Hear and Now

The H-Town music scene, Third Coast hotbed of hip-hop and longtime outpost of outlaw country cool, is increasingly influential and, like the city itself, diverse. Meet the rising stars of the most fascinating tune town in America today.

  • GT Garza
GT Garza, 31, is a pillar in the city’s hip-hop community, and his latest album, The iLLest, cements his status. The 11-track record debuted in March at No. 29 on iTunes, marking the first time Garza and his record label La Maquina has broken the top 40. He credits his sound to his upbringing in Southwest Houston: “I heard the chopped and screwed scene first, before I really heard Houston music at a regular speed,” he says. “I wanted to see ... what I could provide to the culture.” On the highly biographical iLLest, Garza raps stories he hopes are relatable, like how his mom worked hard to put food on the table, and how he went from sleeping on couches to owning his own home. “They’re about how I overcame obstacles through dedication and ambition.”
    GT GARZA, 31, is a pillar in the city’s hip-hop community, and his latest album, The iLLest, cements his status. The 11-track record debuted in March at No. 29 on iTunes, marking the first time Garza and his record label La Maquina has broken the top 40. He credits his sound to his upbringing in Southwest Houston: “I heard the chopped and screwed scene first, before I really heard Houston music at a regular speed,” he says. “I wanted to see ... what I could provide to the culture.” On the highly biographical iLLest, Garza raps stories he hopes are relatable, like how his mom worked hard to put food on the table, and how he went from sleeping on couches to owning his own home. “They’re about how I overcame obstacles through dedication and ambition.”
  • Dallas-reared MICHELLE MIEARS, 29, has made a name for herself in Houston as a member of electronic trio BLSHS, who’ve released two EPs and played big-name festivals like Summer Fest. But while the band is on a short hiatus, she’s been focusing on her solo project, Miears. Her five-track debut Who Will Save You? — which she wrote, recorded and produced herself — dropped in February, and is making waves with its lush, introspective tracks. “It’s all about my tortured little soul,” she says with an ironically big smile. The album title comes from the third song, a heartfelt track about the Montgomery County Animal Shelter, where Miears, who adopted a toy poodle named Bootsy, volunteers on Sundays. “I always try to focus on the positive,” she adds.
    Dallas-reared MICHELLE MIEARS, 29, has made a name for herself in Houston as a member of electronic trio BLSHS, who’ve released two EPs and played big-name festivals like Summer Fest. But while the band is on a short hiatus, she’s been focusing on her solo project, Miears. Her five-track debut Who Will Save You? — which she wrote, recorded and produced herself — dropped in February, and is making waves with its lush, introspective tracks. “It’s all about my tortured little soul,” she says with an ironically big smile. The album title comes from the third song, a heartfelt track about the Montgomery County Animal Shelter, where Miears, who adopted a toy poodle named Bootsy, volunteers on Sundays. “I always try to focus on the positive,” she adds.
  • In April, Houston-reared indie-folk singer-songwriter SHERITA PEREZ and her drummer boyfriend Nick Melcher departed on a three-week tour of California, in support of her new single “Blue Skies.” Being a full-time musician — especially one who tours — is not an easy life, but it’s one the free spirit is content to be living. “I just want to have beautiful experiences in beautiful places with beautiful people,” she says. Perez, who gigs constantly — “You have to be able to jump when people say jump” — believes that a positive outlook is key to her success. “This is just the beginning.”
    In April, Houston-reared indie-folk singer-songwriter SHERITA PEREZ and her drummer boyfriend Nick Melcher departed on a three-week tour of California, in support of her new single “Blue Skies.” Being a full-time musician — especially one who tours — is not an easy life, but it’s one the free spirit is content to be living. “I just want to have beautiful experiences in beautiful places with beautiful people,” she says. Perez, who gigs constantly — “You have to be able to jump when people say jump” — believes that a positive outlook is key to her success. “This is just the beginning.”
  • Guitarist and singer GIO CHAMBA, 28, got turned onto digital Cumbia music a few years ago. and knew right away that he wanted to start making the unique style of music himself. While Cumbia is a traditional style of Latin American folkloric music that blends together African, indigenous and European sounds, Chamba’s highly danceable digital version adds in electronic beats. “I’ve always liked hip-hop and urban music and electronic music, so it kind of just felt natural to mix all of that together,” says the Houston native, who released a self-titled album in 2015. This month, he releases his sophomore effort called Tejas, an 8-track album he worked on with the late Selena’s nephew, producer and DJ Principe Q. While his first album featured mostly voiceless tracks, the new record is more lyric-heavy, less EDM-oriented. A performance at Karbach Brewery on May 21 kicks off a summer tour.
