San Antonio-based rock band The Rich Hands is approaching its ten-year anniversary. Over the past decade, guitarist/vocalist Cody Mauser, bassist Matt Gonzalez, and drummer Nick Ivarra have developed their sound from rough-around-the-edges garage pop to straight-ahead rock and roll.
Cody Mauser writes music, plays guitar and sings in The Rich Hands. He also writes and plays in New Attractions with bassist Matt Gonzalez, as well as in Austin soul group The Reputations. The Rich Hands will be playing at KRTU's Indie Overnight Spring Showcase on March 7th at Paper Tiger.
How long has The Rich Hands been playing in its current form, and who is involved in its current form?
We kind of hopped around in bands and jammed together in high school, so this was in the late 2000’s, ’06, ’07, somewhere around there. I graduated in ’09, but The Rich Hands didn’t form actually until after I graduated. So, Nick had been graduated for like a year, and I was a year out of high school, and we just messed around with the idea of getting a band started. He had played with another band that I was with in high school. We just started going from there, and it just kind of developed into this fun thing. All of the friends we had who played joined, and little things happened where so-and-so didn’t work out. We tried other guitar players and stuff like that, but it’s pretty much the original three — just me, Matt, and Nick. So as long-winded as that was, I’d say the band formed in like 2010. We’re coming up on ten years, which is pretty strange.
I read up on you guys online and found some descriptions of your sound as “slop pop” and “garage rock.” How would you best describe The Rich Hands’ sound?
It’s kind of evolved over time. When we first started, it was definitely really garage-y, but then again, you have to remember that we also developed within that new-garage explosion, so it was very easy to just get pigeonholed into being “just garage rock.” We were pretty much that for a while, though. The “slop-pop” thing, I don’t even know how that came about. Maybe somebody wrote it and it just stuck, I don’t know, but it did stick for a while. People have asked us about that, which is pretty funny. I would classify it now as just rock and roll. The last record is very rock and roll, and the stuff we’re working on now is very rock and roll. But it’s sort of transcended different genres, I guess, and we’ve tried different stuff out, and it just hasn’t worked out as well. So in a nutshell, rock and roll.
You mentioned that you’re working on new music right now. Will there be a new Rich Hands record this year?
Oh, no. That’d be cool, but Rich Hands has just become a band that is still pretty active, but not super productive when it comes to writing music. But I’ve written a bunch of new stuff for Rich Hands, it’s just a matter of getting it together and recording it. I mean, I just got off recording with The Reputations, and all that stuff sets time apart from everything. Even if I have time, I still have to make sure that the two other guys’ schedules work out. I would love to put out another record this year and I have about half the record written, like five, six songs. But I don’t think it’s gonna happen in that time frame.
We’re still playing out a lot though. Just as a general rule of thumb, I try to have us play a show once a month, just to have us stay active, even if we’re playing a similar set, though we try to mix it up. We try to go different places. We haven’t played at Paper Tiger in a while, probably since almost a year ago, but we’ve been playing Bogside, Lonesome Rose, Limelight. We did Blue Star last year, too. Just trying to play new places to keep it fresh.
As a band, you’ve been with Fountain Records out of Detroit, Burger Records from Fullerton, California, and Resurrection Records out of Spokane, Washington. Why switch?
Fountain Records is a small label out of Detroit, and when we first started out we made a demo and we sent it out to a bunch of record labels, and Fountain was on that list. They were the first label that was like, “Yeah, we’ll do it.” They put out a single, a 45, and that was the first thing that we’d had physically put out for us. The guy who runs it, his name is Michael Monte, really sweet guy. He was basically like, “I really like you guys, I want to do a couple records.” I don’t remember how many albums the deal was. It wasn’t big or lucrative or anything, but we delivered two records under his label, and it just didn’t work out after that. We had Burger underneath everything as the people who would put the tapes out. They put our first record out on tape, and we just built a good relationship with them. We were never really “signed” with them.There were no contracts. We just had a label [Fountain] put out our records and then Burger did the tapes. The last tape we put out, Take Care, was actually done with Lolipop Records.
After the second record, we basically dropped Fountain, just due to differences, and we were trying to find a label. My friend Mike, who runs Resurrection Records, and I had been in conversation for a while, and the record was done, and it finally ended up working. But we started recording that record in 2015, and it was finally released in summer of 2017. So yeah, like two years. We recorded over a period of time, but just the process of officially getting it picked up was over a year. It was so fucking stressful because we were trying to put the record out and trying to book a tour to promote it on top of that. Everything was just in a time crunch, and it was insane. But to answer the question, we just switched because there was a sense of urgency and we just needed someone to put this out. We’d gotten so spoiled from having this label that was willing to put out everything, and then when it didn’t work out because the guy got a new job, we were like, “Fuck, we can’t afford to put this record out ourselves.” It took a while to find people. And honestly, that’s got to be one of the hardest things to do, to find someone to put your record out. It’s so difficult and stressful. But we didn’t sign a record deal with Resurrection, so if we do another record, it’s going to be the same process all over again. We’re going to finish it. I have to shop it around.There’s that headache, you know? We all have better jobs now, too, so we could probably afford to put it out ourselves, but I don’t really want to get stuck with all that back inventory.
