Duet (I)

Bowlsey at the Velvet Monkey: Interview & Gallery

The Interview

We Are Bowlsey: The Interview

Acoustic duo Bowlsey is mov­ing fast. They granted Mercury Photo Bureau an inter­view before their sec­ond pub­lic per­for­mance, and, in the inter­ven­ing weeks, became only the sec­ond inter­view sub­jects for REV HiFi before join­ing a con­tin­gent of Oklahoma bands fea­tured at this year’s SXSW. This bears repeat­ing: they went from their first pub­lic per­for­mance to join­ing the Buffalo Lounge SXSW Oklahoma Remix Showcase in less than two months.

Singer-​songwriter Clarissa “Cid” Castillo (a.k.a. “Cidward”) and rapper-​songwriter, gui­tarist and ocas­sional organ­ist Taylor “Shraz” Mercier set­tled on the sofa in the mid­dle of the Plaza District’s Velvet Monkey Salon for a frank dis­cus­sion of their past and present and their dreams for the future before being joined by their man­ager, Justin Hogan. (Sidenote: Since this arti­cle posted, Justin has become a full-​fledged band­mem­ber. Also join­ing as full­time drum­mer is Donald Eisenberg.) Afterward, they enter­tained the music lovers gath­ered to hear them (while simul­ta­ne­ously con­fus­ing and delight­ing the late night shop­pers com­ing out of the vin­tage fur­nish­ings and cloth­ing store located in the salon’s rear).

Mercury Photo BureauIntroduce your­selves.

Taylor “Shraz” MercierWe are Bowlsey. I’m Taylor, also know as Shraz.

Clarissa “Cid” CastilloAnd I’m Clarissa, also know as Cid.

MPBWhy Cid?

CidWell, he [ges­tur­ing at Shraz] kind of named me that, because me and all my sis­ters have [nick­names inspired by our dif­fer­ent attrib­utes. My nick­name is from Sid Vicious] because of all the rot­ten things I used to do.

MPBHow did you meet each other?

ShrazWell, we just bumped into each other in high school; [we] had never seen each other at the school until […] the end of the year. [We] bumped into each other, couldn’t tear our­selves apart […], but right before — I mean, we’d just met each other, and I was about to go back to Oklahoma [and] stay there for three months, and […] I wasn’t sure I was gonna be com­ing back.

MPBWas high school in Texas?

ShrazHigh school was — first half in Oklahoma, sec­ond half in Texas. [I] started col­lege in Texas, [then] with­drew and came back to Oklahoma, and Cid fol­lowed me here.

MPBTell me about your musi­cal back­grounds.

ShrazThe first inter­est­ing music for me was Trout Fishing in America. […] That was my band, as a kid, and, out­side of that, Colin Raye, Garth Brooks, Jimmy Buffett; just a whole lot of that from my grand­par­ents, ’cause I was raised by them.

MPBYou like song­writ­ers who tell sto­ries.

ShrazThat’s actu­ally very true. That’s inter­est­ing.

Smile! — Bowlsey at the Velvet Monkey Salon (2nd pub­lic per­for­mance)

MPBThat even­tu­ally led you to being a musi­cian?

ShrazMy grand­mother put me in piano classes when I was in kinder­garten. I had lessons for about seven or eight years […]. After that — that was kind of the first spark I had that I [didn’t] want to keep regur­gi­tat­ing the same things from recitals […]. I had a whole lot more ideas than what [I was] learn­ing in these lit­tle classes […]. So I said, Why don’t I write some of my own things, and I ended up com­ing up with [longer pieces that were] a whole lot more thought pro­vok­ing than any­thing I was play­ing at the time.

That led to gui­tar, led to bass, led to elec­tronic music, led to every­thing else. I did have [a few] gui­tar lessons, [plus] a lit­tle bit with bass, but after that every­thing was self-​taught.

MPBDid you research on the inter­net, like watch­ing YouTube tuto­ri­als?

