Wolverton came about gradually through a series of performances in 2010 and 2011. Hills Snyder, during an ongoing September 2010 installation process at the Blue Star Contemporary Art Center in San Antonio, Texas, invited various musicians to perform with him during breaks as the work continued. Joe Reyes, who went on to become the band’s recording mentor and occasional collaborator, was among them as was Jeremiah Teutsch, Wolverton’s multi-instrumentalist. Kate Terrell, who witnessed more than one of these performances, eventually became Wolverton’s keyboard player. She and vocalist Caralyn Snyder performed with Hills and Jeremiah for the first time in March 2011 in the oversize bathroom of the Alteza penthouse atop a big hotel in downtown San Antonio. This was ostensibly another art gig for Hills --- the empty penthouse had been made available to curators Andy Benavides and Anjali Gupta --- but he chose to assemble Caralyn, Kate, Jeremiah and friend Michele Monseau (also an artist in the show), to sing and play in said ridiculously huge executive grooming facility. The three women sang in the 40 square foot glass box shower while Jeremiah (sink) and Hills (tub) performed en al agua. The tub also featured about a dozen floating teacups.
Kate Terrell - Vocals, keyboards
Jeremiah Teutsch - Banjo, Vocals, Bass, Fiddle
Caralyn Snyder - Vocals
Hills Snyder - Vocals, Guitar
Tiny Chair, released August 27, 2012
Shores of Erewhon, in the can, release TBA
Meanwhile in San Antonio by Sarah Fisch
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That’s Wolverton! They’re a San Antonio art-rock band made up of Caralyn Snyder (vocals), Kate Te...That’s Wolverton!
They’re a San Antonio art-rock band made up of Caralyn Snyder (vocals), Kate Terrell (vocals, keyboards), Jeremiah Teutsch (vocals, electric bass, fiddle, banjo), Hills Snyder (vocals, guitar). If you follow that first link, you’ll get to hear their music, which I like a lot. It’s got a durable alt-rock-folk-country top hand and is excellently rendered, and what it leaves out is as important as what it throws together but is gloriously free free of twang or self-conscious neo-traditionalism. Contemplative, affectionate, warm and gently flawed, it’s roots music sans self-importance, and Hills Snyder’s songwriting is witty and doleful and full of unexpected touches; in “Guts,” a small song that sounds like deeply personal footnotes to the human epic. You know how in “Tangled Up In Blue,” you can’t tell whether the timeframe is 19th century or Now? Kinda like that.
The soldier in the story has brains on his helmet, but also “the mosh (I think) at the end of “School of Rock” always made him cry / He cried all the way through that movie, he never did know why.” I love that. Your everyday, popular-media-induced open-heartedness that occasionally makes mincemeat of the heart. Maybe “School of Rock” doesn’t do it for you. Maybe “The Color Purple” or TLC, (as in “Don’t Go Chasing Waterfalls,” not the goddam Learning Channel.)
In another song, “Sissy’s Lament,” the speaker, a “little sissy from way down South/ I got glasses on my face and candy in my mouth/ you don’t like my shoes, well, I don’t like ‘em either/ but why every day do you have to always be there?”
Maybe it’s the Lubbock Factor. Hills Snyder, who’s also the curator behind emerging-artist powerhouse Sala Diaz, and Jeremy Teutsch, a generation younger, are both from Lubbock. Historically, I really respect and enjoy those Lubbockites. How’re you gonna be pretentious from Lubbock? If you’re smart, you have to confront the small-town Christian hegemony while drawing on it’s strengths, which can make for some terrific territory for an artist. From Buddy Holly until today, that town has produced quirky down-South gems. Down South, I know, is a tricky concept vis-a-vis Texas. In fact, I witlessly generated the most comments I’ve ever gotten from a Facebook status update when I asked, a couple years ago, “Is Texas the South?” Folks fought for days. To those whose forbears emigrated from Mexico either two generations or 300 years ago, we’re resolutely “El Norte.” Other Mexican-antecedent Tejanos consider themselves soundly Southern, though. Descendants from non-slave-owning German ranchers (a good friend whose last name, actually, is Wolverton, is among these) strongly disavow the Confederacy legacy, while other Texans descended from either Confederate lineages OR those African-American families entangled in the pre-Civil War economy argue, with wildly varying emotion, that we are the South. Where the past isn’t past, but it isn’t even gone.
