In a world where grunge is gagged on by soft mouths and rock is dying alongside the bedsides of those who refuse to listen to Uncle Acid, the ATX based band Coattails clings to the image of Texas Fuzz Rock with a white knuckle grip. Birthed with an aggressive backbone and an intentional grit, Coattails were founded under the influence of past legends such as Led Zeppelin, Jimi Hendrix, and Thee Oh Sees. Rich with raw prowess and the drive to stand apart, these Southern rock pioneers are fervently working on taming the beast within the blood; bringing new meaning to control, intention, and purposeful allure. Just call them The White Stripes of the new generation; except, imagine a distorted reality where Jack White had relations with John Lennon and they birthed the band Black Lips who then adopted and raised a group of fuzz monsters with the Queens of the Stone Age, and called them Coattails. Read on to learn more on the band that is bringing new life to harmonic grunge in the ATX scene, and remember: don’t get them wet, and whatever you do? Don’t feed them after midnight.
On Vinyl Media had the pleasure of sitting down with two lead members of the ATX based band, Coattails, early last December at the east side biker haven, Buzz Mill. Hair to their shoulders and cigarettes cradled between their teeth, Damien Howard (lead singer) and Michael Martinez (keyboardist and vocals) had the look to match the sound I had purged myself on the week before the interview.
The band’s last full length, self-titled album Coattails was released to the masses February 2016; now nearly two years later, the band has a badass new bassist, an upcoming second EP, and a revamped sound that is both grinding and illuminating. If you haven’t listened to their first album yet, I highly recommend that you do: from beginning to end, and back through again. The lyrics have weight without being self-indulgent, the authentic energy is refreshing, the aggression is hot without getting forcefully seedy; it could easily be considered an achievement amongst accomplished garage rock professionals, and this band is just getting started.
Coattails got their start back in 2014, when lead singer and band leader, Damien Howard, met Mike Martinez at the last show his previous band (Buffalo) performed. After a few months, Damien and Mike got together and called up Eitel, a drummer friend of Damien’s that he had played with for several years prior. Eitel and Damien had known one another for 15 years; playing previously in two other bands before the birthing of Coattails.
Beginning as a three piece band and revolving through several bassists, the band got their feet wet as a ‘Monday Night Residency’ band, but as many artists in ATX know-that’s the game nearly every band has to play here.
It wasn’t until they met past bassist, Marcus Clark, that they started to develop their individual sound and carried it onward as their staple ‘sentimental grunge with a bite’ persona.
With the most recent addition of bassit Kevin K. Rowe to the bands lineup, the evolution of live performance and overall band sound from previous years has become one of notable standing. With new ideas and fresh blood, Rowe brought to Coattails what they feel they had previously been missing; a way to set their sound apart and mouth feed it to the saturated market. Following his joining of the band, an entire reconsideration of the band’s dynamics came into question. Vocals were tamed, drums were softened, and the rage was reeled in under the immediate and direct supervision of Damien, who sees the growth and intentional reassessment of sound control to be an extremely necessary one for the band’s future.
“We have come out of a cave of sorts, and gone through a lot of growth; we’ve worked on a lot of stuff within the band, and our shows are about to be a lot different. If you haven’t seen us in a while, give us another chance; our shows are about to be a lot better, in my opinion,” Damien advises, as he smiles to himself while sipping a second Live Oak brew.
Within less than a year, Coattails recorded in near entirety their newest album, which will hopefully be released post SXSW 2018. Recording at Audio Styles with Taylor Tatsch, the band has used the studio in Dripping Springs as their cocoon of creative metamorphosis.
As previously mentioned, the band is undergoing a dynamic reincarnation, and with that evolution, their newest EP can be expected to be nothing like the last one; however, for those of you who pine for the growl, don’t fret: Coattails still have the rage and rip you all know and love.
“We just try and let the songs take their natural progress, and do what’s right for the song,” Michael explains, while running through the song creation process with us.
As composition leaders of the band, Damien and Mike will bring the outline of ideas to the band, whether it be an acoustic blueprint or a lyrical phrase over a key ballad. From there, the outline is brought to the rhythm section, where all songs go to flourish or die. Through the process of tearing out the guts and filling in the holes, Coattails are working on perfecting their song creation process; though, in our opinion, they don’t have much to work on.
Ellen (a track off of their first full length album) alone stands as a musician’s favorite amongst local bands, and the song is just two chords; as we said, just call them The White Stripes. If you’re talented enough, your music doesn’t have to be elaborate or perfectly crafted; it’s the edge, mishaps, and purposeful simpleness that gives your band that specific energy and appeal. Damien is a zelig; channeling his ability to capture multiple personalities and characters from one song to the next. Add heart wrenching/relatable lyrics, and you have yourself a bowl of earworms. Other than Ellen, you hear it in Pauline, Quantify, Sea Legs-it’s all about the dynamics, and authentic approach: and Coattails just have that kind of talent, plain and simple.
“Writing a really perfect song is really hard to do. For some bands, it’s easier than it is for others, and it just ends up working out. Soon after you’re an Austin favorite, then all of a sudden you’re playing with really good bands in other cities; it’s hard enough to conquer this city let alone all the others you play in, but if you continue to grow your radius from Austin and you have a well attending fan base, and then do that in every city-all of a sudden, you just took over Texas,” Mike exudes.
“And it’s a big fucking state, too,” laughs Damien, as they effortlessly feed of one another’s energy.