ShrazNot really; I got enough tips here and there, more like — I was just look­ing for a kind of feel, look­ing for where my lit­tle niche was with my instru­ment; how to feel out my instru­ment, and just find my [musi­cal] groove […]. That’s where I’ve spent the past cou­ple of years; I haven’t really lis­tened much to the radio. [laughs] I’ve just been focus­ing on the actual — like, Where do I lie?

MPBApart from radio, do you lis­ten to much music?

ShrazI haven’t for a while. My father, Patrick Mercier, was some­one who always lis­tened to music; the whole entire — any time you were in the car, any time you were around him, there was always music going. I appre­ci­ate that; I love music, but I just had to take a while — of silence, and, in that, I started writ­ing more and more of my own music. It just put me more into my own thoughts.

We Are Bowlsey (V)
We Are Bowlsey (V) — Bowlsey at the Velvet Monkey Salon (2nd pub­lic per­for­mance)

CidMy mom and dad were run­aways when they met each other; my father is abo­rig­ine Australian, and he was a […] punk kid when my mom met him. My mom was in a [Houston] gang — she was a chola. My grand­mother on my dad’s side is full-​blooded abo­rig­ine; my [pater­nal] grand­fa­ther is Australian; he took her and kinda “smug­gled” her over to the U.S., and she accli­mated to Louisiana. [My father] was mostly raised in Houston; [he was] a bit of a mud dog [and did] con­struc­tion.

And, he lis­tened to a lot of rock; a lot of Megadeath, and Ærosmith, and a lot of White Zombie and Rob Zombie. And my mom [lis­tened to] South Park Mexican and Notorious B.I.G., Tupac; a lot of Houston rap­pers, too.

And I started orches­tra [play­ing] viola. I stuck to viola, and I sub­merged myself in orches­tra […] until senior year, when I really started lis­ten­ing to [Shraz’s] music, and we really started talk­ing more. We were engaged by that time.

[…] I used to sing punk music a lot with my friends — it’s so ter­ri­ble; I was in high school —

MPBCould you give me an exam­ple?

CidWhen you … hear … stuff that I used to lis­ten to; like Jack Off Jill, Scarling, Mindless Self Indulgence, stuff like that.

MPBYou seem to be ashamed of that. Why?

CidBecause, there’s so much more. I kinda [real­ized that] after [Shraz and I] started talk­ing to each other, and [I was liv­ing at a friend’s house] and [Shraz] ended up just stay­ing with me all the time. And he was lis­ten­ing, and he said, You could do bet­ter; you could do a lot bet­ter.

ShrazI always tell you, not that you can do bet­ter; every­thing was there; you were just deliv­er­ing it wrong.

CidYeah; it made sense with the song you’re gonna hear dur­ing the show; it’s called Extracurricular, and it was foul. Even though it’s the same lyrics, the way it’s deliv­ered, the feel­ings that were sent through it weren’t the same.

I gotta say that Shraz made me grow up [musi­cally]; after a while, I started lis­ten­ing a lot to acoustic [music], and I started to under­stand more about vocals and deliv­ery and lyrics.

MPBWhen did you decide to per­form in pub­lic?

ShrazTechnically? Last month. [laugh­ter]

Justin Takes Plays Little Kimmie (I)
Justin Takes Plays Little Kimmie (I) — Bowlsey at the Velvet Monkey Salon (2nd pub­lic per­for­mance)

MPBWell, how did it hap­pen?

ShrazIt’s just been some­thing we’ve been lead­ing up to. We had our own musi­cal back­grounds, com­pletely sep­a­rate; we didn’t lis­ten to any of the same things grow­ing up; then we became musi­cians, devel­oped our own music, and then [we met] each other. Grew up —

MPBWhen you say, Grew up, how old are you?

ShrazI’m twenty-​one.

CidAnd I’m twenty. He met me at fif­teen, and I raised myself. So I was basi­cally just a walk­ing night­mare.

ShrazThere’s been a whole lot of growth between us […].

MPBHow did you meet Justin Hogan?

