Led by the dynamic couple Zahira Gutierrez and Cody Swann, Houston’s Wild Moccasins are just off a stint opening for Of Montreal in support of their sophomore album, 88 92. The record is full of their signature sumptuous dream-pop sound, teased to perfection by producer Kevin Ryan. Ryan also directed the video for the record’s first single, “Emergency Broadcast,” which we are so so glad to premiere here!
Zahira and Cody, who share vocal duties in Wild Moccasins (as well as their lives IRL), cite theatrical, over-the-top inspirations like Karen O and David Bowie, which you can hear in their music and see in Zahira’s elaborate costumes. She took a few minutes to talk to us about her style inspirations, how Gwen Stefani helps her cope with sexism, and what it’s like to go on tour with your boyfriend.
CAITLIN WHITE: How did Wild Moccasins come into being?
ZAHIRA GUTIERREZ: It started off with Cody and me. We’ve been together for about eight years, and a few years into the relationship we started writing songs together. Then, through going to local shows and playing with different people, we met the rest of the band, and we started changing the way we wrote music and our sound to incorporate everyone.
88 92 sounds more polished and New Wave than your first album, Skin Collision Past. Was the songwriting process different for this one?
The whole tone [on the new album] is different because I decided I wanted to have a bigger role. When we first started, Cody was mostly writing the songs, so even though everybody contributed, it was very much his thing for a little bit. But on 88 92, I wrote half the songs and he wrote half the songs. Plus, everyone else contributed more to the songwriting process than ever—so it’s very much a collaborative record. The last record was more of an introspective view, and this record was written more as our reaction to people around us.
Tell me about the making of this video, “Emergency Broadcast.”
We sat down with the lyrics to that particular song with the director Kevin Ryan, who also happens to be the guy who produced our record! We just happened to mesh creatively. But for this video, I just wanted a lot of dancing and really cool visuals, and I also wanted it to match the lyrics. In the song, we talk about a fire alarm—it’s ultimately about having this sense of urgency and being kind of OCD with things. The feeling of having this beeping going off in your mind.
It’s really theatrical, as are your live shows.
I look up to a lot of people who are very theatrical people, like David Bowie or Björk or Karen O. I think it comes naturally—I’m very into that stuff, and I love making my own costumes and putting everything into our shows. For instance, we have a show tomorrow and I’ve been preparing projections, balloons, confetti! I can’t see myself being in a band and just standing up [on stage] bored. I think it just comes from watching my idols and seeing how much they cared about the performance aspect of their music.
Your personal style is spectacular, and obviously something you craft yourself. Can you give some tips on making your own costumes?
I go to thrift stores! I’m not very good at sewing, but I’ve had a sewing machine since I was 14. I’ve figured it out to the point where it’s not going to fall apart on me, but it’s not perfect. I look at my surroundings and I become inspired by everything and everyone. I’ll make whatever I want, even if it’s not flattering on me. If I feel good in it, that’s all that matters! I wear whatever I feel. Also, one of my biggest fashion idols is Christian Joy. She makes costumes for Karen O, and I love her style. She uses crazy party stuff, paper—just weird, weird things—to make Karen O’s costumes. And that’s what has made Karen O this great fashion icon.
What is it like to be the only girl in a group with four guys? Obviously one of them is your boyfriend, so I’m sure that changes the dynamic a bit too.
With the band members, it’s never been a problem. But there’s definitely been situations with people around us that aren’t in the band—sometimes I’m not taken as seriously as Cody. There’s a song I wrote on the record called “Eye Makeup” that sounds really silly and playful, but it’s about how I felt like I had to wear this mask because other people weren’t taking me seriously. I felt sometimes like that was because of my gender.
What’s it like to have your romantic partner also be your creative partner and work partner?
I think it’s easier since we’d already been together for a few years before we started making music together. But when we first started touring, it was a little bit difficult for us, because we were together every gig. We couldn’t get away from each other! We were in the van sitting next to each other every day, and we would bicker a lot. But I think now, as with every relationship, after you’ve been together for so long, you learn to let things go. Both in our relationship and musically, we’re on the same wavelength. We’re lucky that we’re both very inspiring to each other, so it’s definitely a good thing. He’s helped me a lot in becoming a writer and a musician, and I think it also goes the other way. And it does have its benefits! Like when we go on tour, the rest of the band members have their significant others back at home. For me, it’s easier to have my best friend there with me to keep me sane.
Do you have advice for girls coping with sexism or people just not taking them seriously?
I had an epiphany one day. I really love No Doubt—they’re one of my favorite bands from when I was younger—and I was listening to Gwen Stefani’s first solo record, Love. Angel. Music. Baby. And she has a song called “What You Waiting For.” It spurred this epiphany that I was the one stopping myself from doing so many things, just because other people didn’t take me seriously. All I can say is, do not let fear or anybody’s else’s perception of you take over what you actually want to do in life. You have so much time to get what you want out there. It’s so important to not let anything affect the way you make your art or whatever you want to do. ♦
Caitlin Cristin White is a writer who lives in New York City. She likes puppies and poetry but hates phonies. She lives in praise of the mysteries.