Lubbock, in this sphere, is an important cultural lab. One which produced Hills Snyder and Jeremiah Teutsch. And as such, Wolverton’s got some potent, quiet music, and the recordings make you feel like they’re right there, reckoning the quirks of our heritage right alongside them.
Hillls Snyder and Joe Reyes by Callie Enlow
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I’d always wondered what a Hills Snyder song sounded like. About one year ago I asked Snyder, an art...I’d always wondered what a Hills Snyder song sounded like. About one year ago I asked Snyder, an artist, to create an altare to Doug Sahm for a Day of the Dead photography feature. Something just told me he was the man for the job. Not until we were driving out to the installation site did he tell me he also was a singer-songwriter. I asked where he played, and I’m pretty sure he said “my backyard.”
It’s not like Snyder hid his musicality. A link to his many songs appears on his web site. Several of his installation and performance art projects tie back to his six-verse murder ballad" Song 44". In fact, his latest show, The Casual Observer The Causal Observer [Ed. Note: that’s my best approximation of the title, not an error], takes on verse one. This isn’t an art review, and I’m certainly not an art critic, so I won’t hazard a description of the artwork as a whole, but there is one nook in Blue Star’s expansive main gallery with two chairs, a bookshelf, and verse one printed neatly on the wall.
“I’ve written for my true love songs forty-three/
I wrote them on a banjo upon my bended knee/
but I could not play my instrument so they arrested me/
for scratching on that tightened skin my own filigree.”
It was here, in the teal “living room,” that Snyder played Thursday night with old friend and new musical collaborator Joe Reyes (Buttercup, Mitch Webb and the Swindles), just before the official opening of his exhibit. Unlike the thwarted banjo player, Snyder and Reyes breezed through 13 of Snyder’s songs. Reyes eased into a plush recliner with his Fender and a small FX pedal, while Snyder propped himself on a wooden chair too small for his six-foot-plus frame, left leg canted at a sharp 45 degree angle to properly cradle his acoustic Martin guitar.
Musically, the dual guitars, suitably muted for an art gallery performance, played traditional honky-tonk enhanced with a little pedal steel guitar approximation; the unadorned sounds of the West Texas plains, where a verse can resonate for miles. Afterward, Reyes, who just recently began playing with Snyder, said he gravitated toward Snyder’s naturalistic style. The simple rhythms make room for Snyder’s complex lyrics, less mysterious than his visual art, but layered nevertheless, and delivered in Snyder’s deep, twanged voice. Usually, the layers play for laughs with double entendres and witty puns, like in “Rope on a String” where Snyder sings, “She was the Eve in my everything” in a story of a happy love affair that devolves. By the end of the song, he notes, “It was on us, but now, it’s ennui.”
Snyder, along with Reyes and assorted musician friends, will host similar jams in Blue Star sporadically for the duration of his installation, which closes on November 6. He and Reyes plan to play next from 6:30-8pm Thu, Oct 21. For future gigs, check his Facebook page at facebook.com/hills.snyder. Be on the lookout also for Reyes-produced Snyder songs, to be recorded in the near future.
Wolverton by Callie Enlow
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We hear ... that local visual and performance artist Hills Snyder is regrouping his elusive country... We hear ... that local visual and performance artist Hills Snyder is regrouping his elusive country folk outfit Wolverton for a performance at the Cove. In the past Wolverton, featuring sly lyrics and straightforward chords, has included a rotating cast of singers, fiddlers, and others that Snyder describes as “more of a musical family than a band.” The most recent addition is Joe Reyes, a Grammy Award–winning producer and co-founder of the group Buttercup. Reyes also recorded Wolverton’s debut album, slated for release later this year. Considering the family's last performance occurred last spring in the bathroom of the local Grand Hyatt penthouse, it's best to expect the unexpected from this eclectic collective.
When: Jan. 28
Where: The Cove,
606 W. Cypress Ave., 227-2683
Set List for Tiny Chair release party at Unit B, August 31
The Sissy's Lament
Rope Without A String
No Big Deal
May I Ask
Love Is All Around
There are no upcoming dates at this time.