‘Hibiscus’ marks S. L. Houser’s debut solo EP – a musical blend showcasing her evolution, from her embrace of her pianist roots to taking a composer’s approach in creating a unified work.
Stream: ‘Hibiscus’ – S. L. Houser
Austinite S. L. Houser has launched her latest project via Spaceflight Records – a creation of art-pop-infused indie rock, her debut solo EP, Hibiscus was released on November 10.
Though, “debut” doesn’t quite capture the talent and multitude of work from her past. Houser has already more than established herself as a steady force within the Austin music scene – not only as a musician and frontperson of previous indie-pop group Löwin but also as a studio collaborator alongside various other local acts.
While Hibiscus may not be Houser’s first ever release it certainly acts as an honest reintroduction to the musician as she commences into a new era – one in which she takes full ownership of her work under her own name.
“It’s really liberating,” Houser says. “I have the most autonomy over my sound and my writing than I have before.”
“Fever In My Eye” opens Houser’s new chapter as jazz embedded indie rock sounds complement a lyrically fitting foreword, presenting a glimpse of what’s to come on the six-song EP:
It’s all the same, except for me I’ve changed
I’m looking for a way to eat up a new landscape
Take me for a ride, I want to get out what’s inside
There’s never been a better time, to lean into the wind
And start again
Instrumentals build to an addictive, invigorating guitar solo that swallows all else – leaving just echoed remnants of Houser’s now-subdued vocals, “You can’t trust yourself when you’re in love.” Title track “Hibiscus” descends into a layered cacophony of keys in a creation of pure “piano chaos,” mirroring the emotions within the singer-songwriter’s own mind. A Kate Bush-esque drumbeat finds itself reinvented while background vocals, lended by Carrie Fussell of BRUCE, emulate a persistent inner voice eventually breaking through to the surface, begging, “What do you even want to do? / What do you think that you can do?” (“When I Want To” )
“There have been real moments over the last 20 years where I wasn’t really sure what role music was gonna have in my life,” Houser says. “I will say the constant is that I knew that music was always gonna be a part of my life no matter what I wanted to do with it.”
Houser plans to focus on writing and recording new songs set for release next summer while still balancing time to recharge and “get those creative juices flowing.”
The self-proclaimed “Jack of all, master of none” also intends to continue exploring varying creative projects whether it be producing, co-writing, teaching or an entirely new musical endeavor. Houser’s versatility undeniably cements her as a jack of all trades… and as the quote goes, that is “oftentimes better than master of one.”
Experience the EP via our stream below, and step further into Hibiscus as S. L. Houser takes us track-by-track through the music!
Stream: ‘Hibiscus’ – S. L. Houser
:: Inside Hibiscus ::
Fever In My Eye
[In the chorus,] “Fever in my eye for you” the “you” I’m talking about is actually myself. It was kind of a shift for me where writing that song, I was like: This is about prioritizing myself and my needs and my happiness. And that I was going to chase the better version of myself. I want that for everybody. You know, just deciding that you’re worth the chase.
It was kind of the song I sat down and is about really prioritizing myself. Getting rid of old narratives that I had written about myself and who I was and what I was capable of. But I wanted it to be a song that was slightly unsettling, kind of capturing that feeling of you’re about to go on this journey and you don’t really know what’s going to happen to you but you’re excited about it.
When I Want To
I was quitting a job that I’d worked for a long time and I was having a lot of realizations about that job, about all the ways in which it didn’t suit me and it had kind of been holding me back in a lot of ways. But also quitting made it really apparent that I was kind of on this workaholic cycle that was keeping me from a lot of things.
I work as hard as I can like it could mean something
Tell myself that that’s who I am… but I feel nothing
What do you want to shed these days?
What do you do when you don’t want to anymore?
I ask myself if this is living then what am I living for
I keep on moving, looking for the source
I don’t want to anymore
The first line kind of sums it up, “Oh to bloom and die in a day, ain’t that a feeling.” I was literally staring at a hibiscus plant thinking like, “Oh my God, this plant spends all this energy producing this really beautiful flower that just shrivels up in a day and then, you know, it’s onto the next one.” I think I was kind of coming to terms with a lot of different things in this song. This song is more of a feeling, more of getting that kind of angsty stuff out of my system.
Tell yourself “I’m a liar,”
we both know I was a bird on the wire
You know I should have stood by her,
we both know I was a woman on fire
Tell yourself “I’m a liar,”
we both know I am a woman on fire
Nothing Grows In August
I’m really proud of a lot of the lyrics on [this song]. I really like the opening line, “Nothing grows in August but I’m trying anyway.” I was literally staring at our backyard and everything was just so dead because it was so hot and I was just thinking, you know, in other parts of the world and country August is a very viable growing month but in Texas, it’s just so hot that everything is dead and like nothing, there’s no water.
Nothing grows in August but I’m trying anyway
A scarecrow in my mind to keep my past at bay
A warning not to poke and prod the feeling as I may
Never perfect never sure but I’m not looking back today
Soil like a sandbox or a dune upon the coast
I planted seeds to reinforce a time I felt the most
In the wind and swirling like a dervish on a boat
In a “sea of anarchy” scream singing Sheryl Crow
A dotted line can be where you sign your name but it can also be an ellipsis… where you’re just kind of taking a pause or trying to figure out what’s next. So that’s kind of the vibe of the song.
The chorus, “I don’t check all the boxes, but I signed the dotted line” was kind of me acknowledging that I was never going to be this perfect person, this perfect artist. I was never… you’re never going to be all the things. You can’t be all the things to everyone all the time. So just kind of confronting some unrealistic standards I’d had for myself and letting that go.
Wind In The Door
I’m a big sci-fi reader and the first kind of sci-fi stuff that I read when I was a kid was the A Wrinkle in Time series by Madeleine L’Engle and A Wind in the Door is one of the books in that series. In the book, basically it’s this concept that one of the characters, his body is attacking him, like an autoimmune kind of thing, almost. And these aliens have taken over his mitochondria or something like that.
But the lyrics kind of all stemmed from a post that a friend of mine made. She was really heartbroken and had to deal with [a] breakup in [her] house and she wrote on Instagram or something and she just said, “If you met me in this house, you don’t know me anymore.” And what she meant by that was, “I am not the same person that moved into this house. I’m moving out of this house a completely different person.” And I just really loved that kind of sentiment and idea that with moving, you’re also kind of acknowledging a new chapter.
If you met me in this house you don’t know me anymore
You left me in this house, you don’t know me anymore
A wind in the door, a ghost down the hall
I hear your voice on the line but nobody’s calling
It’s only me
So I wrote that song kind of for her. But it also reminded me of the book. The idea that your body is your house. And what is it? What can you do when you can’t escape your body?
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© Rae Mascardo
:: Stream S. L. Houser ::