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Football, etc.

Submitted by Commandrea on March 1, 2011 – 1:00 amOne Comment
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by Ramon LP4

Football, etc is (l to r) Mercy Harper, Lindsay Minton , and James Vehslage

I can’t think of a better example of an under-appreciated band than Football, etc.. The band - consisting of Lindsay Minton (Guitar/Vocals), Mercy Harper (Bass VI), and James Vehslage (drums) - sweats DIY from its pores and creates music that is intelligent, melodic, and bursting with confidence yet, for all this, they are a band just off of many people’s radar. Perhaps March will change all that when their upcoming album, The Draft, is released. Recorded in Norman, Oklahoma with Trent Bell (who’s worked with artists as diverse as Watermelon Slim, Chemical Brothers, and The Flaming Lips), the album is beside itself with a joyous overabundance of ideas and though short by today’s digital standards, the band packs more melodies and riffs in 12-inches than many bands pack in a full CD. Melodies glide or abruptly shift into new ones while the instruments volley back and forth. Minton’s guitar work is a jangly complex mix of the mathy and the melodic and Harper’s six-string bass jumps around it with counter melodies and, at times, boldly taking the lead role while Vehslage’s assured and elegant drumming holds the rudder. It’s a small gem of an album by a band that deserves your attention.

If the band seems a little different than most Houston bands, this may be because Minton and Harper are transplants. “Mercy and I met at Rutgers University,” says Minton, “We played in a band [Tin Kitchen] in New Brunswick and when we graduated she was applying to grad school and I joined Teach For America. So Houston worked for both us - I got placed here and she got accepted to Rice.”

Vehslage came into the picture via Craigslist, “All their ad on Craigslist said was ‘We have a band, we want to go on tour, and we have a label in the US and UK.’ I thought that sounded like someone who really wanted to play music.”

“Yeah, James joined the band,” laughs Minton, ”got married a couple months later, then came on tour with us a few weeks after that.”

What game are Football, etc. playing? To find out, you will have to pick up a copy of the March issue of the Free Press Houston.

The band loves local venues like the Mink, Vinyl Junkie, and particularly Houston House of Creeps but, for Minton and Harper, the urban sprawl of Houston lacks a focus. New Brunswick shows were maybe 50 to 100 friends living in a two mile radius showing up at a basement. If a show got busted, the shows would move a few houses down to shake the police. “Basements were great for shows in New Brunswick,” says Harper, “It’s silly to think that makes a big difference but it does because it gives people the space to have a show in their house every now and again and not get in trouble. I think the space defines [a show] too. If you are in a crowded basement with 50 kids who want to be there, it feels like a massive success whereas if you have the same 50 people in a big venue and half of the people came for one band, want to go home early, and are checking their watches, it doesn’t feel too good.”

When I ask about influences, Lindsay cites Rainer Maria guitarist Kyle Fischer (who recorded Tin Kitchen’s Grace EP) but she also points to Harper’s bass playing. Harper, who plays a Fender Bass Six says, “It was this really cool instrument but I never figured a way to make it work well until I started playing with Lindsay. She plays more rhythmic guitar lines so it gives me a reason to play more all over the place. It’s also part of being in a three piece - there’s more space to fill up and that makes it sound like a fuller band.”

The band put out a demo, First Down, which attracted the attention of Keith Latinen (of Michigan based Count Your Lucky Stars) who contacted the band. Through CYLS, the band released a split 7” with Empire! Empire! and a two-song single. The upcoming album is also being co-released by the UK’s strictly no capital letters. “Andy [Malcolm],” says Minton, “goes in on a lot of releases in the US and handles distro. He’s a lot like Vinyl Junkie with a huge distro in the UK.”

The deal is pretty typical of an indie – the band pays for the recordings and the labels handles manufacture and distribution. Some bands may scoff at a label these days but, to Football, etc., indie labels still matter. “A major label,” says Vehslage, “is just a label - the money behind the whole thing -but a small label has its own niche – it creates its own image and is much more exclusive.”

“You’ll say there’s something new out on that label,” says Harper, “I haven’t heard the band but I can go with that because I know the label.”

Money, distribution, and getting the word out – all those things are important but Harper also points to the human factor. “[Keith’s] like a friend,” she says, “It would be different if he was just a business dude and we were thinking of this strictly that way but he plays in a band and he does this because he enjoys music.”

When I ask the obligatory women in rock question Minton shrugs off the idea, “A girl in another band just wrote a manifesto on Feminism in the punk rock scene in New York and we were talking about how we can’t really relate to it. She was talking about men making girls feel uncomfortable but we’ve never had that be an issue – we just do what we do.”

“You don’t have a choice,” says Vehslage, “You’re women, you have to rock, and that’s all there is.” Indeed.

Football, etc play March 4th @ Houston House Of Creeps w/ O’Doyle Rules, Muhammad Ali, Assemble the Skyline, & Rivers.

The Draft record release - March 18th @ Vinyl Junkie w/ Empire! Empire!, Grown Ups, The Reptilian, & Moths

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