A Texas takeover isn’t too far out of this band’s eyesight, as over the past 8 months Coattails have performed 36 shows, and only 15 of them were within the ATX area; the rest? Dallas, San Antonio, Houston, and so on. The band has yet to tour outside of Texas, though they feel it is best to work within your cultural area first, and expand at the same rate you grow yourselves. As a self-managed band, they have experience in the triumphs and failures that accompany the promotion and maintained survival of themselves over the past few years.
“All the money this band made this last year went back into the band. It’s been my artist philosophy since I was 19: If you want to be in this band to make money, then this band isn’t for you,” shrugs Damien.
“All the money this band makes, I want it to go back into itself; so it can fund itself, so it can buy us a hotel room when we go to Dallas, and feed us while we are gone while we take off of work, and pay for gas in order for us to get home.
On tour, nobody gets paid for that. This past year has paid for the entire recording of our newest upcoming EP; we sold enough merch and built up enough money to sustain our band funds over the past year, that all we have to do is pay for our record to be pressed and printed. We aren’t physically making money off of the band, but our band is surviving, and that’s what matters. Instead of going out to smoke a cig after a show, we take shifts at the merch booth, and we see the return from that; from both money and the personalized interactions we gain with our fanbase, friends, and family.
As an artist you go through bands where you just aren’t taken care of; you aren’t making any money, you’re missing work, you’re struggling; if that’s how you feel, it’s most likely just time for you to quit that band.
But with this band, everyone believes in it, and they want to chip in money out of their own pockets; it’s a big difference from past bands i’ve worked with.
This next year’s shows will pay for our next album, hopefully within the next 5 or 6 months. Moving forward, that is how we would like to continue to work as a band.
Fun and business are two different things, but you have to have business; at least the mindset of it. If you are equipped with the knowledge of doing it, you are better off as a musician in this industry.”
“It all takes time,” Mike explains as he looks to Damien to help add on the expression.
“This drive that we have continues to grow our friendship, and it helps us become better at who we are as people, and as musicians.”
Damien inhales his cigarette and holds it in his lungs as he searches for the words, and exhales the following phrase;
“We are climbing the ladder that every other band has to climb, here. There is no fast way to the top. You know, you just have to check yourself along the way, and that has helped us get to where we are.”
It’s those type of humble and serious comments that make the band more than just another “fun” band to go and see. The time, investment, and work they have put into the band shows in their balance of grace and edge. Coattails are alluring, savvy, authentically talented, and passionate; an immensely solid combination, especially in today’s pop-culture heavy industry. The drive and focus they have towards the continued growth and development of their music, as well as with one another, is what shines a light on the future of this local band’s recorded and live performances within the grungy delta blues/60’s rock genre of the south more than anything else:
“This album is gonna change the way people look at us. We had a monster that was living in the rehearsal space for years; and I think we have learned over time how to tame that. And I think that’s the answer; that’s the key to live performance. I think if people love seeing you live, they will listen to your album, because they wanna hear that song again. Once they know two or three songs off of your album, then they want to go see those songs. Then they start liking the other songs, and then all of a sudden they like your band. From there, they start telling other people, ‘Hey, you should play with this band. These guys are badass.’
It’s not just being a nice person, and being cool, and being in the scene/social; it’s about having a product you really want to sell.” (Mike Martinez)
As I said, savvy and authentically passionate; a music media magazine’s wet dream.
All of Coattails’ upcoming shows will be posted on all Coattails social media pages, and can additionally be found at the bottom of this article. For future updates on the band’s upcoming album, stay glued to their Facebook page; we will be right there with you, with our screaming faces pressed up against the glass.
Can’t get enough of Coattails?
Us either. Keep reading to see upcoming tour dates, band facts, and deeper insights into the band’s influences, instruments, and more: Backstage.
Backstage w/ COATTAILS
Damien Howard/Guitar & Vox
- Band Leader/Stellar Grunge Vocals/Wicked Good Lyricist
- Second Band: Dark Bird
- Beatles Fanatic
Michael Martinez/Keys & Vox
- Self-taught Piano Pro/Harmonic Prophet
- Second Band: Quiet Company
- Closet Metallica Fan
Kevin K. Rowe/Bass [a.k.a. Bucket Full of Flowers]
- Destroys and Reconstructs “Frankenstein Basses”
- Side Gig: DJ/Microphone God
- Crowd Pleaser
- Has Played on the Same 1995 Tama Rockstar Drum Kit Since 13 years of age
- Father to one, with another on the way
- Self-produced the aforementioned full-length album release: Coattails.
- Tiny Terror 15 Watt Head
- RickenBacker 330
- Gibson SG Standard w/ a Mosfet Overdrive
- Nord Stage 2
- Mini-Chord Synth
- Acoustic b600 and b410
- Fender Jazz with Scatter Wound Stacked 60’s pickups
- Fender Jazz with Scatter Wound Stacked 70’s pickups
- Fleabass with Lane Poor Legacy pickup and Aguilar OBP-1.
- Sterling Music Man that is on the bench to be gutted and re-imaged
- 1995 Tama Rockstar Drum Kit w/ myriad of Sabian/Zildjian Cymbals and Remo Heads
Coattails List of Local Band Favorites
- Otis the Destroyer
- Calliope Musicals
- Dark Bird
- The Mammoths
- Sweet Spirit
- Quiet Company
- The Sun Machine
Coattails Curated ATX Playlist
We asked Coattails to create a playlist of local bands they love, and holy sh** did they ever.
What the band is listening to
- “Deloused in the Comatorium” – The Mars Volta
- “Look Like That” – The Sneaks
- “Distance Inbetween” – The Coral
WEDNESDAY JAN. 3RD
FRIDAY JAN. 19TH
Barracuda Performance at 11:30 p.m.
David Brendan Hall | David Brendan Hall Photography