Once upon a time, a band named Rome Hero Foxes released what is for my money one of the best rock tracks from a Houston band ever.
“Hunters,” the second track from their debut album, For When You’re Falling Backwards, is the platonic ideal of post-hardcore; there’s a heaviness there, but without the macho posturing of endless screams, and with a sense of melody that stands up to the best in the genre. Had I not been tipped off by the number of people who clearly knew the band, I wouldn’t have pegged them as locals the first time I saw them live, opening for a national act at Fitzgerald’s.
A couple of years later, with a pair of EPs under their belts, Rome Hero Foxes are back with their sophomore effort, titled 18 Summers, finding the band with a sound that’s evolved from their earlier, more on-the-nose efforts. Listen closely to many of the riffs, especially in the first half of record, and it’s easy to imagine them a little louder, a little more distorted, in the hands of a band that wanted to play it safe. But that’s not the case with RHF. Instead, the band finds themselves leaning into ‘60s surf rock, pushing them closer to indie rock territory, their sense of melody as strong as ever.
While 18 Summers is a record that has the breeziness one expects with the word “summer” in the title, 18 Summers is more Pet Sounds that Surfin’ Safari. There’s an air of melancholy surrounding many of the songs, as if they were written not for beach parties but for late evenings staring at the water wondering where things went wrong. While there are some faster numbers of the record—the back half of “Chest Piece” hits like a shot of adrenaline—things are best on the record when the band keep things mid-tempo, giving the lyrics time to shine in step with the music. (Black Mirror fans are going to want to pay special attention to “San Junipero.”)
The rollout for 18 Summers has seen the band build a bit of a buzz, with some national publications touting the title track, among others. Now that the entire album is available for consumption, it’s easy to hear that the buzz is well warranted. Rome Hero Foxes have a good thing going on, playing to their strengths of melody and song construction while adding flair that makes them stand out from the crowd. They could very well lead the next round of bands from Houston that start to get some national attention. Give them a spin next time you’re heading down to the water, wherever your beach may be.