Say Hi to Hey Cowboy!, the Dreamy Synth Indie Texas Band

Last week, the Texas indie rockers Hey Cowboy! Syndey Harding, Micah Vargas, and Gaby Rodriguez, announced their sophomore album will be out Valentine’s Day.

Get in My Fanny Pack and Let’s Go is the band’s second album and is less than three weeks away, so we went back to our interview with the band in 2018 when they were touring for their album, The Soft Kind.

The band hasn’t been quiet though, since their debut came out in early 2018. They followed it up with the EP Sandy Cheeks in 2019, building on their dreamy synth pop sound that has quickly built them a large following in the Lone Star state.

The following interview has been edited for conciseness. It was done at a coffee shop in West/Central El Paso the day after Hey Cowboy!’s show at Neon Rose in August 27, 2018.

Antonio Villaseñor-Baca: Can you tell me a little bit about the band? I guess first I was really interested, is “Hey Cowboy” a specific reference to something?

Sydney Harding: It’s a Lee Hazelwood song.

Gaby Rodriguez: It kind of came about. It was like 30 minutes into our first jam. We’re like, okay we’re a band, essentially. And the next time we jammed I was like ‘do y’all have any names?’ Because they were living together so they would just come over.

Micah Vargas playing at Neon Rose. Photo by Antonio Villaseñor-Baca.

Micah Vargas: That was one of the names I had, just as a cool name for something. I just had like a list of it.

 Gaby: I was like wait. I had a banner in my room that also said “hey cowboy.”

Micah: With an exclamation point.

 Gaby: We had to do it.

Micah: This was meant to be.

Sydney: It was also one of the names of Annavittoria Conner’s sculptures. It was called “Hey cowboy.” That’s where we got the idea from. She ended up doing the album artwork. Because obviously we had to ask her. We love her work.

Antonio: And when did the band sort of start coming together? You said you were kind of just jamming out?

Micah: It was like the first time we jammed. It was like 2016.

 Gaby: It was like a Facebook post. I was like let’s jam. And we were all like, can we get in on that? And then it happened.

Antonio: How would you describe the sound of the band? Are there any influences individually or collectively?

Sydney Harding at Neon Rose in El Paso, TX in 2018. Photo by Antonio Villaseñor-Baca.

Sydney: For sure. I think we all had different but also like some similar influences.

Gaby: We’ve tried each other’s music. Y’all got me into like modern soft rock stuff. 

Micah: And you’ve gotten me into some weird music that I’ve never heard of before but I love it. I don’t know.  I guess some of our favorite bands are like…

Sydney: There’s so many I feel like we’re continuing to get more and more influences.

Micah: “Mambo Number Five.”

All: Yeah, “Mambo Number Five.”

Micah: Especially this trip.

Gaby: We just like to sing a lot together.

Antonio: Is that how you would describe the sound you mentioned? Synth-pop kind of stuff?

Gaby: That’s how we’ve been this ride, like from the past. I feel like that was pretty accurate. That’s what I tell people. I feel like it kind of encompasses like the general sound but also like a little experimental. I don’t know.

Micah: Yeah, Synth-pop, dream-pop.

Antonio: And so it hasn’t even really been two years that the band’s been together and you already have an album out. What are the immediate plans for the band? What are you looking to do?

Sydney: I guess just have more and more shows in Austin once we get back. We have a few lined up already.

Gaby: And were thinking of recording soon.

Micah: Oh yeah, next step for sure.

Sydney: We need to Figure out our songs so we can record. We already have so many new songs.

 Gaby: It’s just like polishing them to be ready to be recorded.

Sydney: I feel like we’re behind. I just want us to record them already. Because we’ve had them for a while.

Antonio: And so all three of you are from Austin originally?

Micah: No, I’m from Amarillo, that’s why we went there. I moved to DFW in 2014, and then we moved to Austin in August.

Gaby: I moved from Dunton but that’s not where I’ve been my whole life.

Antonio: Kind of talking about this album, you said you were kind of falling behind, I guess? Behind schedule? This album came out not too long ago right?

Sydney: It came out in January.

Micah: I feel the only reason you feel so behind is because we’ve had these songs for a while. It seems like it should be finished by now but like we’re really, you’re right. We just released them.

