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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The Rocks Off 200: Phil Peterson, AR*V All-Star

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 Phil Peterson
Phil Peterson outside Houston House of Creeps
Who? Rocks Off wouldn't say we know Phil Peterson that well, but we do know that he is one of the most unique personalities we've come across in our seven-plus years of covering the Houston music scene. Every time we run into him, which is at roughly every third concert where at least one local act is on the bill, Peterson is there and usually brimming with enthusiasm about one of the upcoming shows he's promoting.

So local musicians and bands, Peterson is a good guy to know, because he is a better conduit into the local scene than just about anyone else in town. Through his AR*V company, he promotes shows at grass-roots venues like Notsuoh and the Alley Kat, places that are (thanks to him) willing to take a chance on experimental or just inexperienced acts. He also has a hand in booking the heavily local multi-act/multi-venue festivals that have appeared in recent years such as the Main Street Block Party and Yes Indeed!, which relocates to the Continental Club/Big Top/Alley Kat Mid-Main compound next month.


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The Rocks Off 200: John Janatsch, Mayor of Houston Rock City

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 John Janatsch
That's Janatsch on the right
Who? We're never quite sure just how much our inner-Loop readers are aware of this, but people out in suburbia like to party. Like, you might catch a wicked cabernet buzz in the Heights once in a while or need a cab after a few craft beers too many at Hay Merchant, but out in the 281 some people don't stop until losing control of their bodily functions. Sadly, we just can't handle that shit anymore, which is why it's so nice to have people like John Janatsch Jr. around.

Janatsch, 45, is our man on Jones Road, and calls into the office every so often to let us know what is going down at BFE Rock Club, pound for pound our choice for the hardest-rocking venue in the Houston area. Some of its neighbors up north give it a pretty good run for the money sometimes, but BFE also tosses in a wrestling night here and there, so it's really not that close.


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The Rocks Off 200: Frank Ortiz, Synth-Pop Served Perfectly Frank

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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Frank Ortiz
Who? I've said it before and will say it again; Houston has an electronica scene that never gets anywhere near the recognition that it deserves: Bang Bangz, BLSHS and now I hear Asmodeus X is back on the move. Now you can add Frank Ortiz, who goes by the simple frank., to the list.

Ortiz cut his teeth on a Casio MT-500 he got for Christmas. His dad showed him the C, F and G chords, and he taught himself the rest. When technology improved, he teamed with some friends to form Paul Lynde is Dead (PLID) for live performances, but since that act petered out he has dedicated himself to writing solo.

Ortiz released the single "alibi" earlier this year, and hopes to have his first EP ready by September. He's currently working with Thomas Brigman on some collaborative synth-pop, and if his current work is any indication it's going to be good stuff.


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The Rocks Off 200: Optimo Ram, Online Radio Jefe

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 Optimo Ram
Who? "If it ain't local, it ain't live!" That is the mantra of Ramsey Allred, better known in the community as Ram -- Optimo Radio's chief, founder and CEO. His father was a record store owner from Port Arthur and his mother is a fourth-generation Houstonian.

"I grew up in my dad's record store, All Records, and got an appreciation for music at an early age," says Ram.

He fell in love with Houston rap after discovering the Geto Boys, then a friend opened up a freestyle studio in King's Flea Market when he was 15, which led him into rapping. "I was a rapper for a while, like everyone else in Houston, and once the idea of the radio was presented, I decided to quit rapping and play a position," he explains.


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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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