Your ‘Jam in the Van’ session is tight. How’d that happen, and what was that experience like? You guys won a contest, right?
Yeah, I didn’t even know we were signed up. Nick just signed us up. It was something where we had to submit music and a press kit, and Nick texted us. It was during SXSW 2014 because that was when the second record came out. The funny thing was the people from Jam in the Van travel around the country, and they were in Austin for SXSW, and I think they just picked one band for the contest and gave us a bunch of beer and stuff because they’re sponsored by Lagunitas. We were going back and forth on email, and they were basically like, “The only time we have available is 10:30 a.m. on Sunday.” If you’re familiar with South By, that’s the fucking end of it, and basically everybody parties on Saturday night. I know I was extremely hungover, and Matt and Nick were probably hungover, too. So we had to get up, and as stupid as it sounds, having to rock at like 10 a.m. is the fucking worst. But we did it! Looking back on it I cringe because you can hear how hungover and tired I was with my singing. I don’t know if you heard it when you first listened to it, but if you go back, and now that I’ve told you, you listen again, you’ll be like, “Oh yeah, makes sense.” But it was a really fun experience. The van is so fucking cramped, and right when you walk in, that’s where you play. It’s something that allows us to get some kind of notoriety, I guess, because a lot of bands that go on it end up getting popular, so we got lucky I guess. It was really fun though, I had a fucking blast.
Is there something people don’t usually ask about during interviews that you like to talk about?
I guess I think it’s always really interesting when people ask about the recording process or about what certain songs are about. One thing I like to talk about is this one time when we were on tour in San Diego, I think, and this guy asked me to scribble down the lyrics to one of our songs. We never put a lyric sheet in the second record, and I guess some of the words are inaudible or you can’t really tell what I’m saying or something. It was just this moment where it was like, “Man, this is pretty wild.” You know, that somebody wants to sit and read it and know what you’re saying. It just kind of goes full circle, because I remember when I was first discovering music I used to sit and look at the CD booklets or my parents records or whatever it was. So that’s pretty fucking cool. I don’t know, that’s probably the best answer I could give.
Is there a particular song you want to talk about?
Not necessarily. I mean, we had this song called “Girl,” and it was like the first thing we had ever put out. It’s really bad. I hate it. But no matter what, every once in a while somebody will fucking yell out “Play Girl!” at a show.
Do you play it?
No, we do not fucking play that song, man. We stopped playing that song maybe two years after we were a band. In that first span of time before the third record came out, I was just a workhorse. Just writing so many songs. So we’d play a batch of songs and decide we were tired of them and cycle through a new set of songs and just keep doing that. But one song I’ve always hated playing is that song “Girl.” It’s funny just to think that somebody remembers that from almost ten years ago. People yell shit out from our first record, which is cool, too, but we never play those songs.
We had an idea, on a side note, that if we put out the fourth record, we wanted to do a month-long residency at a bar and the first week play the first album, the second week play the second album, the third week play the third album, and then the fourth week play the album release and new stuff and just have fun with it. That was something we thought of doing, but I just don’t think that we’d have a draw for a residency. Those are fucking tough, unless you’re a top 40 cover band or something, then you can bring people out pretty easily. But we have thrown around the idea. There’ll be some shows where we’ve talked about just playing Dreamers, the first record. But I always end up chickening out. I sang so differently when we started compared to now. I’ve figured out how to sing, but before I was just this really nasally, whiny vocalist. I look back on it as an extreme learning curve, but I don’t like it. I find that’s pretty true with a lot of musicians, where once they reach a certain point, they really don’t want to go back. I still laugh at it though because that period of time with the first and second record had some of the best times, man. We toured so much and it holds a special place in my heart, but at the same time, I don’t really want to play those songs anymore.
How has the San Antonio music scene developed over the ten or so years since y’all started playing together?
There’s always been a scene here. I don’t want to say that there hasn’t. There’s been stuff in and out, a lot of guys moved to Austin. But I think the scene just organically grew. I don’t think we necessarily had an influence on it, but I think in that sense the timing was just really good. When we were coming up, maybe we weren’t as mindful of the whole scene. I knew a few people here and there, but we were just kind of doing our own thing. It wasn’t out of any ego-type situation, but we were busy doing our own stuff and just bouncing around. I really think the timing was good, and everybody realized, “Okay, maybe this is happening.” I think that happens maybe every 10 years or so. It really just organically happened.
Do you have a favorite San Antonio band at the moment
As far as live bands go, Garrett T. Capps is killing it right now. I love his record a lot. I also really like the D.T. Buffkin record. That one’s really good. Those are also both my friends, but it’s not because they’re my friends that I’m saying that. I’d like their music regardless. I just think that what they’re doing is really cool. I think what Garrett is doing is really cool, just even for the strip and the local scene in general. He’s really killing it. He’s got immense drive. What’s funny is way, way back when Garrett was going back and forth between here and Austin, Rich Hands played one of our first shows with him, and he was just a one-man-band. Kinda like the King Khan & BBQ Show, but without BBQ or King Khan or whatever. But he would play guitar and do the kick drum with the high-hat and tambourine. It was cool, and it’s funny and fucking crazy to see that Garrett and this one, you know? That’s another reason why I admire him, I think, because I’ve literally seen him grow. It makes it that much sweeter.