 Sydney: We just want to go, go, go but we all had jobs. It’s setting aside enough time to be able to do that.

Micah: And with moving too.

Sydney: Austin in April, then you guys moved. So we had like some distance but now that we’re back together it feels like it’s going to happen.

Antonio: Wait so y’all were moving this year?

Sydney Harding (left) and Micah Vargas (right) playing to a crowd at Neon Rose. Photo by Antonio Villaseñor-Baca.

Sydney: So we were like a long distance band from April to August. Usually most of our shows were in Denton so I would just like drive back to Austin. Wait sorry, back to Denton near the DFW area. We had shows like twice a month. So every other weekend. So I’m very happy to be back together.

Antonio: Oh then definitely I think you’re like really ahead if you’ve been doing everything over distance.

Gaby: That’s a good point, I guess I didn’t really didn’t think of that.

Antonio: So what can you tell me, well first how long, the songs that you have now like the ones that you want to record, how long have you had them? Like do they pre-date the release of this album?

Micah: Yeah like as soon as were done with the album, we were like okay let’s write more stuff. I don’t know, something new.

Sydney: It took a couple of months to actually release the album because we had recorded it in October and so by that time, we were already kind of jamming with other stuff. But they’re just unfinished pieces. We still have songs that we wrote when all these other songs were written that we’re still working on. Just these are the ones that we felt were finished.

Antonio: And all in all, how long did you work on this album? Where these songs you just had individually?

Micah: Since we’ve been a band. 

Sydney: Starting before weird lies.

Gaby: “Freckles” was the first song that was written.

Micah: Yeah since March until January that’s when it came out or October when we recorded it.

Antonio: And so what’s the process for the three of you to collectively put this album together?

Sydney: At least to begin with, I know that Micah and I like add some lyrics. Like I had lyrics and journals just written down. And then putting a melody to them. That’s kind of how some of the first songs started. But then of course we expand on the lyrics so then it all becomes a joint effort. And then more of our songs have been written by all of us. Beginning to end. Micah has been writing, we’ve been playing way more of Micah’s songs. It kind of just comes up, like hey I have some lyrics, I have a melody.

Gaby: And then we come together and form it.

Sydney: Gaby’s been doing the translations of course.

Gaby: Yeah, I’m not really like a lyricist like I don’t really come up with lyrics I come up with the music aspect part.

Sydney: We’ll also chip in like on the spot with lyrics.

Gaby: Maybe if we come up with a little chant or something.

Sydney: A chant? It’s a chant.

Gaby: Well, like a spell.

Antonio: How long did recording it take? These songs were written in less than a year and a half?

Micah: You mean like the actual recording process? It took one weekend to record it then to mix it, it took another week.

Sydney: We recorded with Brack Cantrell and he gave us a deal basically that we could record in two and a half days. Two full days. And then a half day and it was just a weekend. And so we just were hanging out at his house all day with his cat.

Gaby: And even after that he mixed it pretty quickly.Yeah it was like a week later.

Sydney: It was more so the mastering and then…

Antonio: Can you tell me a bit about the tracks? Or kind of the really unique type names, I’m just wondering, for the first album, where some of the inspiration came from some of the lyrics?

Micah: The track names, I don’t know, some of them are pretty straight forward because they’re in the song because that’s what it’s about. But others, like “Gaby’s Noodles,” Sydney’s like doing a sound on the sim and we’re like it sounds like noodles.

Sydney: Just altering the pitch, it just sounds like a little noodle.

Micah: It used to be called Gaby’s monologue but then we just changed it to Gaby’s noodles because of that sound.

Gaby: They have a lot of really weird random sayings that don’t make any sense at all and so that kind of explains their titles.

Micah: Yeah some of these are like jokes.

Sydney: Yeah, we have a lot of inside jokes

Micah: Like “Ooze” was kind of one of them.

Sydney: “Spicy Tuna” is about a mermaid. I mean yes. We love mystical. Our second album is a little mystical too. Yeah, it’s just fun, it’s a fun theme. Boom. But we named “Spicy Tuna,” spicy tuna because we had spicy tuna. When we were practicing this song we had mild, medium and hot but then hot became spicy. And then we all say spicy at the end of spicy tuna. And then the mermaid is just like spicy and then we thought of spicy tuna. The dish.

By Antonio Villaseñor-Baca

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