Eight years ago, Steven Garcia, the vocalist/guitarist of Houston punk trio Something Fierce, lived in an apartment complex where there was a mysterious van covered in punk band stickers always sitting in the parking lot. One day, he figured out to whom it belonged -- Nikki Sevven (yes, a jab at Motley Crue bassist Nikki Sixx).
It turned out that Sevven played bass, and she and Garcia began working on some songs together. A few months later, they met drummer Andrew Keith -- “a friend of a friend who was always at the same parties as us,” says Garcia -- and Something Fierce was born.
“We started really young -- not just in age, but experience,” says Garcia. “We spent a lot of time just figuring out how to be band, learning to write together. That took about three years.”
They started with their shared love for late-1970s British punk acts like The Clash, Buzzcocks and Wire, and 1990s Berkeley ska-punk revivalists Operation Ivy. The three tapped into these bands’ energy and urgency, while adding a lively pop element. When the trio wasn’t busy playing basement parties and other D.I.Y. venues across Houston and holding down day jobs in the coffee industry, Garcia spent his time honing his songwriting skills.
“I decided at an early age that I’d never write love songs,” he says. “Most are really boring. I think it’s possible to write songs that sound like love songs but have more meaningful lyrics.”
That’s what Don’t Be So Cruel, the band’s third album, does best -- it creates a synergy between politically-conscious lyrics and irresistible hooks and melodies. The band wears its love for the Clash proudly on the jangling, reggae-flavored “Ghosts Of Industry,” a tune about the exploited and forgotten laborers of Juarez, Mexico’s notorious work camps.
But Something Fierce never crams its politics down your throat -- Garcia’s sense of humor especially shines on the playful anthem “Future Punks.”
“In ‘80s dystopian future movies, there are always future punks,” says Garcia about the song, which was inspired by movies like Repo Man and RoboCop. “They’re always raising hell or robbing a supermarket.”
“It turns out I’m the kinda person who really likes listening to the same crash cymbal for an hour. I love the moment when I finally stumble upon the perfect mix.”
Garcia mixed the album by himself -- the first time he had done that -- and had to learn how to use Pro Tools software. He spent four months locked in his room overdubbing and mixing (the band recorded the album in three days). He added a guitar lick here, a vocal harmony there, and before he knew it, he’d created more than 20 versions of each song.
“It turns out I’m the kinda person who really likes listening to the same crash cymbal for an hour,” he says. “I love the moment when I finally stumble upon the perfect mix.”
Other than an upcoming 10-inch split with North Texas punks Occult Detective Club, Something Fierce’s future is unwritten.
“We rarely think ahead -- we just jump in and see what happens,” says Garcia. “We don’t have an agent, we drive our own van and we wouldn’t even know how to look for a manager. The biggest management issue we have is about who will take the merch home after a show because nobody wants to carry it all.”
“But even if we did have a manager, we’d want to keep playing smaller shows,” he continues. “We love when all the kids are inches away from us and just going crazy. That’s where we feel most at home.”
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