ShrazAfter we moved to Oklahoma, we were liv­ing with my grand­mother. We got kicked out of there; Cid was work­ing at an apart­ment com­plex at the time, and she […] got us a good deal on an apart­ment. six months later, we were help­ing a friend clean up a house he lived in, and I looked around, and I said, You know, I never really looked at how nice of a house you have; I’ve been here tons of times, but, it’s a nice house! I mean, espe­cially after spend­ing eight hours clean­ing an oven, [I had a lot of time to observe the house].

CidYeah, I was a ren­o­va­tion maid, which means you go into houses […] and you make it look like [nobody’s lived there].

ShrazWe basi­cally did that for this house, and after we dis­cov­ered the house that was actu­ally under [the grime], we asked [our friend] what was the price […]. And it was […] five dol­lars less than [our apart­ment rent]. And we’d be get­ting an extra bed­room […].

[Justin wasn’t liv­ing next door then], but he was there [by the time] we moved in, because he was house- and dog-​sitting. He’d hear us jam­ming, and he found it really inter­est­ing, and he was like, You really need to show peo­ple this; I know that you think that you’re just goof­ing around, but this is actu­ally worth shar­ing.

Shraz (VII)
Shraz (VII) — Bowlsey at the Velvet Monkey Salon (2nd pub­lic per­for­mance)

CidHe did a [school] project about us. (Sidenote: Justin attends classes at the Academy of Contemporary Music at the University of Central Oklahoma.) [It was] a lit­tle slideshow about us, recorded on his phone, per­form­ing a song [while we were sit­ting] on the couch, and the [other] stu­dents […] loved it. He calls us and says, Hey, you guys want to come to ACM and play for some kids in a class?

ShrazIt was an artist’s devel­op­ment class. [There were about ten stu­dents and the teacher, Dr. Trey Rick].

After we were done play­ing, they cri­tiqued us. Even though I don’t think we had done our best, every­one just kept giv­ing us pos­i­tive, pos­i­tive, pos­i­tive, pos­i­tive; you know, want­ing to see more, even the tini­est lit­tle bits we could give them.

CidYeah, we only played three songs, just gui­tar and voice. We couldn’t even bring Kimmie because it was rain­ing.  (Sidenote: Kimmie is the larger of Bowlsey’s two Kimball organs. The smaller organ they brought to the Velvet Monkey is “Little Kimmie.”)

MPBOkay, tell me about the organs.

ShrazThe first one we got was when we were still liv­ing with my grand­mother, and that one wouldn’t even fit in my car; this one [ges­tures at Little Kimmie] does. It’s a Broadway; the first one is a Kimball Paradise. That one is just 3″ wider, [but it has] quite a few more fea­tures. But that 1’s the house organ.

MPBAre you attached to ana­log, or would you be just as happy play­ing a dig­i­tal synth with an organ plu­gin?

ShrazI couldn’t do that. When you see it there — it’s part of the show. Some peo­ple have lasers; I have an organ.

REV Hi-​Fi, Episode 2 — Bowlsey, Big Youth, & Madvillain

MPBWhere does the band name come from?

ShrazBack in Texas, [when­ever we were hang­ing out with friends,] every­one being mis­chie­vous, we got bowlsey. We didn’t get ballsy; we got bowlsey. And it was for all the lit­tle mis­chief, from toastin’ to boastin’. Of all the names I could have thought of, it’s not the one that means the most to me, but it’s the one that described what we were doing best […].

CidIt’s how we explained our agenda for years.

[Justin Hogan arrives at the venue; we exchange greet­ings]

MPBHave you started a record­ing project?

ShrazWe’ve been work­ing on what we were doing for so long, we didn’t have any­thing but that focus; on top of that, we [lacked resources to record, hav­ing] just the micro­phone that comes on your Mac[intosh com­puter]. And so, after run­ning into Hogan and him intro­duc­ing us to every­one in the whole town —

Cid (VII)
Cid (VII) — Bowlsey at the Velvet Monkey Salon (2nd pub­lic per­for­mance)

MPBI see you’ve acquired some new equip­ment; is it on loan, or do you own it?

