One positive side effect of the endlessly flourishing garage-rock scene is stumbling upon excellent bands like The Rich Hands. Cody Mauser, 22, Nick Ivarra, 23, and Matt Gonzalez, 21, are all San Antonio, Texas, natives who've been friends since high school. And their infectious, pop- and punk-influenced sonic gems celebrate their decade-long experience sampling the best parts of a late-teens/early-20s life: girls, parties, girls, living only for today, periodically pondering the future and, of course, more girls.
Yes, it's raucously simple — but you can't deny the melodic power of tightly crafted nuggets like "My Mind" and "Stranger," which cherry-pick the best parts of 1950s pop, '60s rock and '70s punk — and serve it up with a tasty modern cherry on top. Those two songs are found on The Rich Hands' debut full-length, "Dreamers," released digitally and on vinyl this month by Detroit label Fountain Records and on cassette from taste-making California garage imprint Burger Record. Folio Weekly chatted with Ivarra, The Rich Hands' drummer, about heading East for the first time, transitioning out of day jobs and rising above the small San Antonio DIY scene.
Folio Weekly: The Rich Hands have a 26-day tour coming up in June and July. Is this the band's longest run yet?
Nick Ivarra: It is the biggest, but only by a couple of days — our first national tour was 24 days, and this one is 26. And we've actually never played the East Coast before, so anything east of Ohio is brand-new territory.
F.W.: Since you're new to the area, give us a brief bio of the band.
N.I.: Sure! Matt and I have known each other the longest — about eight or nine years. Cody and I knew each other in school, and then Cody transferred to Matt's school and they started jamming. We've all been in previous bands, and we had another guy on guitar for a short time and James Zapata on bass for a while. But they both left last year, so it's been just the three of us since last November, when we did a two-and-a-half-week tour. Without a bass player, it was either find a fill-in or have Matt switch to bass and just do a three-piece, which seemed to work out best.
F.W.: As a four-piece, the band has released a ton of singles and EPs. But is the new LP, "Dreamers," the first effort featuring The Rich Hands as a three-piece?
N.I.: Yep, although James played bass on four songs. And we recorded "Dreamers" at our friend Travis Beall's studio in Austin, where we also did our "Bad Girl" 7-inch last year.
F.W.: The new album seems a bit poppier than some of the louder, more garagey past EPs. Was that a conscious decision? Or a natural evolution?
N.I.: We don't really shoot for anything; as a band, we're all over the place. We all have different styles and come from different backgrounds, so our influences are individual. And when we write songs, we do whatever works and whatever feels right — not a certain sound or genre.
F.W.: Is the band paying the bills right now? Or do you still all have day jobs?
N.I.: We pretty much work full-time hours when we're not touring — Cody and I work at a record store, and Matt works at a grocery store. And both places have been lenient about touring. But the ultimate goal is definitely to be able to live off the band — be able to eat, get a hotel and do a couple fun, random things when we're touring. Funding that can be pretty stressful.
F.W.: Seems like you three are working hard to tour a lot. Is the San Antonio music scene a good one?
N.I.: What's weird about San Antonio is that it's a very diverse, very clique-ish city. If you don't know the right people, you're not a part of everything. That's a bummer, but I feel like it's pretty much like that everywhere else. Predominantly, the music scene here is based in metal, pop and indie rock. The DIY community provides a lot of help, but it's not a big or thriving one. And as for whatever you could call a garage scene … well, we'd pretty much be the only band in San Antonio doing what we do. Which is great in one sense because we get a lot of attention. But we also don't get a lot of opportunities to play local shows.
F.W.: So Austin's thriving music scene has become a sort of second home?
N.I.: Yep, Austin has much more to offer us and has kind of become our Plan B. They welcome us with open arms up there, and we have a very good time every time we play venues like Hotel Vegas. But we also can't wait to come to Florida for the first time.