Flashbulb Flashback: Fungus Among Us // 7.27.12

Photo by Karlo X. Ramos

Photo by Karlo X. Ramos

{Update: http://observer.com/2015/06/after-surf-rocks-crash-fungi-girls-are-still-riding-high/ and http://centraltrack.com/Music/5134/A-Nice-Treat/Scenes-From-Last-Nights-Crazy-Mac-DeMarco-Show-at-Lolas-in-Fort-Worth}

Benito’s on Fort Worth’s Near Southside has been a staple of my visits to Funkytown since I can remember. It was the first place I ever tried Ceviche, the crisp flavors tingling my tongue. Years later, I am blessed to be close enough that I regularly pop in to get my fix. Last week, it was my pleasure to chat with the three men of Fungi Girls: Deryk Barrea, Jacob Bruce and Skyler Salinas. We ate a few hours before they played an absolutely frenetic set at The Where House, following Nashville Rockers Paperhead, D. Watusi and local steamroller The Longshots.

When I was in Austin during SXSW I kept hearing about a band from the Fort Worth area, Cleburne to be exact, and it was Fungi Girls who were killing it at showcases around town. That name continued to percolate as I met and talked to more folks. Eventually I was at Dreamy Soundz studio, a fairly significant landmark in the Fungi Girls’ universe. Responsible for a lion’s share of their recordings, the Rux’s agree their third album, currently in production, represents a significant step forward for the band.

Their early psych-tinged surf rock writhes with a twitching rhythm, gravity held tight by its hooked-in relentlessness. From that zero hour assailant party rock, Bruce’s steady, haunted voice lurks behind a curtain of jangled chords. Now, they are expanding this sound to further follow the directives of knobs and pedals. You can hear things opening up on 2011’s Some Easy Magic. A through-and-through great record, full of dazzling sonic surprises, by the time you get to the hypnotic Doldrums, you will already be drooling for future tracks. You might very well end up playing it on a loop.

“We’ve been listening to a lot of Krautrock, like Can and Neu!,” says Deryk Barrera over a plate of Huevos Rancheros. This is seriously one of my favorite things a person can say.

Salinas adds, “We haven’t gotten all spaced out or anything. A lot of the newer stuff has a faster Motorhead beat, with Kraut pop elements.” The unit’s tightness is maintained even in conversation, they never talk over each other or argue. When I ask how the recording process has been thus far, Salinas states plainly, “Grueling.”

To which I follow with an inquiry about studio disharmony, they all shake their heads, and Barrera answers, “We’re good talkers.” As for the songwriting, Barrera gestures between Bruce and Salinas, “It just happens whenever these guys are together.”

Skyler Salinas has a calm seriousness while discussing the life of the band; nothing self-important, simply illustrating that he cares about the work. There’s a meditative surge to his playing style that compliments his gravitas. He tells me how the three of them learned about music from Skate videos, a recurring theme I am finding, “From Black Flag to Erik B. + Rakim or Os Mutantes.” From that zygote of musical intrigue, the three have traveled the country, spreading the Fungi spores from Charlotte to Seattle. This includes a visit to Chicago where they crashed with label mates White Mystery, and Portland where “the people were sweet.”

Back at that Where House show Fungi Girls played to a sweltering blob of a crowd pulled tightly together amidst the rhythmic crashing. Barerra bounces with his Beatle Bass strapped high, lock-step with Salinas’ hot work from snare to crash, Bruce’s propulsive reverb-dosed guitar pushes the thing over the edge. From our dinner conversation to the show that night, one can see these fellows are only beginning to crack the surface.

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