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Henry + the Invisibles, the best band you’ll never see, debut at SXSW

Photo by Sarah Maspero
Henry Roland of Henry + the Invisibles rocks the stage at Boneshakers.

 

If you’re among the minority in San Antonio who still haven’t seen Henry + the Invisibles — the type heard to mutter, “I’ve heard a lot about them but I’ve never seen them.” — I have news for you: you never will.

Henry + the Invisibles are the brain-heart-lungs-everything-child of Henry Roland Gutiérrez, a one-man band from San Antonio who played with a variety of bands while living in Austin and New York before deciding he had to do everything himself.

“I’ve been in bands all my life but, for one reason or another it didn’t work out,” Henry told the Current. One day in late 2008, after spending nine years in New York DJing and making music, he was having “bass player drama, you know?” and instead of cancelling some dates, decided to take charge.

“I had a loop pedal and started booking shows, and that’s how the Invisibles started,” he said. We’ve all seen loopers and one-man bands before, but what Henry does is different.

“My experience with loopers is that most of them just play with harmonics or a beat and start working on some sort of ethereal music, very flowy or meditational, which is cool,” he said. “But I wanted to take it to an organic funk and soul level. When I’d listen to a hip-hop track and hear, say, a James Brown sample, I thought ‘That would be really cool to play live, only if I could pull it off.’”

Current readers chose Henry + the Invisibles as Best Music Innovator in the 2010 Rammy Awards, suggesting he is achieving his ambition. At the Current’s Rammy party at Boneshakers in December, Henry did his thing: he played guitar, keyboards, bass, drums and, yes, loops, but always backed by a solid song-based idea.

“I like to structure songs, to have some substance to the material, instead of just having a loop and let that be it,” he said.

His 2010 EP, Onemanphunkband, was a solid introduction to his obsessive nature in the studio, but he’s already started work on a full-fledged album and an updated sound. “I’m sort of a perfectionist at the studio, like, 100 takes on a guitar,” he said. “I’m happy with the EP but, you know, you gotta send the kids to college. So I’m working on a more conceptual thing from start to finish, instead of just a collection of songs, and yet another solo thing under Henry Roland that’s more psychedelic than indie.”

Besides the new albums, which will be released later this year, he continues playing guitar for rock ’n’ soul trio Starchild and hip-hop band Mojoe and serving as DJ-in-residence at Rebar, where he spins ’90s soul, hip-hop, and his signature New Orleans-style funk. “I love anything as long it has some groove to it, it takes me some place, and it has a positive message.”

Even though he has played South By Southwest with bands in the past, the March 17 showcase will be the first one with Henry + the Invisibles, and the invitation is already yielding some fruit. “I’m very excited, and [the gig is] already opening some doors for me,” he said. “I’m getting lots of phone calls.”

Besides his March 17 official SXSW showcase, Henry will play two other shows in Austin during the festival’s week: Tuesday, March 15, at Cheer Up Charlie’s (1104 E 6th St., 10:50pm) and Wednesday, March 16, on the March Mashup Town Lake Cruise (the yacht meets at 6 p.m. next to Hula Hut, 3825 Lake Austin Blvd., and the cruise is from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m.).

But before all this happens, San Antonio fans will have a chance to say bon voyage at the Current-sponsored Rebar party on Friday, March 11.

“I just want to thank everybody,” Henry said. “All I want to do is put some funk and soul into the local scene. I’m always shooting for the stars, but I never really thought I’d get so much support from everybody. I feel very confident about [the Invisibles], but I know how life is, and you never know what’s around the corner. Maybe something very interesting will come of this. Whatever happens in the future, the Invisibles are in a very strong upswing now, and I’m loving every second of it.”

Current-sponsored SXSW send-off party

No cover

10pm Fri, March 11

Rebar

8134 Broadway

(210) 320-4091, rebarsatx.com

AT SXSW (Austin)

Registration needed, but limited tickets will be sold at the door

8pm Thu, March 17

Mellow Johnny’s

400 Nueces

(512) 473-0222, mellowjohnnys.com

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