Earlier this year, I wrote about the Houston, TX-based indie rock/indie pop act Wild Moccasins, and as you may recall, the act which is led by its founding duo Zahira Gutierrez (vocals, keys) and Cody Swann (guitar, vocals), and features Avery Davis (drums) Nicholas Cody (bass) can trace their origins back to 2007 when its founding duo started writing songs together, about a year into their romantic relationship. And although Wild Moccasins has gone through a number of lineup changes throughout its history, the band initially wrote and recorded indie rock-inspired work centered around dance pop-like guitar lines and tight vocal harmonies; however, with the release of 88 92, the Houston-based quartet had begun to increasingly incorporate synths and other New Wave influences into their work — and that has continued with their recently released Ben H. Allen-produced Look Together.
As the members of the band note, Allen inspired a much different approach to their writing and recording process, and the result is an album that finds the band blending the guitar driven elements of their early work with 80s and 90s synth pop and New Wave; but unlike their previously recorded material, the album thematically, lyrically and emotionally is centered around the the volatility, heartache and confusion of the dissolution of a longtime romantic relationship — in the case, the romantic relationship between Gutierrez and Swann. But along with that, the album focuses on the difficulties of repairing a relationship after a breakup, of fresh starts and shedding past insecurities.
As both Gutierrez and Swann note, the breakup of their romantic relationship and its immediate aftermath were extremely difficult as it occurred as the band was in the middle of a lengthy tour. They would spend the countless hours driving from city to city in the tour van in silence; on stage they’d painfully stare each other down; and they’d exchange exaggerated and embittered he-said-she-saids through songs. Although countless bands with a romantic couple at their center have split up, the former lovers decided to choose a way to reconcile their differences by working towards a common musical goal. Songwriting has been engrained within Gutierrez and Swann’s relationship and while being emotionally vulnerable with a former romantic partner was initially difficult, they also found that it helped clear the air between them. “I think we look back on that time and take some comfort in knowing that we went through that together,” says Swann. “It needed to happen in order for us to have this resolve.”“Yeah, it needed to happen,” Gutierrez adds. “Now, when I sing the songs, I find myself breathing a sigh of relief.”
“No Muse,” Look Together’s second single was a slickly produced, shimmering New Wave-like song with an infectious, arena friendly hook — but underneath the self-assuredness of its performance, the song bristles with the bitter and aching hurt of someone who realizes that they’ve been used, and that they’ve had enough of it all. As Gutierrez explains “‘No Muse’ is about feeling like men use women as muses in the wrong context. A lot of women have had the experience of being taken advantage of or had men in power try to take control of what they do, so this song encourages women to be their own muses. Because of what the song represents to me, I decided it was best for me to direct the video and sought out a female cinematographer (Rachel Bays) to shoot it in order to remove any sort of male gaze. I felt it was important to see the video through the eyes of a woman.”
“Longtime Listener,” Look Together’s latest single while being a mid-tempo ballad continues in a similar vein as its predecessor as its centered around a simmering New Wave-like arrangement and soaring hooks; however, emotionally the song focuses on the overwhelming and confusing push and pull of emotions in the immediate aftermath of a longtime breakup, as well as the lingering ghosts of memories, smells and so on. But much like Fleetwood Mac’s “You Can Go Your Own Way,” the song is a bit of a kiss off — in which the song’s narrator is busy putting on a brave face. And while being an aching ballad on what once was and can’t be again, and a bit of a kiss off, there’s the subtle reminder that there was this amazing connection that the narrator once had that’s become part of a messy but well-lived life — and perhaps just as important, that she will move forward and love again.
Directed by the band’s Zahira Gutierrez and Cody Swann, the video begins with Gutierrez sitting impatiently by the phone before answering it. Her bandmates continually hand her phones that she picks up, answers and hangs up and at her most overwhelmed, Gutierrez and her similarly dressed bandmates go off to perform the song. It’s surreal but it captures the song’s ache and bitterness.