Things to do: Heights Theater Swimwear Department

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A good joke is made up of several facets; the timing of his delivery, the cashier effect, and the larger message behind the actual joke. For local group swimwear departmentwhat started as a joke five years ago has now become one of Houston’s favorite bands.

The Swimwear Department will perform at The Theater of the Heights Friday July 8 with openers Musicals Calliope and aloe flower. The band will be celebrating the release of their latest single “Malled To Death”.

“Malled To Death” will be the first release in a series of upcoming singles from the band that, on the surface, focus their talents on writing exclusives about malls and swimming pools, but in doing so lean into broader and deeper topics.

“The kind of comedy that we are, if we’re comedy, that’s camp. It takes a stupid thing really seriously and melodramatically and you don’t really know if they’re joking or not,” describes lead singer Matt Graham.

It’s only fitting that a band that focuses on puns and clever jokes started when bassist Ned Gayle, a multidisciplinary artist, started a project involving the creation of a record company that would make cassette tapes containing album covers and a batch of songs for groups composed with names.

Graham, who met Gayle as part of a comedy improv group, provided her with the swimsuit department as a prompt and although Gayle never made the tape, the group was born and only took bigger than when Jeremy Grisbee volunteered to play keyboards joining Gayle, Graham and Jack. Gordon on drums.

“To have a band that started as a joke, where my friends volunteered, and people show up, enjoy the performances, and that’s been going on for five years is such a gift,” says Graham. “It’s such a weird, silly, weird project, but it means so much to me because it injected me with all this confidence that I can be an artist and a performer.”

“To have a band that started as a joke, that my friends volunteered in, and people showed up, enjoyed the performances, and carried on for five years is such a gift.”

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When asked if they sometimes feel limited by their focus on malls and swimming pools, Graham replies candidly, “I have faith in the process and in our willingness to reinvent the process when it doesn’t work and in the ability of the guys in the band to chat through what works and what doesn’t and come up with more punny song titles I think there will be a time when we feel like we’re scratching the bottom of the barrel, but it hasn’t happened yet.

Graham says the band is often approached by audience members full of comparisons to the underground punk legends of 80s Houston. The Judys and the funky sounds of The B52s as their songs are fun, warm and incredibly catchy, blending the simple songwriting sensibilities of the oldies with more electronic instrumentation.

Swimwear Department is the kind of band that wins fans not just with every single single, but also through word of mouth followed by every energetic, all-encompassing performance. Their songs and performances revolve around humor and fun, making it impossible not to join in the fun and take a trip back in time to youth when malls and community pools were often the epicenters of social life.

Although basing their whole premise on a joke, the band’s talent, warmth and authenticity is no laughing matter as all the members are serious musicians who could no doubt write great songs in any music scene. what kind.

“I realized that when I sit down to write songs about malls and swimming pools, all I have to say or all I have to say comes out and sometimes I don’t find out what it’s all about. ’til I’m in the middle of it,” says Graham who describes thriving on “prompts and deadlines” as a writer.

With their latest single “Malled To Death”, recorded by Steve Christensen and mastered by Chris Longwoodthe band has drawn from its continuing list of puns revolving around its central themes to create a heavy and dark 80s reflection on the death of retail in recent years combined with the fatigue that comes from a busy journey at the mall.

“Malled To Death” begins with a big synthesizer riff from Grisbee that fits the band’s history that started as a joke. Grisbee’s solo turns into the driving beat behind the song with lyrics evoking images of the grim reaper using his sickle to take souls from stores that won’t and exhausted shoppers who don’t even know what they’re after anymore. having dulled their senses at the more challenging mall.

The song is rooted in the decade when malls flourished and became the social hub for young Americans nationwide. “It’s kind of a mix of hair metal and new wave sync stuff. It definitely hits the 80s, but it’s not clear what part of the 80s it’s aiming for, it only grabs a handful of the 80s says Graham.
Graham created the video for the song using a compilation of 80s hair metal band music video clips perfectly timed to the song and in another example of the band’s famous absurdity for copyright reasons. , the video is listed under “Most Epic Moments”. in Hair Metal of the 80s.

For a band that always incorporates and encourages audience participation, The Heights Theater offers a welcome challenge and Graham assures unsurprisingly that the band has a plan as their performances are usually full body experiences for the athletic frontman.

“I can jump off the stage and run back to it. I’m not going to give away anything, but we’re trying to employ bigger gestures in engaging our audience. We are not going to have any pyrotechnics but we are ramping up the show on stage. We do everything. »

Swimwear Department with Show with Calliope Musicals and Blossom Aloe on Friday, July 8 at the Heights Theater, 339 W 19th. 7 p.m. $16.

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