Just a few short years ago, I was a nerdy high schooler and Jimmy Bent was a cool, indie high schooler in a band named after my friend’s subdivision, Wilding Estates, playing house concerts that I was afraid to go to our of fear cops would break up the show and arrest me. He was a friend of a friend and we had an appreciation for music nobody else knew, so we followed each other on social media then graduated and went our separate ways. He founded a new band, Astragal, and joined a label, and I became a DJ and started going to house concerts. When we would find each other at the mall back home in Houston and update each other on our musical pursuits, we knew that, at some point, our paths would collide right here on the UTD campus. It’s been a long time coming but we finally filmed a Local Music Session with Astragal this weekend. Their music was loud and intricate with overflowing energy and passion for their sound. With my ears still ringing from the performance that will be released in September, I sat down with Jimmy, the guitarist and vocalist, David Sosa, the bassist, and Sam Enkelmann, the drummer, to talk about their new EP and what they’ve been up to down in Houston.
Radio: We are with the band Astragal at Radio UTD, sitting on the floor. How are y’all doing?
Jimmy: We’re doing pretty alright. We’re tired from the drive up here. We almost lost our minds but we’re still intact, right boys?
Radio: So you just released a split EP with what band?
Jimmy: Donna Hayward. They’re from Houston.
Sam: They’re freaking awesome.
Radio: Tell me a little bit more about that.
Jimmy: So we played a show with them in Houston at White Swan and we really dug their set. We kinda knew about them from the scene and came up to them and told them, “We want to do this with you” and they were like “Yes, we also want to do this.” It just made sense because we pull from the same influences but the output, the actual music, sounds completely different. It was a great process. We released it through Miss Champagne Records. We had a lot of friends do work on it. We had Jon Januhowsk do production. He does a lot of production in Houston. And Jonathan Mazaltov, he did the photography and design for the tape. It came out really well. It was a real communal effort on the Houston scene.
Radio: And you just had your album release show last night.
Jimmy: Yeah we did. At Walters. It was fun.
David: I cried a little bit right after. It blew me away.
Radio: Tell me about those influences.
David: I’m influenced by a heck of a lot of jazz. Straight from Jaco to Fusion to anything to Stanley Clarke. Or Wes Montgomery. And then I go to alternative to what name you. There’s a bunch of stuff like Chad VanGaalen, things that just throw you out the window.
Sam: I listen to a lot of King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard and then I also listen to a lot of Thee Oh Sees. Mostly King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard. That’s my favorite band.
Jimmy: I listen to everything on the Captured Tracks label so a lot of dream pop music. Beach Fossils, DIIV, a lot of shoegaze music, Slowdive – that’s my favorite. The Clientele. That’s like my favorite band of all time. A lot of jazz as well. Like David said, we listen to a lot of jazz. A lot of Bossa Nova music.
Radio: So who’s on the jazz scene now that you should listen to?
All: Kamasi Washington.
Radio: Are you all planning any other releases in the future?
Jimmy: Definitely. We were just discussing that over breakfast this morning.
David: Over some huevos rancheros.
Jimmy: And apple cinnamon pancakes.
David: We’re leaning towards sometime next year.
Sam: We have a bunch of ideas for a bunch of singles that we’re probably going to release over the course of the next year.
Jimmy: We really want to do a seven inch too.
Sam: And then hopefully, eventually, that all builds up to a record that we can get out.
Radio: You’re on a label right now. What are you doing with them?
Jimmy: We’re on Miss Champagne and it’s a label out of Houston. I think it started – maybe it’s two years now? There’s a lot of great Houston bands on there. Rose Ette, Tee Vee, Ruiners – they’re great. It’s run by a girl named Jessica. She’s really sweet and great.
Sam: It’s probably the best record label that could come out of Houston.
David: It’s mainly a cassette record label.
Jimmy: And they really like cats, which is a priority. Most Instagram photos have cats in the background.
David: They’re the easiest people to work with in Houston. They’re so supportive it’s ridiculous.
Sam: They get a lot of attention too. The show last night was actually mentioned in Free Press Houston so that was a lot of good publicity. We couldn’t really have done it without them.
Radio: Tell me about how you got together.
