There used to be this short-lived venue called Cowtown Bar and Grill, where Camp Bowie Boulevard meets the traffic circle. That’s where I saw Animal Spirit in 2013. At the time, I thought they had an interesting, if somewhat disparate, sound mixing giddy, floor tom-centric breakdowns, sunny male-female harmonies, and reverb-colored guitar parts into an entertaining live show. Obviously, lots of things change over four years – Cowtown Bar and Grill is now a Pollo Regio chicken restaurant, for example – and Animal Spirit has evolved in the interim.
The band’s most recent evolution was the addition of a second guitar player, Dusty Calcote. The Amarillo native moved to Fort Worth from Austin last year, in part so his band Roar Shack could play more often, because their bassist, Zach Tucker, lived up here and was already in multiple bands. Calcote met the members of Animal Spirit over the past couple years through show trades between them and his band. When Roar Shack went on indefinite hiatus, he joined Animal Spirit, quickly turning into an integral component to the band’s live shows.
By then, the band had finished tracking its new album.
“We did some stuff in the studio where [singer-guitarist Andrew Stroheker] layered some tracks, and there are a few things that weren’t as full as we wanted them to sound,” said drummer Parker Anderson. “So Dusty came in and learned what was on the album, and then he started adding some more stuff the longer we jammed it.”
Tucker has been in Animal Spirit since 2014, after original bassist Joe Cannariato departed to join Austin-by-way-of-East Texas rock band Purple. Besides Animal Spirit, and counting the sidelined-Roar Shack, Tucker plays bass in three other bands: Dead Vinyl, Panic Volcanic, and Bomb Quixote. He’s also one half of an acoustic duo, singing and playing along with his sister Jessi on ukulele.
Animal Spirit originally came together after a previous band’s dissolution.
“Me, Andrew, and Joe Cannariato had a weird, psychedelic jam band,” said Anderson. “Andrew played drums, I played bass, and Joe played guitar.”
That band disintegrated, and Andrew took up guitar.
“He wrote a bunch of cool guitar songs, and Sam [Stroheker’s then-girlfriend, now wife, who shares his last name] started singing on them at open mics, and we all just started hanging out a lot after that old band broke up.”
A few years back, Anderson moved into a house where Sam and Andrew joined him as roommates. Built into a hill, the Monkey House, as it came to be known, was a two-story rental in the Micki Lynn neighborhood northwest of the Union Pacific trainyard. The house’s first floor was essentially one big room built underground, providing them a perfect spot to rehearse. The band grew out of a nexus of creative energy generated from rehearsals, ambient railroad noise, DIY shows, and the constant shuffle of twentysomething couch-surfers.
But over that time, the band honed its sound, releasing its eponymous debut album in 2013. By 2014, the guys and gal were ready to enter the studio with an album’s worth of new material. But while the band wrote the songs quickly, the recording process took two years. Anderson said the band “just got caught up in life,” which included Sam and Andrew getting married and buying a house. Once their lives settled down, Animal Spirit put the finishing touches on the album, which makes its debut this Saturday night at Lola’s Saloon.
This Is Relevant is a nine-song collection of thoughtfully arranged rock songs with jangly guitars shimmering over rhythms that ebb and crash like tidal shifts. Andrew and Anderson acknowledge there’s a surf-rock element to this stuff, but Dick Dale-garage rock this is not, even on album midpoint “Doom Surf.” Though not specifically themed as such, Anderson thinks the songs look for the connections between people, citing a song called “Web.” But even in the contemplative murder tale of “Revenge,” Andrew plaintively sings, “Oh no, how could this be happening? / I’ve lost my faith in humanity” – while it sounds literal in a narrative that includes a poisoning, it limns the idea that betrayal is one of the saddest things a human can do to another person.
The band wants to promote the album later this year with a few Texas tours – they’ve spent the past couple years cultivating a fan base in Austin and San Antonio and look forward to seeing people they’ve met during their trips up and down I-35.
Their approach to touring is basically “down for whatever,” said Sam. “Obviously, some of it sucks, but mostly it’s fun to be out of your element and routine for a little bit.”
Her favorite memory had to do with a woman she’d handed a free CD to at a San Antonio show. “The next time we played there, she was at the show and wanted to pay us for the CD and buy us a round of shots,” she said. “That was really cool.”
Animal Spirit Album Release Show
Sat, Feb 18, w/ Dome Dwellers and Trai Bo at Lola’s Saloon. 2736 W 6th St, FW. $10. 817-877-0666