The music lineup for the second annual For Kids’ Hearts Punk Rock Show & Skate Jam is filled with notable bands, 10 in all, including big name bands like 30footFALL and The Suspects. But by name alone, there is perhaps no group better suited to the event, which benefits pediatric heart patients and their families, than Steadfast HTX.
For one thing, the band’s name describes the kind of determination these families often have to call upon. Congenital heart disease is one of the most common birth defects. The show’s host, longtime Houston punk musician Cory Worden, organized the event to honor his late son Jonah and to support families like his who must be steadfast as they navigate the rocky paths. It’s also an apt adjective for the band, who are eager to perform for those attending the June 11 event at Southside Skatepark.
Steadfast HTX consists of vocalist, guitarist and bandleader Jason Bancroft, guitarist Travis Smith, drummer Charlie Price and bassist Andrew Wupper. We met on Zoom to discuss the band’s latest album, Transmittersnew music on the way and why they couldn’t wait to play For Kids’ Hearts.
Bancroft provided the band’s background, saying it started more than 10 years ago as a spin-off project from Austin Black bands Star Brigade, Born to Lose and Say Hello to the Angels.
“We were short lived, we did like a show,” Bancroft said. “It was very short lived but the songs I thought were good so I wanted to do something with them. Ten years later I did something with them. If you google the band ‘Steadfast “, you get about 1,500 different Christian groups.
The addition of the HTX helped set them apart from other “Steadfast” acts on Bandcamp and Spotify and even this older iteration of the Austin-based band. The group in its current form escalated about four years ago, according to Wupper, who was — well, unwavering — in his attempts to work with Bancroft. At the time, his band shared rehearsal space with Jason Bancroft and the Wealthy Beggars, an acoustic punk band that also included Bancroft and Smith. Wupper was a fan of this band who was actually in his last days.
“I kind of took a deep, weird dive on Jason and decided I had to work with this guy. He’s awesome and I want to be a part of that,” Wupper mentioned. his band was going to break up or broke up and I immediately contacted him. I messaged him through Facebook or something and said, ‘Hey man, I heard you were in between bands. Maybe you need to form a new band and if you need I can play bass for you.
Bancroft was flattered but passed. He told Wupper he was stepping away from music to focus on other things in his life.
“I don’t know if it was a month later or if it was just a few weeks later, but I messaged him again and I was like, ‘So, hey man, what about about that thing we talked about?’ I think I stalked him once a month for a year and then gave up. And then, the moment I gave up, I got a message from Jason saying, “I sent you some tracks.” And I’m like, ‘Because you guys are in a band and you want me to learn them and be your bassist?’
This was indeed the case. Along with Wupper, also from Texas Mod Crushers, they then added Price as a drummer. He played with bands like Next to Nothing, Monroe and Llorona.
“I’ve known Jason through Houston bands for a long time,” Price said. “Over the years, playing with different bands, we have become very good friends. When it came time for him to start the band, I was between two bands and Jason hit me and here we are.
Smith has been tied to Bancroft for so long that he had to ask Bancroft about their history together.
“When did I start with the Wealthy Beggars? Eight, nine years ago? Smith asked his teammate. They decided it was 2012.
“I followed, that’s what I do,” Smith laughed.
From all of this, the band has evolved into its new self and has hit its stride over the past two years. In 2020, when the world was in quarantine, Steadfast HTX released their first full album, Transmitters, 11 songs that define the band for listeners. From their disdain for “Thieves and Liars” to using “Old Scars” to set a new and better course for the title track, which looks like it was taken from a Vans Warped Tour compilation CD.
The band has already performed these songs live at several pre-pandemic shows across the state, but “this will be the first show where we actually get a physical copy of our album,” Price said. “We picked them up in June 2020, so they sat on my shelf, selling what we could online and we’re ready to release vinyl on our show.”
