The Rocks Off 200: We Were Wolves, Howlers at the Moon Tower

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 Mark C. Austin
Who? This here digital chat with We Were Wolves marks the end of an era. It's No. 200 in the Rocks Off 200. (Collect 'em all.) We wanted to close out with a bang, or a roar, or a howl, so we asked a band that could oblige us on all three counts. The Wolves make music that is sweaty, greasy, grooving, in-your-face and really fuckin' loud.

Most recently, WWW (dot awesome) were one of the standouts of last weekend's Yes, Indeed festival; after their late-night set at the Continental, it's a wonder the club didn't have to order all-new glassware. We remember catching them early on upstairs at the old Mink, so long ago they might still have lived in Beaumont. Rest assured, they're still up to their wicked ways on Wolf House, the second full-length LP they released last December.


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The Rocks Off 200: Melissa Lonchambon Ryan, Omotai's Mistress of Metal

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 Denniz James Polk
Who? Melissa Lonchambon Ryan is one of the main arteries that the blood of Houston music flows through. Currently she's the bassist for Omotai, who released the spine-throttling EP Fresh Hell back in February on Treaty Oak Collective, but that's just a fraction of who she's been in the scene.

The child of musical parents, Ryan started early. Her dad was in the Little Singers of Paris (similar to the Vienna Boys' Choir) when he was a kid, performing all around the world. Piano lessons, saxophone in the school band, but it was in summer vacations during middle school that her true path was laid out when she watched MTV's 120 Minutes and Headbanger's Ball. Her envy of an older brother who played guitar in a band sealed the deal, and Ryan forged ahead in groups like Pop Deflation, Lucky Motors, Panic in Detroit, Sharks and Sailors and Peloton.

Omotai has just returned from a jaunt out West, including Total Fest in Missoula, Mt. Now busy writing material for their fourth release, the band welcomed Jamie Ross aboard a year ago and has been drawing on Shiner, Russian Circles, and Breather Resist in their newer songs, says Ryan. We'll be looking forward to it.


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The Rocks Off 200: Joshua Allan Vargas, Metal-Video Maestro

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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Joshua Allan Vargas in this Fox 26 News clip
Who? Regular readers will recognize Joshua Allan Vargas as the visionary filmmaker bringing the story of Houston's greatest monster, Dean Corll, to the silver screen in the upcoming In a Madman's World. Making movies has been his dream since he was a kid, and one of the best ways to stay in shape and generate revenue is to make music videos.

Vargas has become a highly on demand hand on the camera for some pretty big names. He's worked with Philip H. Anselmo and the Illegals, Down, Soil, Oceans of Slumber and God's of Death Screw, among others. He's a master of capturing a band's performance energy, whether onstage or on location. Vargas is a huge supporter of both the local and national metal scenes, and sees crafting music videos as a way to be involved that doesn't come with the hassle of having a band himself.


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The Rocks Off 200: Tim Ruiz, La Mafia's Master of Technics

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Photo courtesy of Tim Ruiz
Who? Member of Grammy-winning Tejano band La Mafia, bassist Tim Ruiz has been creating music in this city for the better part of two decades. A top advocate for the local live-music scene with an emphasis on live jazz, Ruiz is the the creative mind behind the new Jazz Scene Houston page on Facebook and Twitter.


Home Base: "My home base will always be Houston," swears Ruiz, who is given to exclamation points. "La Mafia rehearses and records at Urbana Studios in the Near Northside, formerly known as Houston Sound Studios. For my personal projects, Jazz Technics and funk/soul band SoulDig, I write and rehearse in my home studio in the heart of the First Ward just north of Downtown. We play at The Flat monthly."

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The Rocks Off 200: Jessica Perry, the Spice in Vanilla Sugar

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 Lloyd Hendricks/Courtesy of Jessica Perry
Who? Jessica Perry is a busy musician whose talent and ambition is too large for just one city, even if it is her beloved hometown. She sings, plays keys and samples for the all-girl, alt-electro-pop band Vanilla Sugar, as well as synth and backup-vocal duties for industrial-metallists ERASETHEVIRUS.

Perry also tickles the ivories for local R&B/pop singer Jess Walker, and when she can, grabs her guitar and heads west on I-10 to shred for San Antonio's Langton Drive.

She's been playing music since age four, including an array of instruments she says she has yet to work into an act: trumpet, French horn and bass guitar. With only a finite number of hours in a day, Perry has to save some time for other pursuits, like modeling, photography and videography. She and her team at MotionArts have not only shot videos for local bands, but recently released the full-length movie Mixed Emulsions.