Sam: Can I do it? So I was really tired of playing drums by myself all the time. I was really antisocial and I was really bored of being antisocial. So I went on Craigslist and I decided to search through my options. I was kind of losing hope because most was metal vocalists needed and a lot of guitar players needed. And then I saw this little white light through the thick of it. And it said “Looking for a drummer who’s into indie music.” So I clicked on the ad. I sent him an email. This guy’s name is Adam. He sent me an email immediately back and said “Yeah, let’s jam.” So we jammed. And then Adam introduced me to David, to my right, our bass player, and us three jammed. And it was awkward. And then I met Jimmy at a Beach House show. We didn’t talk after that. And then I met him again at a DIIV show and he was like “Yeah dude, let’s jam.” I was like, “Yeah dude, I got some people I’m jamming with.” So then all four of us got together and then we all four started jamming. And then Adam had to bounce so RIP Adam. Much love. He actually lives here in Dallas. That was a year ago. David?
David: Man, those first jams. We all brought chips but we didn’t eat the chips. It’s like you’re bringing a ceremonial thing there. You know, people bring like small dolls made of rice or corn or whatever you name it.
Jimmy: I think we knew that we wanted to play together when we all agreed that Sonic Youth is like the greatest band ever.
Sam: That’s pretty accurate.
Radio: That was kind of like when you ask a couple, “How did you guys meet?” There is always one person who is like, “I’ll take it from here.”
David: We have weird relationships.
Jimmy: It’s so strange because we all didn’t know each other but we connect so well. We haven’t had a big fight or anything. We have our moments.
Sam: We fought over Mexican food once.
Jimmy: That was hilarious. But after a while we just start laughing at each other. Like it’s awkward silence and then we start laughing. Like, “I love you guys. This is great.”
David: It’s because we didn’t start off as friends. I’ve had so many friends, mates, who had friends who started jamming and really had something going and then they just dissipate. But meeting in such an obscure way out of different connections… I somehow knew both of them. I knew Sam’s cousin and my girlfriend knew Jimmy.
Sam: We actually were talking about this yesterday. We have a long period of time where we don’t write music or we keep rehashing the same set, may change a couple things, just perfect it. And then we get inspired by something, like a piece of corn, and then we’ll all be really hyped and like, “let’s make something new.” And then we’ll go and make it. We don’t have a set songwriter. We all provide our own parts. We tell each other if it’s good or bad. Give each other ideas of how we’re thinking a song should go and for the most part we agree.
Jimmy: We’re very honest with each other. Things just come out too sometimes. A lot of the songs we’ve written that we love they just kinda happened.
Sam: We were in North Carolina and we just went for a really nice hike. It was beautiful. And then we got back and literally just vomited a new song. It’s probably our best song.
Jimmy: And usually when I’m not with them, when I’m on my own, I write a bunch of pop songs. Like four chords, really like Blondie-esque. But then they come along and help me rearrange things.
Radio: Do you guys have any fun stories from touring or playing shows?
Sam: Our first show ever was at this place in Houston called Super Happy Fun Land. And if you don’t know what that is, you should google it. It’s a trip. It’s a piece of art. It’s scary but in the most beautiful way possible. We had just got done playing and it actually went pretty good. We were unloading stuff and Jimmy over here, he saw this guy running down the road with one of those ankle bracelets. He was just sprinting down the road, cursing and yelling and he was really frantic. It was going off. It was red. And then a minute after he had ran down the block, two cop cars came speeding by.
Jimmy: He was trying to cross the road to where I was because his bike was on the other side. He was staring me down. He was like “Hey! Man! That’s my bike! Gimmie my bike!” But I didn’t know what he was saying, really. It didn’t click in my mind until later on I was like, “Oh wait. Bike. Guy with ankle bracelet staring at me. Oh! That was his.
Sam: Houston is just weird like that. We played a show in Galveston at this place called Drunken Monkey. It was funny because it was all these middle aged people coming to us and telling us to play covers of 70’s rock songs. We played our first song and it was kind of noisy and annoying and this lady yelled out “I don’t like them.” We all started laughing and then we played louder and tried to make it weirder.
Radio: Is there anything coming out of the Houston scene that we should keep an eye out for?
Jimmy: You should keep an eye out for El Lago. I don’t even know what to say. They blow my mind every time I see them. It’s literally the most gorgeous music I’ve ever heard. It’s close to when I saw Slowdive. A little bit close. They’re beautiful people too.
Sam: Rose Ette, of course Donna Hayward, then our buds in a band called Talking Forever. They’re some of our best buds. They’re currently on tour right now. I hope they’re ok.
David: Listen to Bono.
Sam: A good project out of Houston is Beyoncé.