    Guitarist and singer GIO CHAMBA, 28, got turned onto digital Cumbia music a few years ago. and knew right away that he wanted to start making the unique style of music himself. While Cumbia is a traditional style of Latin American folkloric music that blends together African, indigenous and European sounds, Chamba’s highly danceable digital version adds in electronic beats. “I’ve always liked hip-hop and urban music and electronic music, so it kind of just felt natural to mix all of that together,” says the Houston native, who released a self-titled album in 2015. This month, he releases his sophomore effort called Tejas, an 8-track album he worked on with the late Selena’s nephew, producer and DJ Principe Q. While his first album featured mostly voiceless tracks, the new record is more lyric-heavy, less EDM-oriented. A performance at Karbach Brewery on May 21 kicks off a summer tour.
  • Fans of homegrown rock ’n’ roll may be familiar with singer-guitarist-drummer MIKEY PONCE, 33, formerly frontman of The McKenzies, and currently a member of Phantom Royals and Cleen Teens. But the name Flower Graves may be more unfamiliar. Ponce changed the name of his main outfit — remember Mikey and the Drags, founded in 2012? — at the beginning of 2017 to reflect a shift in music style and the addition of two new members. “We went from ’60s-garage-rock-proto-punk to more psychedelia,” says Ponce, who also cofounded indie label Wallflower Records at the beginning of the year. “Groovier, a little more laid-back.” Catch Flower Graves — which plans to record new material this summer — at the Madness on Main festival on May 28.
    Fans of homegrown rock ’n’ roll may be familiar with singer-guitarist-drummer MIKEY PONCE, 33, formerly frontman of The McKenzies, and currently a member of Phantom Royals and Cleen Teens. But the name Flower Graves may be more unfamiliar. Ponce changed the name of his main outfit — remember Mikey and the Drags, founded in 2012? — at the beginning of 2017 to reflect a shift in music style and the addition of two new members. “We went from ’60s-garage-rock-proto-punk to more psychedelia,” says Ponce, who also cofounded indie label Wallflower Records at the beginning of the year. “Groovier, a little more laid-back.” Catch Flower Graves — which plans to record new material this summer — at the Madness on Main festival on May 28.
  • Two years after Wild Moccasins drummer Avery Davis, 24, released his debut EP as solo artist -US — and ahead of his performance at this year’s FPSF — the multi-instrumentalist will release his sophomore effort, Contact. The forthcoming five-track EP is full of dance-y, R&B-infused electro-pop and raspy falsetto singing, a departure from his previous work. Davis, who performs shirtless and with colorful makeup, notes that many of his earlier melancholy songs weren’t fun to play live. “I’m not sad anymore, so all of my new songs are happy.”
    Two years after Wild Moccasins drummer Avery Davis, 24, released his debut EP as solo artist -US — and ahead of his performance at this year’s FPSF — the multi-instrumentalist will release his sophomore effort, Contact. The forthcoming five-track EP is full of dance-y, R&B-infused electro-pop and raspy falsetto singing, a departure from his previous work. Davis, who performs shirtless and with colorful makeup, notes that many of his earlier melancholy songs weren’t fun to play live. “I’m not sad anymore, so all of my new songs are happy.”
  • Born and raised in Angola, singer VIVALDA DULA, along with her classical guitarist husband Marcelo Robert, relocated from Luanda to Houston in 2012. In Houston, Dula recorded two albums of her percussion-heavy, Africa-inspired music, 2013’s Insanidade Mental and 2015’s Africa. A dynamic live act, with a griot’s gift for storytelling, Dula often sings her socially conscious lyrics in Kimbundu, a language banned from her country’s schools before the Angolan Civil War. Fittingly, Dula — who boasts an effervescent personality and impossibly glowing skin — just performed at the Global Issues Summit in Sugar Land. The new mom to an eight-month-old girl is currently recording an album with Grammy-winning producer Emilio D. Miller.
    Born and raised in Angola, singer VIVALDA DULA, along with her classical guitarist husband Marcelo Robert, relocated from Luanda to Houston in 2012. In Houston, Dula recorded two albums of her percussion-heavy, Africa-inspired music, 2013’s Insanidade Mental and 2015’s Africa. A dynamic live act, with a griot’s gift for storytelling, Dula often sings her socially conscious lyrics in Kimbundu, a language banned from her country’s schools before the Angolan Civil War. Fittingly, Dula — who boasts an effervescent personality and impossibly glowing skin — just performed at the Global Issues Summit in Sugar Land. The new mom to an eight-month-old girl is currently recording an album with Grammy-winning producer Emilio D. Miller.
  • H-Town rap artist and producer Timothy Russell, aka GUILLA, may have only released Children of the Sun — a sci-fi-inspired album that includes a collaborative track with HGO soprano Alicia Gianni — last spring, but the 28-year-old, quick-witted rap artist already has a followup dropping this month. His fourth full-length album, Crunchy Roll & Chill, features 14 tracks that are more biographical in nature — there’s a track about his love for girls who cosplay — than his previous, highly esoteric work. It’s also less heavy in tone. “I feel like we’re in a time of extreme darkness right now and everybody is kind of pissed off,” says Russell, who plans on touring Texas this summer, “so Crunchy Roll & Chill is full of upbeat music. I want to put smiles on people’s faces again.”
