Dallas' Narrow Head Found Shoegaze Through a Shared Love of Hardcore Music

Narrow Head's members come from both Dallas and Houston
Narrow Head's members come from both Dallas and Houston
Kiran Khattra

The band is called Narrow Head. You probably haven't heard of them yet. You will. Formed in 2013 by guitarist and vocalist Ryan Hughes, bass player Jay Chary, Houston's guitarist and vocalist Jacob Duarte and drummer Keaton Khonsari (since replaced by Houston resident Carson Wilcox), Narrow Head has become a vehicle for its members to explore their interest in shoegaze and '90s alternative rock. Yet their oldest member is just 21 years old.

Despite the relatively "dated" genre (shoegaze's heyday was from the mid-to-late 1980s until the mid-'90s) and a glaringly thin list of contemporaries, Narrow Head possesses a very firm grasp on the musical style of their influences. In recent years, the aforementioned genres have seen a dramatic surge in interest following the reunions of seminal genre acts such as Failure, My Bloody Valentine and, most recently, Ride. But Hughes and Duarte attribute their interest to their background in hardcore music.

"I learned a lot about those bands through hardcore. Before I got into hardcore, I was listening to stuff like Nirvana and stuff my dad was playing for me like Rush," Hughes explains. "So by the time I got to Narrow Head, the sounds of our influences weren't necessarily new to me, but I had to a better lens to examine them with because of hardcore." Duarte's introduction to Narrow Head's influences also came through his father, who played in a '90s emo band. "Hardcore made me get deeper into the bands I'd known about since I was a kid."

This credit to the hardcore punk scene is nothing new. The genre does command an almost academic pursuit of the music. It is important to know what you are listening to or you'll risk looking false. Interestingly enough, many of the best contemporary shoegaze influenced bands in the USA feature people who have backgrounds in hardcore punk. Think of the Bay Area's Whirr, Philadelphia's Nothing and San Antonio's the Mites.

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Not only has hardcore punk helped to sharpen the band's acoustic edge, but it helped to put Narrow Head together in the first place. The band's members met through attending the same hardcore shows across the state of Texas over the years. By the time Narrow Head started jamming, the members were all great friends.

"I was booking a show for a band I was in before Narrow Head about three years ago," Hughes says, recalling how he first met Duarte. "We wanted to play Houston. Through mutual friends, I got Jacob's contact information because he was in a similar band and I wanted us to play together." Again, the story of long and deep friendships beginning through mutual friends is nothing new in the hardcore scene. Since then, the two have been great friends.

The band's development was very quick. Formed in April 2013, they released a two-song demo a month later in May. Their first show was that August with Whirr. Rather than immediately playing a show with hardcore bands or something similarly rushed, Narrow Head patiently chose to pick their spot and play with a band of kindred style.

March 2014 saw the band release their debut EP, Far Removed, to audiences. The band considers Far Removed a true demo: Rather than some bands whom put out demos to use as an opportunity to experiment with sounds and figure stuff out, Hughes feels that the EP is "a template or a springboard" of things to come from Narrow Head.

It's said that the future belongs to the young. If that's the case, the future belongs to Narrow Head. The band currently has half of an LP written, has seen the inclusion of new drummer Carson Wilcox and is going on tour. Narrow Head will be accompanied on tour by Florida's Prayer Chain. The tour, which comes to DFW tonight, Tuesday, December 16 at Fort Worth's 1919 Hemphill, will see the band travel up the eastern seaboard.

Duarte and Hughes share the same mission statement on their goal for the tour: "[We want] to play to as many people as possible, put more words in peoples' ears, and to make sure people don't forget the name Narrow Head."

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