FLENDER formed in 2018 in Houston, TX from members of several experimental projects here and in Denton, TX. The experimental scenes in both cities, and beyond, have been highly influential and inspirational to the band since before Flender started and continue to be in their latest album, Precious Essence.
Without these scenes—the mutual love, support, and experiences the band found in them— Flender wouldn’t be the same band, and this wouldn’t be the same album. Here’s some of the projects they were involved in that led to Flender, and some projects their buds are involved in that continue to unhinge them.
Much like their penultimate album, ‘It’s Cool’, ‘Precious Essence’ blends together flavors of noise rock, art rock, math rock, prog, punk, jazz, and pure commercial jingle, in a molotov cocktail of queerness, satirical consumerism and adbusting mockery begging to be chugged and barfed onto a mall cop. Denton, TX-famous drummer/impressionist Beth Dodds delivers some of her most complicated chops and transitions to date, out of her dozens of solo and ensemble projects, including Bukkake Moms, Problem Dogg, and Flesh Narc to name a few. An Id Entity, Flender’s resident guitar remodeler, poetic vocalist, and founder of ever-fluctuating noise collaboration KA, plays their most radio-staticked shriek guitar yet. Circus guitar noodler and screecher Jeffrey Bussey creates a meandering squirm throughout each track.
Thematically a concoction of sonic beverages, poisonous jingles, and riot punch, Precious Essence is an adbusting cocktail begging to be chugged and barfed onto a mall cop. Physically, it’s a double(shot)-CD, with disc one featuring nine written songs and disc two featuring two longer improvised, post-”enhanced” carafes. Lyrically, it’s a satire of Coca-Cola U.S. fascism. And musically, it’s a moscato dumped into a martini.
Before we dove into many cool recommendations and experimental rock tips from Flender, we asked the band to give us a quick rundown of other projects they were involved in. Apparently, we had no idea what we were asking for.
Flender’s Other Bands & The History of the band
Brutal prog/freak rock and unfortunately now-defunct band Flender’s bassist, Tobin Armstrong, played guitar and sang vocals in between 2016-2018 before the formation of Flender. Often donning pantyhose masks and Dickies coveralls at their shows, Dead Time put freak and prog together, making some truly unique albums that definitely influenced the prog/freak rock aspects of Flender.
This improv noise kollaboration and performance art project started between Flender’s guitarists/vocalists An Id Entity and Kalen Rowe in 2016. An’s performance art and noisemaking project, Altar, which encouraged members of the audience to participate in the performance, became the basis of KA,which has involved over two dozen members, in an ever-changing arrangement, approach, and sound. Their latest album, Parachutes, was also released by Odditory Recordings this year.
Flender’s drummer, Beth Dodds, has had too many projects to name here, but Bukkake Moms was one of her mains. Not a band you want to Google without “bandcamp” in the search terms, Bukk Moms was an extreme noise rock band in Denton, TX from 2009-2016. When Beth moved to Houston in 2018, looking to wreak havoc on our ears, Flender promptly enlisted her, replacing Tobin on drums. Members of Bukk Moms are also part of Denton, TX psychedelic noise rock band Flesh Narc, which Beth has also had a hand in, more on that later. Bukkake Moms’ final album Raisins, was released by Decoherence Records in 2019.
An earlier project Beth was involved in, Problem Dogg included members from the DFW area of Texas (including Bukkake Moms and Flesh Narc) in various countless line-ups, arrangements, and releases. If there’s one band that could sum up the chaotic, noisy, no wave, experimental, satirical rock scene of Denton, it’d probably be Problem Dogg. With a discography of 67 digital albums available on Bandcamp for a bargain of $0.50, sporting various degrees of intentionally terrible MS Paint album art, Problem Dogg and its member’s relentless multitude of other projects should be an inspiration to us all. Their last and seemingly final album was self-titled and self-released on CD in 2014.
Kalen and Tobin’s noise rock project is a more recent collaboration that incorporates the talents of jazz and experimental drummer Anders Zelinski, illustrious saxophonist and keyboardist Danny Kamins, and noise guitarist and noise rock aficionado Brian Nguyen. Prion’s style is primarily improvised recordings, post-produced with vocals from Kalen and Brian. Their debut self-titled album was also released by Odditory Recordings last year. Since Beth’s relocation to New England last year after the recording of Precious Essence, Anders has since
FLENDER’s Other bands: Honorable Mentions
Texas zeuhl/Magma worship/prog rock with Tobin Armstrong and members of Dead Time.
