Editor’s note: In celebration of Texas Is The Reason’s reunion show, we’re happy to republish the oral history of the band that originally ran in AP 224 (Mar ’07). You can purchase tickets to the Revelation Records 25-year Anniversary show they are playing here.
Written by: Trevor Kelley
When the legendary post-hardcore band Texas Is The Reason announced last year they would be re-forming for a pair of one-off shows in New York City over Thanksgiving, a lot of underground music fans had to wonder what happened to them in the first place. After all, this was a band who released only one full-length album of ambitious and emotional melodic rock before suddenly disbanding in the winter of 1997. At that point, Texas Is The Reason had earned a small army of devoted fans and, after months of being courted by major labels, had agreed to sign a lucrative contract with Capitol Records. But to the surprise of many, the band abruptly split up that winter, at the tail end of their first-ever headlining tour of Europe.
In the years that followed, the members of the band pursued various other projects, but for many TITR fans, it always felt like the band ended just as things were getting good. Their sole full-length, 1996’s Do You Know Who You Are?, still stands as one of the most beloved post-hardcore records of the decade, their influence evident in many of today’s more popular rock bands. So maybe the reaction Texas received this past fall, when they announced they’d be celebrating the 10-year anniversary of the disc with live performances, wasn’t completely unexpected. Both shows sold out in mere days and, in many cases, fans traveled across the world to see them.
What did happen all those years ago to make the band members walk away? And now that so much time has passed, is there any chance that it could actually happen all over again? AP sat down with the members of Texas Is The Reason, as well as their various fans and friends, to discuss the strange life of a band that ended far too soon.
NORMAN BRANNON (NÉ ARENAS): Guitarist
CHRIS DALY: Drummer
GARRETT KLAHN: Singer/guitarist
SCOTT WINEGARD: Bassist
JEREMY CHATELAIN: Former singer for Handsome; later played with Daly as a member of Jets To Brazil
JORDAN COOPER: Owner, Revelation Records
BEN JORGENSEN: Singer/guitarist, Armor For Sleep
STEVE PEDULLA: Guitarist, Thursday
STEVE REDDY: Owner, Equal Vision Records
DAVID WOLTER: Current A&R rep at Virgin Records; acted as a major-label mentor for TITR in the mid-’90s
YOU’RE ALLOWED TO STAY FOR A WHILE
After playing in various hardcore acts—including Fountainhead, Shelter, 108 and Resurrection—Brannon, Daly and Winegard decided to form a new band that was decidedly more melodic than the ones they were used to playing in. After a few singer-less practices, Texas Is The Reason began looking for a frontman, inevitably convincing former Copper bassist Garrett Klahn to move to New York and join the band.
SCOTT WINEGARD: It was always an idea we had. As soon as I met Chris, we were like, “We need to do a band together,” and Chris and Norm were always in cahoots with that. We played twice, just by ourselves, and that made [us think], “Oh, we’re going to be a band.”
NORMAN BRANNON: We didn’t really know of any band-less lead singers that we wanted to play with, so that added to the long gestation period between talking about doing a band and actually doing it. The first person that was a serious contender was Jeremy Chatelain. He was moving to New York from Salt Lake City and we were hanging out with him a bunch. We loved him. We thought he was fantastic.
JEREMY CHATELAIN: I remember Norm asking me. It was right when I moved to New York and I had just joined Handsome. I had auditioned and made it and Norm was like, “Well, would you want to play music?” But I had to politely decline. I was like, “No dude, I’m busy. I just joined this crazy heavy-metal band.”
CHRIS DALY: Handsome had started to get going, so Jeremy was not the guy. It was me, Scott and Norm just trying to figure out what we were going to do. We had known Garrett from touring and we were all pretty friendly with him. Out of the blue one day, he called, and said he got kicked out of [his old band] Copper. So we were like, “Well, would you want to move to New York?”
GARRETT KLAHN: Honestly, I know every band says this, but we didn’t set out to do anything. We never sat down and said, “This is what we want to sound like.” I think the first song we wrote was either “If It’s Here When It Gets Back It’s Ours” or “Antique.” I don’t remember which. At those first four practices, I didn’t even know how to play guitar.
I HAVE TO BUILD THIS ALL AGAIN
Over the next few months, the band recorded their first three songs—“If It’s Here When We Get Back It’s Ours,” “Dressing Cold” and “Antique”—and quickly released a self-titled EP on famed SoCal hardcore label Revelation Records. As they hitched onto a string of hardcore shows along the East Coast that summer, their decidedly slick rock sound surprised many, including the handful of major-label A&R reps who showed up when Texas made their live debut at the now-defunct Equal Vision loft in Manhattan.
STEVE REDDY: As soon as they played that show, I was like, “Oh, wow, they’re good.” There were a couple A&R people at that show. We had a show before at the loft, but I don’t remember any A&R people being there. They were friendly with us. So it wasn’t out of the blue, but it was funny.
DAVID WOLTER: Honestly, I wasn’t in the audience [at their first show] as an A&R guy to sign them. I think that’s why my relationship with them was what it was. I was an A&R guy who ultimately was their friend and wanted them to do whatever was best for them.
BRANNON: After that first show—which, by the way, we were awful—all of a sudden these conversations started shifting into, “Have you ever considered signing to a major label?” To which the answer was clearly “No.” So we played a few more shows after that. Mostly hardcore shows.
WINEGARD: Nobody listened to hardcore anymore. It just seemed like that was all we knew. I don’t think Superchunk were going to be like, “Hey guys, we heard you were in 108. You want to play with us?” [Laughs.] Seaweed wasn’t going to be like, “Dude, I heard you were in Fountainhead. You want to go on tour?” That wasn’t going to happen. I mean, our second show was with CIV.
