Many bands attempt to capture the essence of bands that have inspired them, and even if they succeed, the music that's created is often a bland distillation. However, every so often, a band can absorb their influences and create something new, yet nostalgic, with a sense of honesty. The Rich Hands, the indie rock band from San Antonio, Texas, have developed a sound that blends the early rock 'n' roll of the '50s and '60s with Detroit-style proto-punk.
Their sound is just one of the connections the Rich Hands share with the Motor City. The band is signed to Detroit label Fountain Records, which is owned and operated by Mike Monte. Earlier this year, the band released Out of My Head, a collection of songs filled with raw power and youthful energy. The significantly less-bearded Texas power trio is composed of Nick Ivarra on drums, Cody Mauser on guitar and vocals, while Matthew Gonzales handles the low end and vocals.
Mauser talked to us about writing, touring, and recording at High Bias Studios with producer Chris Koltay here in Detroit. The Rich Hands play at the Lager House on Wednesday night at 9 p.m.
Metro Times: You're heading back out on the road, with a stop in Detroit.
Cody Mauser: We're excited. We love Detroit. Every time we do a tour out that way, we try to hang out in Detroit. [Michael Monte] takes us around the city; I think we've had a pretty fair tour of Detroit. It's been pretty cool. I really like Detroit, to be honest — it's definitely my favorite Midwestern city.
MT: You've spent a decent amount of time here. You guys recorded Out of My Head here. How was that process?
Mauser: We told Chris Koltay what we wanted to do. We wanted to keep it really raw, but still utilize a bigger studio that we weren't able to utilize with the budget. It was all about keeping it raw, and we did most of the stuff live. We tracked most of the stuff live, which was pretty cool. Just to keep the energy there and everything.
MT: How long did it take you to record everything?
Mauser: It took us five days. During the whole recording process — I can't remember the exact schedule that we worked out — but we went from 12 to 10, every day. [Koltay] was pretty cool about everything — he didn't rush us or anything like that. He just wanted everything to be organic. No pressure or anything.
MT: You guys connected with Fountain Records over Twitter.
Mauser: Through social networking, yeah. It was worth a shot. I think he started following Nick or something, and then Nick kind of just tweeted at him about it. He sent us an email saying, "Send us a demo and we'll see." I can't remember if it was a five-song or six-song demo that we had just kind of half-assed-ly recorded and then he was like, "Yeah, man. Let's do a single." So we did a song called "Heartbreaker," and the B-side was a song called "Girl." That was the first single that he put out for us.
MT: It's incredible that business can be done in 140 characters.
Mauser: It's pretty silly, right? Just the whole thing was pretty crazy. We didn't expect it to actually work; it was kind of a shot in the dark. We were just like, "You know what, man? Fuck it. We'll just try it and see what happens." I think we just got really lucky, to be honest. Maybe just the right place at the right time? I don't know.
MT: What were your backgrounds and how did you come together?
Mauser: I had a musical background. My dad was the one who introduced me to music. My dad played guitar and he played drums, but he never really shared any of that stuff. I just grew up listening to really heavy stuff like Black Sabbath and stuff like that. The same goes for our bass player, Matt. His dad was the same way. He comes from a family where they play music, too. All of them play instruments and stuff. He's got a heavier background, you know? Like '70s stuff — that's been a big thing for me. That's kind of been like a go-to for me. Nick, he's sort of the same way. [He] and I started jamming together when we were in high school. I don't think that he actually ever picked up anything because of his family. I don't think he had anyone playing in his family. He was playing for a little bit — he started when he was younger. But all of us are influenced by the same stuff. I guess that's what we really bonded over at the beginning of everything.
MT: Some of your earlier work sounds like there's a Johnny Thunders influence.
Mauser: Definitely. Any of that really glam rock 'n' roll stuff is a pretty big influence on us. On the last record that we just did, we really wanted to do a blown-out pop song, but just really blown-out. Really ballsy and in-your-face.
MT: There's a huge difference in intensity between records.
Mauser: It's definitely more punchy. That was our thing when we recorded that record; we really wanted it to be powerful and punchy, like, "Whoever listens to this, listen to it loud. Please."
MT: Did you go into the sessions with that idea?
Mauser: We really didn't know. We had this general idea of what we wanted to do and it turned out really cool. We're excited. We got Eddie Baranek to come and do a guest spot. He did some organ on two of our songs, which was cool. Synthesizers and a bunch of pedals that we wouldn't be able to use, vintage pedals and stuff. Koltay had a guitar in Nashville tuning. I used it for one of the songs; it made it sound bright and pretty.
MT: The Nashville tuning is an interesting choice.
Mauser: I didn't even know what it was, and he was telling [us] about it. He was like, "I have this guitar." I didn't even know what it was — never even heard of it. He was like, "Do you want to play it?" I was like, "Sure." We just did it.
MT: Did you write at all in the studio, or did you guys have the songs down before?
Mauser: Everything we did was a lot of pre-production, as far as the writing goes. Every one of the songs was ready to go, structure-wise. Some of the stuff we rearranged a little bit. Some of the songs, we stuck to parts. There was one song in particular, the song "So Fine." We had an ending to it, but we didn't really have it polished it off really well, so we had to go and work on that for a little bit. That was the only song.
MT: What's the band's writing process?
Mauser: A lot of times, I'll go through different periods or I'll just have stints where I'll write a lot. I kind of pick what songs are feeling really good. Most of the time I'll show them. I just recently started writing them all together, like on the spot, which has been pretty cool, too. I really try to write songs from beginning to end. I try not to just leave pieces because I never finish the song.
MT: That's interesting. You don't often hear about people who write from beginning to end. They usually like to fit pieces together.
Mauser: I've always been curious about how other people do it. There are some people who think of lyrics first or have the music first and then go. For me, it's always been music first. I guess certain parts where I've had the melody in my head, and I just kind of bring it out. Other than that, it's always the music, usually.
MT: What is the music scene like in San Antonio?
Mauser: The scene here is predominantly metal, actually. There's a few rock 'n' roll bands, but people always ask if we're from Austin or something like that. Those kind of things. It's pretty cool. Not necessarily saying that we're putting San Antonio on the map for rock 'n' roll, but it's pretty cool. When we first started playing around town, there weren't really a lot of bands like us, and then all of a sudden there were bands that started popping up, doing the same thing that we were doing. I don't want to say we influenced them, but it's really cool to see what we're doing is catching on. Maybe if we were from Detroit, we'd have more credibility or something [laughs].
MT: What are some of the difficulties you have experienced on the road?
Mauser: I'd say keeping your spirits up if you get a couple bad shows in a row. We go on tour with money, but we usually depend on the money that we make at the venue. Sometimes that's a little mess whenever you're not making any money. We had a couple tours where we were losing money, and that's really hard to keep you going. You think about, "Hey, we came on tour with X amount of money and we're going to go home with nothing," which really sucks because all of us have girlfriends and rent and all that good stuff. Regular stuff, you know? So far, last night was our first night of the tour and we did really good. It's really cool that we have a guaranteed set. I think it also helps touring behind Paul. It really does help us and everything. We got off to a good night; we have merch, too, which is really cool. I think our set is the best it's ever been on all of our tours that we've ever done. — mt
The Rich Hands play with Characteristics on Wednesday, Oct. 8, at PJ's Lager House, 1254 Michigan Ave., Detroit; 313-961-4668.