Cid[gues­tures at Justin] — He’s moved in —

MPBYou’re not the dog sit­ter any­more.

CidI took him in!

ShrazHe’s offi­cially a ten­ant.

CidYup; we took him in and he brought all his record­ing stuff with him and said, We’re gonna go to work!

ShrazSo, we’re just try­ing to [record] all the stuff that we have; we have every­thing down, but we just need to get it recorded […]. We have all the instru­men­tal [tracks; we just need to record the vocals and other lay­ers].

MPBHow many fin­ished songs have you writ­ten?

ShrazFinished? Between seven and ten.

MPBAre there some unfin­ished ones that might end up on a release

CidOh, yeah. You gotta under­stand, me and Taylor had tons of stuff [writ­ten] before we met each other […]. I’m still pick­ing up old notes and then com­ing up to Taylor, who’ll have these great lit­tle dit­ties on his gui­tar, and com­ing in and say­ing, Wait! I have some­thing! and cre­at­ing […] songs out of the blue.

Justin HoganWhat’s cool is, I could hit just one note on the key­board, and [snaps fin­gers] [Cid] starts singing. I can hit one note on the key­board, and we get a whole song out of it! It’s pretty amaz­ing […].

ShrazThroughout my life […], I’ve always played [music] alone. I’ve never had any­one to play with. All my friends were musi­cians, but every­time I asked, Hey, guys! You wanna play? [they’d answer] Naah; we’re play­ing with these guys.

Little Kimmie
Little Kimmie — Bowlsey at the Velvet Monkey Salon (2nd pub­lic per­for­mance)


Shraz— and no one ever jammed with me. So, when I finally [met] Hogan, he […] took the time to lis­ten, [to help me] focus, [to] calm down a lit­tle bit, and then [he] jammed with me […].

MPBIt’s time to play “redeem a song.” What’s a musi­cal guilty plea­sure of yours, and what qual­i­ties make it worth­while?

CidOhhh, noooo! I’ve gotta think for a lit­tle bit. Alright; this is ter­ri­ble. This song, the only way that this song can mean any­thing to you, is if you are at your all time low­est […]. It’s Riddla on da Roof, by [rap­per] South Park Mexican. It’s one of those things that you may think is just silly; the lyrics are ter­ri­ble, it’s just a repet­i­tive song; but then you start think­ing about this per­son who, he doesn’t have very much — he thinks he’s liv­ing a life, yet he’s liv­ing [that] life in one town; it’s the best thing that he’s ever gonna get, and to him it’s fan­tas­tic and he’s gonna die lov­ing it — but in your head, you’re just stuck here in this rut in your­self, and it makes you sad, too.

ShrazWhen it comes to [music I like], I will tell every­one about it. But, I could say some­thing that I do find admirable, that isn’t some­thing that every­one [else] does. [It’s] by M.F. Doom, the vil­lain him­self, for his DANGERDOOM (Sidenote: DANGERDOOM is a musi­cal col­lab­o­ra­tion between DJ/​producer Danger Mouse and rapper/​producer MF Doom.) project, and he does one called Vats of Urine,

CidI knew you were gonna say that!

ShrazAnd the whole, entire rap is about p*ss. But, if you weren’t told the title […] — he just says “urine” at the begin­ning — you would just bob your head and get lost in it, lost in the music, and his flow is so crisp and clean that you for­get […] that he’s talk­ing about pee­ing.

MPBIs there any­thing else you’d like to say?

ShrazThis is a brand thing for both of us, and there’s a lot to come, because we haven’t brought in the full aspect of what do, yet […].

CidWe’d like to remind peo­ple that this has been only over the course of a month.

MPBYour heads must be spin­ning.


Gallery: Bowlsey at the Velvet Monkey

About Chris J. Zähller

International Man of Mystery. Cocktail Nerd. Occasionally designs websites. Sometimes snaps a picture or two.

↑ Go back to the beginning of this page.
Do NOT follow this link or you will be banned from the site! underlying-calculable