Wild Moccasins chose the accomplished visual artist Dario Robleto to design the cover of their latest album because they thought his body of work felt “romantic.”
But that warm, lovey-dovey feeling doesn’t come through on the cover of Look Together, the Houston band’s third full-length album. Robleto placed a picture of the group’s core duo, vocalist Zahira Gutierrez and guitarist Cody Swann, inside something resembling a snow globe. The songwriters’ faces are expressionless and the color palette is in a shade of blue that brings to mind the ’70s children’s television special Jack Frost. Not exactly a scene that oozes joy.
If it looks like the cover’s subjects have been through a breakup, that’s because they have: The record chronicles the demise of Swann and Gutierrez’s nearly decadelong romantic relationship. The 12 songs became a conversation between the songwriters as they struggled to find a way to continue on as a band. The group, which includes drummer Avery Davis and bassist Nicholas Cody, will be performing at Valley Bar on Wednesday, January 23.
Gutierrez cites Fleetwood Mac’s landmark album Rumours an inspiration for Look Together, which was released last June, but the raw and candid peek into the personal lives of Wild Moccasins’ two main songwriters doesn’t sound like ’70s folk rock. The guitars ring brightly with a New Wave sheen as Gutierrez belts out lyrics with a passion that would make Karen O of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs proud.
Now that they remain close friends, it’s clear on songs like the irresistible “Longtime Listener” that the connection between the musicians remains strong, despite the fact they’re no longer romantically involved.
“When we write music, it clicks,” Gutierrez says. “We are able to speak this language to each other that maybe other people don’t understand. A lot of it has to do with our history. [Cody] has known me since I was 15 or 16. We experienced learning about a lot of new bands and songs together.”
Robleto’s artwork on Look Together influenced how the group presented everything from the music videos to Gutierrez’s distinctive and flamboyant do-it-yourself costumes. She designed each outfit herself using thrift-store finds and other materials like streamers and party supplies.
“I don’t have money to have someone design something for me,” Gutierrez says. “It all came out of necessity. I want to wear things that nobody has and stand out on stage, so I guess I have to go thrifting and sew together my own stuff.”
One band the songwriters discovered when they were together was the indie rock group Of Montreal, led by musician Kevin Barnes. In addition to being highly visual artists, both groups use music to tackle personal themes. Gutierrez remembers touring with Barnes several years ago and seeing him take on a wild persona night after night. It reaffirmed for her that she was heading down the right path.
“Watching him onstage night after night and knowing how long he has been doing it was really inspiring,” she says. “I learned that I could probably do this forever. He’s writing and having so much fun. I hope I can get to that point and still be writing and coming up with new ideas.”