An avant garde jazz quartet with Tobin Armstrong, Beth Dodds, and members of Laktating Yak.
A post-punk/math rock project produced solely by Beth Dodds.
Another post-punk/math rock project produced solely by Beth Dodds.
A shoegaze/experimental dream pop project of An Id Entity.
Flender’s Noise (& Non-Noise) Comrades
A band that was playing at the time Flender formed, Milk Leg was probably one of the few local bands we heard making noise rock that one of us wasn’t already part of. Cranky, persistent, and blistering guitars over funk-leaning, but jagged rock drums. They’re a bit reminiscent of Guerilla Toss and Palm, but also all their own sound. The members now live in different states, but praying for a reunion album to happen in this lifetime.
One of the first awesome experimental rock bands from Denton that members from Houston had played with, Sexy Jerry’s aggressive but playful experimentations in rock are palpable and pored over with painstaking practice and tinkering to make very exacting noise and thoughtful structure and tonality. Flender’s bassist, Tobin, recorded an album for them in 2017 entitled Chuck Weekend after Dead Time/Laktating Yak guitarist, Charlie Bryan, and featuring a photo of his giant dog, Wallace. A hidden track on this cassette features members of Sexual Jeremy, Dead Time, KA, and Flender guitarist/vocalist Kalen improvising a very special piece. Sexual Jeremy just released an album called The Real Sexual Jeremy on Decoherence Records and toured this summer.
Another big Dentron inspiration comprised of members of Flender drummer Beth’s band, Bukkake Moms (including sometimes Beth herself), as well as bands like Gay Cum Daddies, Problem Dogg, and possibly a dozen others, Flesh Narc is as good a band as any to represent the dense web of interrelated no wave, noise trip rock bands and their shared members. The psychedelic, searing electronic noise rock of Flesh Narc has been an incessant, absurdist, sneering, absolute nuisance and menace to ears for a hot minute. Often in recent years, like Bukkake Moms, featuring two drummers, this chaos train just did a tour run with electronic noise rock band Child Abuse this fall, which you might have caught, and are releasing a new album!
A poetry class-met friend of Flender guitarist Kalen, Coyotebloodbath has been sharing bills with Flender since the beginning, and is a raw and confrontational force of audience-engaged performance, home cooked, heavy, industrial noise beats evocative of the textures of a Whitehouse harsh noise wall broken into banger beats, and is definitely for fans of local doom jazz/noise rap legend B L A C K I E, with a more poetic style of lyrics and vocal delivery. Coyotebloodbath orders audience members to hold printed sheets of lyrics and a light up to them as they pace around in dark rooms, leaving the scattered words on the ground with an “@coyotebloodbath” scribbled on each page for anyone to take home. They’ll be releasing an album later this year through Ritual Magnetics which you can catch at @coyotebloodbath ;)
Our best friends in Austin, Blank Hellscape are a noise techno band from actual hell (Austin). Double noise tables because one is never enough. Two composers work the tables generating filthy beat-laden chaotically controlled noisescapes while a vocalist stomps around wrapping the mic cable around his neck to hang himself while he shrieks. BH wants to rip out your eardrums and put them in their pedal chains. Responsible for unknown amounts of subversive meme pages and Blank Hellscape offshoot pages, they keep their corner of hell very entertaining while being sweet as ever. They have a split with Wolf Eyes and shirts that say “I want to fucking die” so be sure to invest.
Though not in the noise camp, Total Care are our dream pop comrades chock full of charm and magical hits. We wish they could have stayed together longer (their members moved away from each other), but their swoony healing sound still haunts our hearts. Their live shows always elicited woos and whistles from the crowd. Any fans of Homeshake and bands of this variety should check out Total Care. Another band we are praying to reunite one day.
Another short-lived project that touched our ear souls then disappeared (not literally), Ranger Smith was an experimental post punk band a la Parquet Courts or Pavement. Sometimes meandering and sometimes galloping, Ranger Smith had a cowpokey type of angular rocky tone and rhythm and mellow experimentative sound we wish gave us more recordings. After promptly releasing a single and an album, we heard no more from the ole Ranger.
Not sure where we’d be without the consistent support and experimental rigor of Steven Smith. Perhaps detrimentally less freaky and more convinced that people hate our music. Probably the most unhinged noises in Houston, verging on tongue-in-cheek intentional comedic-like unlistenability to even the average appreciator of noise, his project GoldenHog and the various associated 1-2 member associated acts on his Bandcamp are experimentation incarnate, and if you let its wholly rare distinctive existence grip your brain’s tail into the GoldenHog’s den, you’ll find a fascinating cave of treasures. The only projects that may come close to comparing are SSS and Cig Oasis hanging out in the brain of Tom Green, but we’d like to think there’s always a well-kept secret creative genius like Steven Smith hiding out in every city in the world. Get a taste of the town.
