The Houston dance pop project's Zahira Guiterrez talks touring wanderlust, live catharsis and a new album
If Zahira Guiterrez could, she'd spend ten straight months on tour.
"We did our first tour and fell in love with it," says Guiterrez, vocalist and keyboardist for the Houston-based Wild Moccasins. Love for life on the road is an indispensable quality for the quintet, who belong in a scene where touring can become an exhaustive requirement. Wild Moccasins' gusto almost seems naïve, but the band's live act is the backbone of its success thus far. The group has paid its dues, done the SXSW sets and scored the blog mentions. Wild Moccasins play Gasa Gasa on Wednesday.
Now, a relentlessly energetic romp of a show counts as Wild Moccasins' highest stock. A run of opening sets for Of Montreal drew favorable comparisons to the veterans of indie quirk, casting Wild Moccasins in good light for the February release of sophomore LP 88 92, a dense, cleverly navigated pop odyssey. The album flirts with the imagination, boasting rich, full sound that coaxes thoughts of how these tracks could manifest live, how much bigger they could sound fueled by that famed kineticism.
It's deft enough to make you want to spring a couple dozen bucks to see the band when it comes to town. That's the end game, because it's where Wild Moccasins have the best shot at leaving a mark, donning elaborate costumes made by Guiterrez as her theatrical vocals soar over chilling disco beats. Before you see it live, before you finish the album, there's a picture in your head of a Wild Moccasins show that's clearer than other bands'.
It almost reads like an elaborately constructed PR ploy, but Guiterrez says Wild Moccasins' blossoming is an organic product of the band's increasing synchronization. "Especially for this last record, things were really different," she explains. Songwriting first started as guitarist and co-vocalist Cody Swann's duty, but it grew to include Guiterrez, expanding even more for this album, she says. Part of the chemistry that works so well involves Swann and Guiterrez's romantic involvement, but she says the band as a whole share songwriting tendencies despite varying individual tastes that range from rap to Brazilian psychedelia (Guiterrez's flavor of the week). Luckily, everyone's into dance music.
But the up-tempos, shimmering synth lines and commanding stage presence aren't able to mask a dark tone that pervades the album. "We've always had that juxtaposition in our songs," Guiterrez says. "We're not the happiest people. Most of our songs tend to be pretty dark and honest about how we feel at the moment." The grooves and stomps of 88 92 sometimes overcloud that nature, dealing with not-so-everyday struggles like going to see your mom in a mental institution. More than anything, Wild Moccasins' energy is cathartic. Sure, it's thrilling to have 40 minutes to give it all on stage, but it's also the best place to let out all that pent up human darkness. There's something stirring under the surface of the raucous, joyous live sets, and that may be what makes Wild Moccasins stand out.