    H-Town rap artist and producer Timothy Russell, aka GUILLA, may have only released Children of the Sun — a sci-fi-inspired album that includes a collaborative track with HGO soprano Alicia Gianni — last spring, but the 28-year-old, quick-witted rap artist already has a followup dropping this month. His fourth full-length album, Crunchy Roll & Chill, features 14 tracks that are more biographical in nature — there’s a track about his love for girls who cosplay — than his previous, highly esoteric work. It’s also less heavy in tone. “I feel like we’re in a time of extreme darkness right now and everybody is kind of pissed off,” says Russell, who plans on touring Texas this summer, “so Crunchy Roll & Chill is full of upbeat music. I want to put smiles on people’s faces again.”
  • Where’s BRANT CROUCHER? You might wonder, if you’d heard his sweetly sad Blanco County Lights record in 2014, which one critic called a “testimony to high-caliber songwriting.” The Cypress native, 36, has been under the radar since then; he married his sometime duet partner Lainey Balagia in 2015, and they had baby Amelia in 2016. “She’s been our project for the last year.” But Croucher — who pens country-tinged, densely poetic songs as “a profoundly unique way to tell a story” — is raring to get back at it.  He’s writing a new solo record, and is set to open for Joe Ely at Discovery Green May 11.
    Where’s BRANT CROUCHER? You might wonder, if you’d heard his sweetly sad Blanco County Lights record in 2014, which one critic called a “testimony to high-caliber songwriting.” The Cypress native, 36, has been under the radar since then; he married his sometime duet partner Lainey Balagia in 2015, and they had baby Amelia in 2016. “She’s been our project for the last year.” But Croucher — who pens country-tinged, densely poetic songs as “a profoundly unique way to tell a story” — is raring to get back at it. He’s writing a new solo record, and is set to open for Joe Ely at Discovery Green May 11.
  • Even after a busy few months, The Suffers frontwoman KAM FRANKLIN, 29, says the famous Houston soul act is not slowing down anytime soon. The 10-piece band, which releaes a new album this fall, returned from their first European tour this spring only to quickly repack their bags and head to Australia for a series of shows at the Byron Bay Blues Festival.  “It was very exhausting,” says Franklin of their time in Europe, “but at the same time, it was the time of my life. All of the crowds were super responsive.” The Suffers’ new album is, appropriately, about what its many members have learned during the transitions from corporate jobs to the life of full-time, touring musicians. “It’s a lot about living your life off the clock,” she says, “and just living your life the way you want to live it.”
    Even after a busy few months, The Suffers frontwoman KAM FRANKLIN, 29, says the famous Houston soul act is not slowing down anytime soon. The 10-piece band, which releaes a new album this fall, returned from their first European tour this spring only to quickly repack their bags and head to Australia for a series of shows at the Byron Bay Blues Festival. “It was very exhausting,” says Franklin of their time in Europe, “but at the same time, it was the time of my life. All of the crowds were super responsive.” The Suffers’ new album is, appropriately, about what its many members have learned during the transitions from corporate jobs to the life of full-time, touring musicians. “It’s a lot about living your life off the clock,” she says, “and just living your life the way you want to live it.”
  • A New Zealand native who moved to the U.S. in 2007 to study music, violinist NATALIE LIN, 28, found Houston to be unique. Not only thanks to its welcoming nature, but also because something was lacking: Houston was one of the only major cities without a conductorless — meaning collaborative — orchestra. Lin, who’s finishing up her doctorate at Rice, founded Kinetic in 2015 to bridge the gap between traditional chamber music, like a string quartet, and a full orchestra. Her 16-member group is notably without an artistic director who calls the shots. “We make sure everyone has their voice heard and is comfortable speaking up and trying different ideas,” she says. Kinetic closes out its second season on May 6 with a performance celebrating local talent, such as composer Pierre Jalbert, called “Made in Houston” at MATCH.
    A New Zealand native who moved to the U.S. in 2007 to study music, violinist NATALIE LIN, 28, found Houston to be unique. Not only thanks to its welcoming nature, but also because something was lacking: Houston was one of the only major cities without a conductorless — meaning collaborative — orchestra. Lin, who’s finishing up her doctorate at Rice, founded Kinetic in 2015 to bridge the gap between traditional chamber music, like a string quartet, and a full orchestra. Her 16-member group is notably without an artistic director who calls the shots. “We make sure everyone has their voice heard and is comfortable speaking up and trying different ideas,” she says. Kinetic closes out its second season on May 6 with a performance celebrating local talent, such as composer Pierre Jalbert, called “Made in Houston” at MATCH.

Shot on location at White Oak Music Hall in the Heights

Text by Evan W. Black and Daniel Renfrow, with Chris Becker

Styling Support by Molly Jodeit

Makeup by Jennifer Aronson

Women’s Hair by Travis Player and Brandy Perez for Tease Color & Style Bar

Men’s Hair by Destiny Sebreth for Estilo Salon and Spa

Photography Assistance by Dylan Aguilar

 

Listen to the artists featured in the May issue: