Apr-29 6:30 PM | 29-95 Entertainment Stage
None of them knew each other from Adam. Most times, the origin of a good rock n’ roll band centers around a few buddies in a crappy practice room somewhere in a bad part of town, fluorescent lights humming overhead, a case of cheap beer torn open on the floor, empties strewn about, amps buzzing while everyone tries to figure out what song they all know and can jam on. But this was not the case with the beginnings of Roky Moon and BOLT! Not hardly! The story begins in the closing months of 2008 in a dimly lit apartment in Houston. Roky Moon (lead vocals, acoustic guitar) writes a handful of glammy tunes that update the best parts of David Bowie, T.Rex, Queen, Meatloaf, etc. and are in direct contrast with Houston’s hard/noise/grindcore, DJ/hip-hop and indie-pop scenes that are all in various states of cyclical flourish and decline. Polishing and perfecting, he borrows a home recording rig and hammers out a few demos before pondering recruitable band members to carry out his vision. Now, in an incestuous underground music scene like Houston’s, it would’ve made sense to throw a handful of guys together who all knew each other, had played together before and made a safe bet to ensure that it would work. Maybe it speaks to genius, maybe it speaks to insanity, but Roky cherry-picked 3 scene veterans who he himself knew, but had never spoken to one another before entering the practice room to play. The name on said practice room read Chad Pinter (bass), a guitar player/amplifier handyman/vintage gear aficionado who Roky convinced to switch from 6 to 4 strings for this new project. Chad’s affinity for all things vintage (music, gear, home décor, etc) made him a perfect candidate, as did his frequency to lay down soulful, ’60s-style bass lines. Jeoaf Johnson (drums) was called in to serve as the other half of the rhythm section, as he had made a name for himself in more punkish outfits for being an enthusiastic, solid and heavy-hitting drummer. Roky knew that this new band would rely heavily on energy onstage and Jeoaf would be integral to making this happen. But the secret weapon up Roky’s sleeve surely had to be Aaron Echegaray (lead guitar/vocals). Roky and Aaron were longtime friends and had played together in bands in the past, but the last few years had seen little musical activity for Aaron. At the end of 2008, he was actively pursuing a career in acting and was a precious few months from leaving Houston for California to make a serious go for the fame and fortune of stage and screen. In addition to his otherworldly guitar playing abilities, Aaron’s theatrical experience consistently makes Roky Moon and BOLT! shows spectacles in and of themselves. With this lineup in place and working like a dream, the band was excited but resisted the urge to play in front of anyone until they were a well-oiled machine. Instead, they opted for 3 and a half months of diligent practice before unveiling 5 songs at a highly-anticipated debut outing in front of a nearly sold-out crowd at the legendary Houston venue Walter’s on Washington on March 6, 2009. A few months passed, the band gigged, and while Roky was pleased with the way things were going, he was not yet fully content with the sound that they had achieved. Enter Cassie Hargrove (piano, vocals). After catching a particularly energetic show supporting stoner sludge legends Harvey Milk and downing many beers, Cassie excitedly approached the band, raved about how she heard piano lines to accompany the songs in her head and pleaded for a chance to try out for the band. Feeling that keys would be a perfect way to elevate the band’s sound, Roky invited her to sit in with the band at the next practice to see what she could bring to the table. Cassie’s classical training combined with her frenetic playing style fit perfectly with the band’s sound and she was immediately welcomed into the fold. With a rock solid line-up firmly in place, Roky Moon and BOLT! greeted the following months with more high-profile shows with regional and national acts including Sugar & Gold and Dax Riggs, supporting Houston’s own Wild Moccasins and the Ton Tons on their respective record release shows, turning in buzz-worthy performances at the 2009 South-by-Southwest music festival in Austin, the final two Westheimer Block parties and the inaugural Free Press Summerfest in Houston, all of which had bloggers both locally and nationally scrambling to sing their praises. In addition to garnering a consistent live following and grabbing the attention of internet critics, the band made the print press perk up and take note, too. At the 2009 Houston Press Music Awards, Roky Moon and BOLT! snagged the award for Best New Act as well as Best New Act to Get Together in the their 2009 “Best of…” edition, further cementing their reputation as a favorite among the holy trinity of show-going music enthusiasts, seen-it-all rock critics and scene-crashing hipsters. Radio got in on the act, as well, putting the band in regular rotation and hosting live in-studio performances on both KTRU 91.7FM and KPFT 90.1FM in Houston and prompting feature spots on 90.5 KUT in Austin. Noticing the attention they were receiving, Jason Nodler of Catastrophic Theatre tapped the band to appear as Daniel Johnston’s fantasy band and cast them in other various roles in the production of “Life Is Happy and Sad,” a play depicting the renowned Austin musician’s lonely college years. (Upon seeing a performance, the real-life Johnston excitedly remarked that Roky Moon and BOLT! sounded “great!” and “just like KISS!” and repeated this sentiment in an interview published in the October 2010 issue of Free Press Houston). Knowing that people would soon begin demanding recorded material, the band entered Master Bedroom Studios, recorded 2 tracks with Joe Weber for the Artstorm Collective’s “Summer Exposure” compilation CD and assembled a 7 song CD-R from demos, compilation album and live tracks to distribute on their spring tour. After playing their tour kickoff show to a packed house at the Mink in Houston, Roky Moon and BOLT! left the safety of their hometown and hit the road, embarking on their first ever tour on March 6, 2010--exactly one year to the day that they first publicly presented themselves to the world. Spanning 16 dates up the east coast to New York City and circling back down to Austin in time to play 2010’s South-by-Southwest music festival, the band wowed show-goers every step of the way and chronicled the tour via a documentary short film that was met with rave reviews upon its release that April. With a U.S. tour under their belts, their sights were now set firmly on getting back into the studio and recording a proper LP. Negotiations quickly began with the Houston label Homeskool Rekordz and soon enough, the band were tracking at Digital Warehaus Studios with Stephen D. Finley and Lord Bubba Hightower at the mixing desk. Released in November 2010 the self-titled CD features 11 songs and showcases both sides of the band, from barn-burning party numbers to the staggering mini-epics that Roky Moon and BOLT! has come to be known for. As is common with an anticipated release such as this, tapes of rough mixes leaked to more fortunate members of the music community and soon Roky was in talks with H. Ross Wells and Dan Workman, the co-heads of the newly formed Zenhill Records, about a follow-up record and big-time management deal. Recognizing an opportunity to finally “go pro,” the band quickly expressed interest in signing with Zenhill and contracts were drawn up. By mid-October 2010, the contracts were negotiated, approved and signed, and Roky Moon and BOLT! were formally welcomed into the Zenhill family. Pre-production plans see Dan Workman producing the second Roky Moon and BOLT! LP at the famed Sugarhill Studios in Houston sometime in early 2011 and will likely be comprised of a few songs from the first LP re-recorded, but the majority consisting of new material. A major music video is also planned with Ross Wells of Zen Films directing. With the recent addition of Arthur Moreno (saxophone, vocals) frequently rounding out the Roky Moon and BOLT! live line-up, the band plans on touring and recording extensively in 2011 and seeing just how big their traveling circus can get!