If you’re very small and not careful, El Mantis will latch onto your thorax and start chomping away at your brain. Formed last year, the heavy psychedelic jazz of El Mantis has started blowing out ears all over Houston with impressive endurance shredding from all players involved. Danny Kamins, Angel Garcia, and Andrew Martinez (all from other projects mentioned here) make jazz sound ten tons heavier than most metal out there. Their first album released earlier this year.
Another newer band to the scene, and our brothers in avant improvising noise rock, Sapo Toro brings an almost spiritual and definitely doom-filled sound that will fool you into thinking these guys composed what they just played for you. It’s a friendly reminder that composing can be overrated, just shred with chemistry-aligned players and it will sound how it’s meant to sound, structure itself as its conjured, and still have that magical energy that comes from improvising, a feeling that stability will be flying off the handle any second now.
Possibly inventing and definitely carrying the torch of doom jazz in Houston is the sounds of a petrochemical factory gurgling smoke and clanging heavy drawworks of Carl. Carl has been through many drummers (including our own Beth Dodds) but its saxophonist Danny Kamins and bassist Andrew Durham are its primary members still occasionally cranking the big oil pump into our stomachs to surface our guts to the floor. Float in a black poisonous cloud like a soul escaping through a volcanic exit of hell into the undeserved heavens and that’ll be like meditating to a Carl album. Breathe it in.
Carnival of Blood
Improvising noise jazz monsters Carnival of Blood are a rollercoaster ride that sends you splashing at 200 mph into a shallow pool of guts. Our new drummer Anders Zelinski plays in this band with his brother Colin, as well as Danny Kamins and Brian Nguyen from Prion. As shreddy as it is jazzy, the blood carnival is always worth a visit whenever it rolls through your town. Worth mentioning is our bassist Tobin Armstrong’s mixing and mastering of their latest album, Things Over and Done With, and of course, Colin Zelinski’s incredible and grotesque artwork all over their Bandcamp.
Another indefinitely extinct project disbanded over relocated members, Dog Reality were a skramz/powerviolence project conceived by Theophiloz X (of many Houston projects like Hibernationstate, Z.I.T.I., sin fe, and now is part of CDMX project rpg’97), Alex Hayes (from Substance and Glick), and Ryan Valadez (who was behind Mouthing, https://moths.bandcamp.com/album/moths, and now Erase/Bloom). Extreme and radical and full of fuck the state, Dog Reality played some shows with members of Flender before Theo departed Houston to be missed dearly.
The mature brainchild of Jeremy Jean-Jacques, Mature Dream was once described by a friend as witnessing someone get dressed in the morning. We agree. Uniquely subtle, nuanced, and gentle, the sound of Mature Dream is featherlike dream rock and jangle pop with more heart than its weight seems able to support, and yet it supports it effortlessly. Jeremy sings right on the edge of his voice which is perched on the last raindrop in a cloud, making for a feeling like the last ounce of emotion is being squeezed out in each lyric. Seemingly back in Houston after moving to NYC for a while, we hope to see more from Mature Dream.
A calculating noise orchestra, noisestra if you will, Enemy Goddess is the supreme being and ruler of lush, harsh trips through celestial frequencies and hellscapes. Worshiping and being worshiped at her electronic altar, she produces a backwards sort of calm through a chaos harnessed into relentless streams of ecstatic static. Her label Ritual Magnetics releases awesome physical USB drives for the digital age of noise, including her recent album and an album by her other project Field Trip.
A sad slowcore gem akin to bands like Rodan, Red House Painters, and Shipping News, Houston’s Lagmind has been releasing work for at least a decade. The creative outlet of writer/vocalist/guitarist Caleb Lowry and featuring Johnny Jacobs tightly holding down the drums, Gavin Hendershot thrumming intense bass, Isabel Reyes providing passionate backing vocals, Lagmind is a deep breath. Sustained vocals and swelling rhythms rock back and forth at its busiest, and a pausing, contemplating guitar accompanies ethereally sad or sidelifting vocals on the solo recordings with Caleb. Worth checking out just for the name, but any fans of math rock, emo, slowcore blends of music should listen now.