco Torres
Who? Alex Nava is the fair-eyed, jovial member of the Bombón Houston crew, born and raised here in Houston. His father moved here from Maracaibo, Venezuela in the '70s and his mother came to Houston from Halmstad, Sweden in the '80s.

"Musically, my mom had an ear for everything from salsa and hip-hop to R&B and soul," says Nava. "My dad would usually listen to popular salsa and Spanish singer-songwriter music. My older brother by six years [Justin Nava of thelastplaceyoulook] was involved in the Houston music scene at a young age and still is today. I grew up going to his bands' practice sessions to just hang out and listen."

It wasn't until Alex heard Squincy Jones' "Nintendub" album that he learned about Houston's DJ scene, which led to him attending the infamous Speakerboxx parties at the Mink/Backroom back in 2009. That's when he decided he wanted to DJ and produce music for the dance floor. He became DJ Navo.


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The Rocks Off 200: Breelan Angel, Dirty Little Secret Keeper

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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Photo by Todd Purifoy/courtesy of Spindrift Media & Entertainment
Who? If there's one thing the Texas Country scene needs, it's more women. For example, on this week's Texas Music Chart, the Top 30 is all dudes, all the way down to No. 34. (Take a bow, Tori Martin's Done Deal). Even pro-sports locker rooms let in lady reporters.

Born and raised in Baytown, Breelan Angel is doing her best to change that. She decided to pursue a career in country music during her sophomore year at Southern Methodist University in Dallas, crediting vocal coach Tom McKinney and manager Jake McKim with helping her seal the deal. After a handful of singles ("Halfway to Wasted," "It's My Turn," "Double Standards") dating back to last summer, last week Angel released her debut album, Dirty Little Secrets. She reckons it to be a "good reflection of both Texas and mainstream country"; Angel is right, except her presence in the ranks improves both brands by no small number of degrees.

Angel can send a guy's cheatin' ass packing in a big-time weeper ("She Made Your Bed"), or sit at the bar and shoot trash-talk at the hussy across the room with lines like "honey, trash is as trash does" on "Walk of Shame." Double the twang on an average song from Kacey Musgraves' beloved Same Trailer, Different Park, and you've got Secrets' title track. Pay attention to this one.


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The Rocks Off 200: Michael Dauzat Sr., a Rabbi and a Hate

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 Michael Dauzat
Who? There are several truisms in Houston music. Everybody knows somebody who will tell you they were there when the second floor of Fitzgerald's collapsed. Little Joe Washington is effectively immortal. And if you play punk bass or drums in Houston long enough, you will eventually be a member of The Hates. Just ask their current bassist, Michael Dauzat.

Dauzat picked up an old electric guitar that had been a gift to his older brother and was abandoned when he left home. He figured that it was now his by default, drove a couple of nails directly into the box and neck, tied a piece of rope to them for a strap and set about walking around outside blissfully playing his heart out. Embarrassed, his father shelled out some cash to upgrade Dauzat to a Yamaha FG-340 II. He still has it, along with the pick he got with it from H&H Music.

While stationed with the army in the late '80s, Dauzat began jamming punk rock and metal with some other musically minded buddies. He wasn't terribly great, but it was fun. After returning to Houston and living here for a couple of decades (during which he became a rabbi among other things, no joke), he happened to be walking a treadmill next to Christian Kidd. Having remembered Kidd from shows before he left for the army, Dauzat walked past and said, "Hates rule!" The two eventually became close friends.


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The Rocks Off 200: Nick Greer, a G Among G's

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Photos by Marco Torres
Who? Nick Greer, the bespectacled, shaggy-haired front man of Nick Greer and the G's describes himself as a self-taught keyboard player who genuinely loves his instrument and is always ready and willing to learn more. As a kid, the brand-new multiple 2014 Houston Press Music Award nominee suffered with severe asthma, and spent many nights in the hospital. One such night, around Christmastime, his mother got him a keyboard.

He fell in love instantly.


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