Fans will be happy to hear that Steadfast HTX is almost halfway through their new album. According to Bancroft, the working title for the next release is Pray for peace and he said that these new songs further the evolution of the band.
“It’s quite a few songs, 15 or 16. Some crazy ones that are kind of like ska two-tone instrumental stuff that’s not really our sound that we’re going to try to get out there,” Bancroft said. “When inspiration overwhelms me, it’s like a waterfall, it’s a flood, it’s not just one or two songs, it ends up being 10 or 12 songs at a time and I have to to come down.”
Smith agreed that the new songs are different and draw inspiration from the diverse backgrounds of the band members. For example, he said he grew up hustling in and around Houston’s famous Anderson Fair folk hall since he was 12. But he’s also a long-time skateboarder, in Lagwagon and pop punk bands. Getting to merge the music the band members love seems like the natural trajectory.
“Where we are now seems like a good fit,” Smith said. “If we can kind of include a lot of different influences from punk because we all come from different parts of that genre, it’s going to be a lot of fun for everybody.”
Bancroft said the new songs “might sound like some of the darker things lyrically, but I think at the end of the day there’s always that light at the end of the tunnel in what we sing and talk about”.
It’s a good transition for us to ask the band to do work for charitable projects like For Kids’ Hearts. They recently recorded a version of “Dick Lips” for Fate fell short, a Blink-182 cover compilation featuring other notable punk artists like Skaxdad, The Butts, Jukebox Romantics and Skatune Network. Proceeds from album sales are donated to the Cancer Prevention Foundation. Bancroft said his bandmates spearheaded the project because he was not a fan of Blink-182. His only caveat to participating was to insist that they would sound more like themselves than Blink.
“Charlie and I are unapologetic pop punk fans,” Smith said. “I think we went with ‘Dick Lips’ just because it’s a fun song, it’s a fun title. The track, it’s nothing like the original, in that even some of the melodies, the way Jason sings them, doesn’t follow exactly the same as the original song. So it was really fun for us to do that.
And, they all recognize it, it benefits a noble cause, just like their participation in the show For Kids’ Hearts. Part punk show, part skate jam, with sponsorship from Theories of Atlantis Skateboarding, the event raises money for kids with heart disease and their families. Funds raised will help provide care items for pediatric intensive care units, bereavement counseling and even travel funds to bring families to Texas Medical Center.
“We’ve known Cory, really, forever. Cory will tell you that we’ve crossed paths since 1995 or 96, since high school, growing up, playing shows at The Abyss and Fitzgerald’s between Latch Key Kids and Animosity,” Bancroft said. “We were the flying kids, back back when you used to put flyers on cars and hand them out, that’s how everyone met back then.
Bancroft was at the first episode of the event in 2019 to see the bands and old friends. He said: “While we were at the show, (Worden) was like, ‘You gotta play the next one I put up.'”
They promised to play the 2020 show but the pandemic put everything on hold. Until this weekend, when Steadfast HTX – the band that lives up to their name – fulfills that obligation by bringing their show to punk and skate fans in Southside.
“Cory is a nice guy, seems very selfless, very generous, and he’s always focused on all the other bands and never really on himself,” Bancroft added. “So if he’s going to ask for help, I think it’s our duty to help him. He is an important part of our punk rock community.
“I’ve played gigs with various bands over the years and I’ve known Cory for at least 20+ years,” Price said. “When he contacted us to ask us to play, we really wanted to do anything to support him and his family, because what they went through was tragic. So, we are just happy to be a part and to to be able to give back to people who have had to go through similar situations.
Steadfast HTX plays For Kids’ Hearts’ second annual Punk Rock & Skate Jam show on Saturday, June 11, from noon to 9 p.m., at Southside Skatepark, 510 Iowa. With 30footFALL, The Suspects, Monster Soup, Dead To The World, Ferst Person, Dream Shake, As We Shiver, On Tonight and Animosity. All ages, $10, to benefit pediatric heart patients and their families.