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The Rocks Off 200: Handsomebeast, Silver Jeans Starchildren

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 Handsomebeast
Who? Handsomebeast, who have been kicking around Houston venues like Notsuoh full-time since 2013, strike us as one of the most likely bands in town to describe themselves as a "collective." As heard on their album Estilo Gacho (stream it here via Bandcamp), theirs is a sound created by serious musos whose principal purpose is to get people to move; the music made by these self-admitted "space-rock bump-n-grinders" has the side effect of sounding like it's coming from a lot more people than there actually are. But at the moment the band is made up of only four human beings, who by their own admission are tapped into some pretty universal shit.

"We strive to make music that can cause ripples of emotion in the brains of fellow humans," an HB spokesman explains by email. "Being our strongest and most meaningful connection to the universe and its natural mystic power, music influences our lives in such a way that we produce our own sounds and collection of frequencies for others to hear and experience. We like to share."

Whoa...pass some of that over here, please. Currently Handsomebeast is a finalist in the "Battle of the Bands" contest sponsored by the Silver Jeans Co. and FADER magazine, competing for a chance to win a trip to New York to record a demo and 500 "vinyls" of said demo that will be sold in Silver Jeans stores nationwide, plus a writeup in FADER. Voting ends Friday night, and due to some kind of glitch earlier this week, HB is running second behind some L.A. outfit. Won't you help 'em out by voting here?


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The Rocks Off 200: Silver Blueberry, Garage Days Revisited

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 Silver Blueberry
Who? The Houston scene got a little groovier (man) earlier this spring with the arrival of Silver Blueberry's Twin Reverberation, one of 2014's more appealing and tuneful local debuts. Chunky and riffy in spots, fragrant and meandering in others, to us it recalls the Paisley Underground, the largely L.A.-based subclass of '80s college-rock that attempted to cross-breed the Byrds' swirling jangle-pop with the Velvet Underground's garagey art-rock.

Some groups were more successful than others, but Dream Syndicate, Green on Red and the Long Ryders continue to have their share of admirers, and the Bangles were loosely associated with the movement before they found their way onto the pop charts and started walking like Egyptians.

Anyhow, like the Breeders, Bee Gees and Tegan and Sara before them, Silver Blueberry features a set of twins, Tyson Rinker and his brother Shaun. The Houston natives have been musicians for most of their adult lives -- "to sit with my guitar, ponder my thoughts, and write songs has always been my favorite way to escape," Tyson affirms -- but didn't join forces until late 2012, after he admits both of them realized "forming a band with like-minded, compatible people was difficult to do."


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The Rocks Off 200: DJ Squincy Jones, "If It Jams, I Play It!"

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Photo by Marco Torres
Who? Shane Rector is Houston born and raised, and has been DJing under the name of Squincy Jones in the city for about 14 years. "I came up playing Aerosol Warfare parties, RockBox, Speakerboxx, Raise It Up, and Gritsy," he says. "If it jams, I play it!"


Home Base? The Arcade, aka his "sad" apartment studio. He is currently trying to level up in Ableton.

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The Rocks Off 200: DJ B*Ryte, From VA to H-Town With Love

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 DJ B*Ryte
Who? Megan Bowie can flip her look on a dime. When she's not working in local television, she's DJ B*Ryte, a mixer who's found her home on multiple stages across the globe, but more recently on KBXX 97.9 The Box. She has a knack for bringing grooves together without being "sloppy" (in the words of OG Ron C) and has crafted plenty a late-night mix for listeners, not to mention break tracks from local artists and national mixtape cuts that usually take months to even arrive to some listeners.

Her arrival to Houston just five months ago didn't come without its fair share of detours. Bowie learned her craft at age 16 after entering college at Virginia's Hampton University.

"I had never been to a party or club before," she says, reflecting on the moment when she knew. "And when you're in college, you can use your college ID to get into everything -- regardless of how old you are because they assume you are at least 18. I remember going to my first party and looking at the DJ and watching the crowd.

"It was like, Okay, this one person is responsible for hundreds and hundreds, sometimes thousands of people's happiness. You have the ability to either make or break their night."

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The Rocks Off 200: Jess Walker, the Pride of Pride Houston

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 Hussain Najeeb
Who? Since 2012 Jess Walker has been slowly but steadily making a name for herself in pop music. Her voice is a potent combination of R&B/soul mixed with the high-energy electro-pop that Houston used to manufacture so well. It's standard dance floor fare, sure, but Walker has a penchant for classic production sounds that sets her apart from the flavor-of-the-day crowd. There's a difference between tricks and techniques, and Walker is the latter.

"Steady Pace," her most notable hit at the moment, is the best example of that skill. Walker wrote it for Venice: The Series, which was featured on the most recent Daytime Emmy Awards. The attention has her planning to jet out to Los Angeles for a fan event for the show and perform for the Hollywood crowd. She's become a true Houston pop export.


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