Deep Cuts has played gigs as diverse as a carpeted living room at the Houston House of Creeps, a sweaty set at last year's Free Press Summer Fest, the annual Houston Press Artopia showcase at Winter Street Studios, and the main stage at Fitzgerald's, where they opened for Buxton's 10th anniversary party. The band was nominated for Best Pop Act in the 2014 Houston Press Music Awards alongside such popular and established local acts as Wild Moccasins and Chase Hamblin (losing out to The Tontons), and nominated again for Best Indie Rock in the inaugural Free Press Houston Sammy Awards (the voting for which is still open). And yet—despite a solid three-year run as one of Houston's most vibrant live acts—Deep Cuts has never released an album. Until now.
The band's debut EP, Love Grows, drops this Friday, September 19 with a release party at Fitzgerald's. Guitarist/vocalist Chase Harris and drummer Zach Alderman share most of the band's songwriting credits, and have employed a similarly DIY approach to both the album and the accompanying release party, doing absolutely everything themselves, right down to booking the bands and catering the food (more on that later). No record label. No manager. No slick PR team. Not even a professional photographer.
"Chase did all the photos," Alderman says of the record, which features on its cover a mortar and pestle under shallow, gently shimmering water. It was shot in Harris's mother's swimming pool in Clear Lake, where Alderman and Harris grew up together, friends since they were four years old. Harris was the first to pick up an instrument, at 12 years old—"Chase started playing guitar; he learned some Nirvana songs and I was so jealous," Alderman recalls, laughing—though it wasn't long before the two childhood friends were playing music together.
Forming a band was "an unspoken thing," says Harris. "We always wanted to be in a band," and eventually Deep Cuts formed out of their various musical pursuits: scattered metal bands, Harris's music degree from Houston Baptist University, aural "art project" Children of Pop. It's easy to see the threads of these disparate influences woven into Deep Cuts, reflected through larger lenses of surfer pop (thanks to Harris and Alderman's Clear Lake roots, which often saw them spending weekends in Galveston) and the local Tejano beats that now dominate so many Houston radio stations. "We call it surf rock meets Latin music," says Harris, though it's equally tempting to compare Deep Cuts to, say, Vampire Weekend-meets-Calexico-meets-Graceland-era-Paul Simon.
And when it came time to cram all of this into one compact six-track package, Harris and Alderman—along with bassist Austin Garrison, guitarist Chase DeMaster, and percussionist Gabriel Lopez—knew that they wanted to keep the production as hands-on as possible. Scraping together the money they'd saved from three years of touring and live gigs bought them two days of recording time at Houston's legendary SugarHill Studios.
Making an album this way, Harris admits, "is incredibly hard to do in Houston. You normally have record label support or a manager. We didn't have any of that." But what they did have was the support of a Houston fanbase that attended every show, encouraging them along the way, nominating them for awards, recording their live acts, and posting them to YouTube to share with friends. "It gave us a real sense of investment and a product we were happy with," Harris says.
Love Grows "has the feeling of heat and summer," Alderman says, making it the ideal album for those end-of-summer trips to Galveston with your feet on the dashboard—especially while jamming the bossa nova-beat-heavy "Causeway" with its hyperspeed shout-outs to the Hotel Galvez and the Seawall. The EP also includes brand-new tracks such as "Cigarette Boat" (which was written while Deep Cuts was in the studio) and old favorites such as "Alchemist," a popular song from the band's live repertoire—and likely to draw plenty of applause at this Friday's release show.
Doors open at Fitzgerald's at 8 p.m., with Young Girls, Limb, The Caldwell, and Mikey & the Drags getting the party started before Deep Cuts finally takes the stage. It's a long way from the days when Deep Cuts was opening for its own favorite local acts—the days when the band couldn't afford to produce merchandise for its own merch table. "Zach made guacamole instead," Harris recalls, laughing. "We wanted to meet people, so we had guacamole at our merch table."
Harris promises there will be guacamole at this show too, made—like everything else Deep Cuts does—themselves, by hand. "Two batches," he says. "One with habaneros and one without."
Love Grows Release Show, Sept 19 at 8, $10, Fitzgerald's, 2706 White Oak Blvd., fitzlivemusic.com