Inside the Jukebox: Wild Moccasins

Photo by Molly Rodriguez from MySpace

What follows is a feature on Wild Moccasins, a band we told you about awhile back here. Sean spoke to co-lead singers Cody Swann and Zahira Gutierrez, and here’s what came about…

It’s a scenario that perhaps only a superfan could imagine: A band you’ve just discovered and claimed as a favorite, and consequently introduced to any friend within earshot, comes through town and has a backyard barbecue with you and some of your closest friends while they serenade you with cuts from their upcoming record.

For Wild Moccasins, that was just one of many unique and intimate interactions with fans on their recently concluded cross-country tour. It happened in Charlotte, North Carolina.

“It was great,” band co-founder Cody Swann said. “We cooked veggie burgers and buffalo burgers, had an all-day yard sale with all this vintage clothing. It really made for a good time.”

Wild Moccasins don’t just like their fans. They appreciate the hell out of them. Anyone who has attended one of their live shows, sans barbecue, will likely attest to the passion with which the group of five twenty-somethings from Houston plow through their sets each night.

“I’ve always felt that if you’re going to go to a show. people want to see you put on a show,” fellow WM founder Zahira Gutierrez said. “I always liked it when bands put in an effort and it makes you want to dance with them and be a part of the show.”

Gutierrez will typically help decorate the stage for each of the band’s shows, starting to construct other worlds weeks in advance. For their final date on the most recent tour, she turned the area in front of the stage monitors into a crystal cave setting using some simple shoebox arts and crafts.

The theme can change from city to city, night to night. The band once passed out silly string to the crowd at a show and watched as the venue turned into one giant, playful streamer war.

So does the band’s energetic brand of hip, danceable indie guitar pop measure up to all the fan-loving good times and fun live shows? Signs point to yes.

One thing that aids that effort is the band’s lovely male-female harmonies. Swann and Gutierrez, who began performing in Houston as a duo in 2008 and are now a couple with a full band and a fleshed-out sound, harmonize with the best of them.

That unity of vocals took time and practice, but the band’s sound is all the better for it.

“I feel like we’re both kind of the lead singer at the same time,” Gutierrez said. “And I think it’s one of more interesting qualities about the band. I’ve been in choir since I was really little, so I could always harmonize really easily to things. With Cody, he had to learn and we both had to kind of learn how to work with each other’s voices.”

The rawness of their live shows leaks into the tracks on Wild Moccasins’ latest LP, Skin Collison Past, in a purposeful but not deliberate-sounding way. The record sounds like it could be reproduced live, but it also reveals a band that had plenty of practice perfecting the basics of each song before stepping into the recording studio last fall.

The band recorded the album at Sugar Hill Studios in their home town of Houston. The facility has housed artists like Lucinda Williams, Willie Nelson, Junior Parker and even Beyonce. Taking six months to record and add layers to the album was a lesson in patience and persistence.

“We would spend eight or nine hours in the studio on the days we recorded,” Swann said. “The majority of the record was spent trying to add harmonies and see what worked. It felt really great to have that freedom.”

It might be a necessity for an up-and-coming band, but Wild Moccasins have proven to be rather self-sufficient. In addition to Gutierrez’s stage decorations, the band booked all the shows for its most recent tour and will do the same for an upcoming west-coast tour, set to begin in July.

They are also self-releasing Skin Collision Past, which will happen June 8. May 21 — the date for the band’s CD release party — figures to be a special one for its hometown fans. The party will be at the band’s favorite Houston venue, Walters on Washington. Walters has hosted acts like Beach House, Au Revoir Simone and Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings.

The band certainly won’t hesitate to pull out all the stops in celebrating its latest output.

“One of the payoffs of a live show is seeing everybody so happy,” Swann said. “I love recording and I love creating a record and taking all that time to make it. But we try to give something completely different at a show. I feel like we’re all performers at heart more than musicians.”

“Energetic is a big part of what we’re going for.”

Skin Collision Past” By Wild Moccasins (From Skin Collision Past, out June 8, self-released)
Fruit Tea” By Wild Moccasins (From SXSW Compilation)
Wild Moccasins’ set from Houston’s Free Press Summerfest
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