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An Interview with Jenny Hoyston of Vacation Eyes

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vacation eyes

By: Joe Folladori

Jenny Hoyston is best known for heading up Erase Errata, a wonderfully disjointed group based out of San Francisco who did catchy, scratchy, sideways post-punk better and weirder than just about anybody else. They released full-lengths on Troubleman Unlimited and Kill Rock Stars and toured their asses off; their last album, Nightlife, was released in 2006. I’m a big fan (Other Animals is a stone-cold classic album), so when I learned that Hoyston was not only living here in Houston but had formed a new band, Vacation Eyes, I jumped at the chance to ask her a few questions. Vacation Eyes is the trio of Hoyston, John Baldwin (Wild Moccasins, ex-Teenage Kicks) and Mars Varela (Busy Kids); their first Houston show is tonight at Walter’s.

How did you end up in Houston?

I was born south of here on the coast - Surfside Beach area. My dad was from Orange, Texas and my mom is from Atlanta, Texas. After I’d been living on the West Coast for a while, my parents retired to Nacogdoches, where most of my extended family settled. I was homesick for years. San Francisco is an amazing town, and my life certainly changed for the better after moving there, but I missed my family so much. Now I’m within a few hours of my mom, sister, aunts, uncles, and cousins. It feels so great to be in the loop again. It’s my first time living in Houston, but I love it here. It’s such a great place.

How did Vacation Eyes come to be? Did you plan on starting a band when you moved here?

I planned on starting a country band when I moved here. Vacation Eyes was a happy accident. I’m lucky - I met John and Mars right when I moved to town. Mars’ husband and John’s old soul DJ partner Stewart (Fistful of Soul) and my girlfriend Rebecca used to do ‘Food Not Bombs’ Houston together in the ’90s. Stewart and Rebecca introduced the three of us and it was love at first song.

We eventually decided to play a show. We all thought it would be so amazing to try to get the Mydolls to reunite and were so happy when they were able to do it! They are legendary - not just in Houston. I’m so happy it’s actually happening.

I was a big Erase Errata fan, y’all did scratchy sideways post-punk better than just about anybody. Did you ever officially breakup? How does Vacation Eyes compare sonically?

Erase Errata is still a band. We are finishing our fourth full-length LP now and hope to have it out by next fall. We’re still a three piece - all original members. We’ll never break up! We mostly play New York, San Francisco, and other fly-in shows overseas, but I’d love to bring the band here for a Houston show sometime. We used to love coming here to play - preferred it to Austin. It got prohibitively expensive to tour the South after a while, though…

I can’t really compare VE to EE other than to say I play guitar and sing in both. VE will likely be your favorite new Houston band.

You’ve lived in several cities on the West Coast. How does the music scene here compare?

I’ve been out to a few They, Who Sound events since I’ve been here and they’ve been wonderful and well-attended. David Dove and company are to be admired for the phenomenal scene they’re building. Reminds me fondly of an era in Oakland and San Francisco.

I’ve also been to see friends’ bands who are on tour stops in Houston. The turn out for those shows was disappointing. Good bands, who pack huge spaces on “the coasts,” were playing to 5-25 people each time in Houston. I was sad for them, but maybe there’s just not a market for that kind of stuff in Houston now.

Is the food better here? It is, right?

I eat at home almost every meal, so the food is great! I occasionally go out and enjoy Radical Eats, Barnaby’s, and a few other places with my girlfriend and our families. Radical Eats vegan brunch does not disappoint.

This is Vacation Eyes’ first Houston show, but your debut performance was at SXSW. How’d that show go?

SxSW was great. We played our first show to a packed crowd of about 400 or 500 people who were totally psyched. Lots of European Erase Errata fans and East Coast friends were there. Had family backstage for the very first time - they were psyched too. “I can’t b’leeev I’m backstage at South-By!”

I’ve played a few shows in Houston since I moved here in the summer - a fun solo show at Poison Girl last month and Silver Interior, my darkwave project with Christina Files (The Swirlies, Mary Timony, NYC), played at Rudyard’s in November. I’m really excited to play in Houston with VE. We’re three swamp-raised weirdos - we are a legit Houston sound.

Are you guys planning to release any recordings soon? (I haven’t been able to hear y’all, so I apologize for how generic a lot of these questions are.)

We have two self-released 7″s in the works already.

The show on the 22nd features all female-led groups, all with lady majority lineups, but the music scene here in town seems more boy-oriented than what I imagine it’s like in, say, San Francisco. Does it feel that much different here, gender politics-wise? Are you sick of answering questions like this just because you’re both a musician and a girl?

Blah blah… burp… I’m at Chili’s watching basketball…

Any chance you might change your name to Jenny Houston? You could probably get a grant from our Chamber of Commerce if you can get other musicians to relocate here, or at least not move away from here to Austin.

Austin is a great place to visit Aunt Martha and friends, but I wouldn’t want to live there. It actually made me laugh out loud to think that a musician would move to Austin from here for the sake of their music career. Come on…

I like the sound of Jenny Houston. It would make life a lot easier, since my name is constantly auto-corrected to Jenny Houston on everyone’s phones and computers. “Hoyston” is a stage name, anyway. My hip, young coworkers will read this article and have no idea it’s me talking here.

Vacation Eyes performs tonight at Walter’s, 1120 Naylor. Mydolls and Hearts of Animals are also playing, and there will be DJ sets by Jenny Hoyston and Fistful of Soul’s Stewart Anderson. Check it out.