A change in perception can do wonders. For citizens of this city, it could mean stepping outside Austin’s musical oasis to discover artists like Mlee Suprean of Hearts of Animals, a solo lo-fi project of Suprean’s. Houston, the land where humidity, commerce and the shadow of blues greats like Lightnin’ Hopkins are cast large, sets the backdrop for the musician’s creativity. For Suprean herself, it could mean a switch in hair color, or a reevaluation of how she wants to perform and in what capacity.
You’ve skimmed down your involvement in musical projects – right now you’re doing Hearts of Animals and a contributing member of Young Mammals. Could you explain a little bit about your desire to scale back?
I think I was in a super social stage of my life and wanted to connect with other musicians around me. I had fun, but in the end, I saw that I don't like to be led much. I'm very stubborn, and a bit of a loner. Music is too visceral for me to share sometimes. I have to be really connected to someone to share musical moments, and sometimes that connection is built out of collaboration... but it takes a lot for me to put myself out there and take that risk.
Could you tell us a little about your desire to change things? When we were talking, I mentioned your hairstyle, and you mentioned your tendency to switch apartments four times a year, I think. What is it about a new place or a new way of looking at things that helps your creativity?
I don't really make decisions to change - a lot of my life changes are spontaneous. And because I don't really plan to change with a purpose, the purpose unfolds before me, which is probably my subconscious playing itself out, which is probably where creativity comes from.
If it's in your subconscious, it's probably not very based in reality... like dreams. When I turn myself into a different creature (i.e. becoming a blonde), the world looks at me differently, and I look differently at the world. I suppose creating is what sparks change, and change sparks creativity.
Both of your bands have titles that could refer to humans, but when you hear “mammals” or “animals” your mind tends to wander to smaller creatures. What is it about hearts of animals that intrigues you? How are their hearts different than, let’s say, the hearts of anything else?
The name came from a line in one of my songs. I guess it was a poetic way of me thinking about the "souls" of animals... how do we know if their "hearts" are any different than ours? Do all cats go to heaven?
On the phone, we talked about you going to pose for a fashion shoot. Are you comfortable being photographed? Is it something that you enjoy?
I like to challenge myself with this I think. I've never thought of myself as being very photogenic, so no, I don't really like being photographed. But I love photography, and I love to play around with my appearance. One of the craziest shoots I ever did was with 002 Magazine, where the photographer glued a bunch of sharks’ teeth to my face.
You have a musical family. We spoke about your joining something of a “family,” Partridge-style band with your parents and brother. Any progress on that front? I imagine long dresses and ukuleles or mandolins.
We actually wear spacesuits when we play! I do join them when I visit. It's a family band. It always will be. I was performing covers of songs at social occasions with my parents since the age of ten. My dad is a performer. My mom is a singer, and when I was growing up, they were always in bands. My little brother is 16 and is super bad-ass at playing drums and guitar.
I’m interested in what Houston has to offer in terms of a music scene. You’ve got a whole plethora of bands and little labels that even Austinites – three hours up the road – have yet to discover. Where’s a good place to jump in?
I guess I would have to say that you should start with Dull Knife Records. All of the bands on that label are part of Houston's best. Then there's ArtStorm Records, which is involved with some of the coolest artists and musicians here. Both of these labels are totally dedicated to Houston, which is what makes the local scene keep thriving here. My favorite musicians here are the ones that are pretty much DIY and are loyal to their locals.
You work in a coffee shop by day. How do you take it?