When a 20-year-old like Lorde can essentially rule the musical landscape, you have to wonder if there’s room for grown-ups. But that thought doesn’t even cross the minds of Burette and Gabrielle Douglas, the husband-and-wife duo who front Fort Worth psych-rockers The Cush.
“You should make music because it’s fun,” Burette said. “Why else would you do it?”
Now in their early 40s, the Douglases have been making music together for more than 20 years, seven of them spent co-fronting the long-defunct Dallas-based alt-rock outfit Buck Jones. In its pre-internet heyday, Buck Jones was a large part of the fertile Dallas scene that at the time drew national notice thanks to the ubiquity of The Toadies and Tripping Daisy.
“We toured a lot, and it was fun,” Burette said, “a good learning experience.”
When Buck Jones ended, Gabrielle said, “none of us really thought we were going to play together again. It had just run its course.”
The couple moved to Vermont in the summer of 2001 — but not before recording an album’s worth of new material, music that was sonically different from their previous outfit’s, spacier, more expansive, and less concerned with radio-friendly verse-chorus-verse templates.
“It was our first experience recording at home,” Gabrielle said. “We thought we were just doing demos, but when we listened, we thought, ‘Oh, these are actually pretty good.’ ”
The pair arrived in Vermont with their new band’s self-titled debut in hand and quickly found an audience among the art-minded community around Burlington. “It’s so beautiful there, and there’s so much creativity happening,” Gabrielle said.
Vermont’s lush scenery and dramatic seasonal differences helped nurture an interest in more atmospheric sounds that went all the way back to the recording sessions of the second Buck Jones album, when producer David Castell introduced the band to the spacey effects created by an Echoplex, a vintage tape-delay machine. Castell’s obsession with carefully crafted sonic textures fascinated the Douglases. “He’d spend an hour, two hours, finding that one right guitar tone,” Burette said. “It just got us thinking about all the possibilities.”
Along with the new tonal horizons, the couple had discovered paths to possibilities in song structure, melody, and ambience. “We’d just discovered Air, and Wilco’s Summerteeth and [The Flaming Lips’] Soft Bulletin had just come out, and there was all this beautiful keyboard stuff happening,” Burette said. “That really opened up ideas to us.”
Two more albums would follow, written and recorded in the Douglases’ rehearsal/studio space in Burlington.
Besides the inspiring landscape, Vermont’s relative proximity to places like New York, Boston, and Montreal provided chances to play often, and the band (with former Buck Jones bandmate Cody Lee on drums) opened shows for a lot of early-aughts indie-rock up-and-comers like Broken Social Scene and Cat Power. But a mutual yearning to be closer to family brought them back to Fort Worth in 2011.
Here, The Cush’s atmospheric psychedelic rock found a home on Spune Productions’ roster of folk and indie acts, and before long, the band was appearing on the bills of higher-profile gigs and locally produced music festivals. “It’s hard to believe that we’ve been [back] here for only four years,” Burette said.
Then again, The Cush has technically been a band for almost 14. And in that time, the husband-and-wife duo (along with former Doosu and Flickerstick drummer Todd Harville) have let their sound grow organically. Their recently finished fourth long-player, Transcendental Heatwave, is due out in January and will be distributed (on vinyl) in Europe by Norwegian indie Follyphone Records and locally by Fort Worth’s Dreamy Soundz Records.
Burette described the material as “being more rock-sounding, harder,” and indeed, the tracks are built on faster tempos and heavier guitar sounds. The psychedelia still spills out of the headphones in glimmering waves of delay and reverb, but the churning guitars and up-front drums give The Cush a sense of forward motion. The ominous “Highway Brain” sounds like a Stereolab song about the wrong side of the tracks, while the overdriven bass jangle of “Summers Gone” hastens the disconnect felt in the wake of a break-up as inexorably as a calendar moving between summer and fall.
As long as the shows sound fun and agree with the musicians’ home lives –– Gabrielle is a yoga instructor; Burette works in the parts warehouse of an aerospace company –– North Texans can expect to see/hear a lot more Cush.
Like a lot of bands from Texas, The Cush has found big crowds in Europe. “We’d try to get to Europe every few years,” Burette said. “People over there are really into the Texas psychedelic scene, and we go over pretty well there. They just think I should have a big beard.”
Fri w/ Un Chien, Exit 380, Darrin Kobetich at The Live Oak Music Hall & Lounge, 1311 Lipscomb St, FW. 817-926-0986.