Black Queen Speaks demands attention — starting with the band's mystical name. It conjures images of everything from an ancient royal court to dark voodoo ceremonies.
"It's definitely a symbol. She’s like a non-religious mother Maria," says BQS vocalist Mike Blas.
"She's not a dark person. She's just not afraid of the dark. She's not afraid to be angry, and she's not afraid to say things that would offend," he says about the black queen of the band's name.
Blas got the band moniker from a friend in Seattle, who suggested it for the name of a blog the pair used to stay in contact. It came up again when Blas moved to Houston less than three years ago and began looking for a band.
"We were sitting at Bohemeo's arguing, trying to come up with names. I always wanted it to be a band name," Blas says.
Bassist Gabe Lopez, formerly of Spanish rock outfit Tribu de Ixchel, says he and guitarist Vik Day went through "maybe 100 names" — including Mother Mountain, Mongoose, the Monarchs and Brash Royal — before settling on BQS.
"It took about a day for it to resonate with me," says drummer Josh Skiffington, who left Anaheim, CA Calif., three years ago. "Once it set in, there was no other option."
Day also calls the name "emblematic" of the band's musical sensibility, which fuses heavy rock guitars and drums with old-school soul flourishes on tunes Dead Like You and Soulseeker (worthy of a prime slot on iPod playlists). That blend allows BQS to occupy a unique slot amid Houston's more straightforward rock bands.
Vocalist Blas has a frantic, charismatic presence that explodes onstage. It's the result of his early influences, which he quickly pinpoints to "five bands, total" — New Edition, Steve Miller, the Beastie Boys, Weezer and the Fugees. (He's since expanded a bit.)
"(Mike) is big into folk and singer-songwriter stuff. (Josh) is big into prog and metal. Gabe and I have pretty serious classical backgrounds. But overall, we all love old '50s R&B and blues," Day says.
"The 'Black' to me was basically black music — early 20th-century black music. It’s 'Queen' because there’s a sensuality to that. You just feel it. Speaking again is just the communication."
The band is working on recording original material, but there's no rush. Day (and the rest of the court) feel that the current musical landscape isn't necessarily conducive to a new act laboring intensively over an album. The plan is to perfect individual songs and release them as they're completed. (The Black Queen is also business-minded, it seems.)
But whatever the sound, it's likely to make you want to move.
"There’s always been a groove to Houston rock," Lopez says. “We definitely try to keep that element."
Details: 11 p.m. May 29. $7. Gary's Spot, 14083 FM 2920, Tomball.