BRANNON: I was actually quite surprised with how well it was going over [playing with hardcore bands]. Obviously, there were kids who were totally not interested. There were kids who thought we were lame and not hardcore. But there were a lot of kids who were into it, and that was surprising and pleasant because that was my scene. That’s where I wanted to be accepted.
STEVE PEDULLA: I feel like a lot of hardcore kids were getting into the whole Oasis thing and wanting to be Brit-pop and I was not into it. I was mad about it, actually. [Laughs.] But the more I heard [the first Texas EP], the more it grew on me. I wore that thing out.
DO YOU KNOW WHO YOU ARE?
In the winter of 1995, the band entered the studio with producer J. Robbins to begin work on their first full-length, Do You Know Who You Are?. Major labels were taking an immediate interest in Texas, and over the next few months they began heavily courting the band. One overzealous A&R rep even went as far as paying for their album to be mastered by industry vet Vlado Meller (who’s mastered records for everyone from Weezer to Metallica) on his label’s dime.
BRANNON: Once we were finished making the record, the guy who was trying to sign us to Epic suggested that we have “his guy” do the mastering [for free]. So we went to Sony Music Studios and met this guy. There were gold and platinum records all over the place. I said to him, “So, what was the last project you did?” And he was like, “I just did the last Celine Dion.” It was amazing. I honestly feel like his contribution to the sound of that record is kind of what makes it so sonically pleasing today.
WINEGARD: Even playing the songs now, I don’t feel like, “Oh, I’m playing something old.” I feel good about it. I still have the same feeling when I was on tour and we were writing those songs. I always knew that the record was a great record and I always knew that the band was somewhat important, at least to me.
BEN JORGENSEN: If the scene now was that way then, [Texas] could have really taken things to a different level way before. There was something a little bit more epic about them. It was like they had some destiny to be big. I can hear that in their songs.
BRANNON: Once advance cassettes for the album came out, our lives changed. I remember sitting down with our lawyer at one point and him saying something to the effect of, “I have at least 28 labels that want to sign you.” He was like, “Basically every single label is in on it.”
JORDAN COOPER: It was the most attention I’ve seen paid to any band that we’ve ever worked with. We’ve had three to five other bands have that sort of feeding frenzy around them, but nothing was like Texas. Executives would come down here and talk to us about unrelated things, just to get a better understanding of what the band had done.
WOLTER: It was real. There were real senior executives that wanted to sign this band. I think they really felt it was going to be the next big thing, so to speak. At the time, A&R people always talked about “the next Nirvana.” I never heard anyone say that Texas were “the next Nirvana,” but there were certainly a lot of people talking about if Texas were the next big thing.
BRANNON: We were all kind of broke. So we’d pick a different major label every day and kind of hang out with the A&R guy there that was trying to sign us and then raid the promo CD cabinet. Then we’d take the subway down to Kim’s Underground and sell all the CDs to have money to live. But at no point did we ever think we were going to sign. That wasn’t part of the program.
JUST LET ME SIT HERE FOR A WHILE
Following the release of Do You Know Who You Are?, the band set out on tour opening for Sense Field. In the middle of their trek after a show in Chicago, the members of Texas got into a near band-ending blowout, which resulted in a tension-fueled drive back to New York. After allowing themselves a few days to chill out and reassess, the band decided to complete the tour, albeit in a rental car. Upon returning home, their attitude about signing to a major label had taken a noticeable turn.
DALY: I was really sick. We played in Chicago and I passed out. We were kind of burnt. We did a six-week tour in Europe with Samiam. It was pretty grueling. Then, we came home for a week and left on another six-week tour with Sense Field. We were three weeks into that, and we hadn’t been home in so long. We were burning out. We realized that we might have gotten a little too in over our heads.
BRANNON: It kind of all came to a halt when we came to Chicago. I remember we were staying at Tony [Brummel from] Victory’s house and Garrett decided that he wanted to see his girlfriend and that he was going home. I said, “Fine, if you want to go home, we’re going home. But if we go home, there is no band when we get home. It’s over.” And I guess he was okay with that, because the next thing I know, I was in a van driving home from Chicago listening to Red House Painters for 16 hours.
DALY: There was definitely some apprehension. It was like, “Well, if we go home, this might not go on anymore. That might be the end of it.” We definitely all felt that way.
WINEGARD: I definitely remember talking to Norm and saying, “Do you really think we should not do this?” I don’t think anyone really wanted it to stop. I just had a common sense way of saying, “We should do this. This is a really cool band.” We were on our way out to California again. It was like, “Come on, we’ve never played San Francisco. Let’s do this.”
BRANNON: I said to Scott, “Look… if Garrett will agree to go back out to the west coast and finish this tour, then I’ll do it.” Garrett said okay but, by this point, we had rented a van for a month-and-a-half and the van was returned now. So Jordan at Revelation asked Sense Field if we could use their equipment for the rest of the tour. He’ll pay for the plane tickets and get us a rental car. We finished the tour in a compact rental car.
KLAHN: It was a four-door white Ford Taurus. When we opened up the trunk, it was filled to the top with Revelation order catalogs. [Laughs.] It was hilarious. Maybe that was [Cooper’s way of] saying, “Fuck you.”
BRANNON: When we became a band again after that first breakup, I felt like we had got out all of the bullshit. All of sudden, we were having fun again. That was awesome. At that point, the idea of signing to a major label didn’t seem as foreign or abstract as it did a year before. All of a sudden, that felt like something that we could do and realistically succeed at.
WINEGARD: There was definitely a point where we were like, “Wow, a lot of labels are talking.” So, it was like, we need to either hear what they have to say or tell them to fuck off. And I think we were all like, “Well, let’s see what they have to say.