From left, Cody Swann, Zahira Gutierrez and Arthur Lee are Wild Moccasins. (Courtesy Arturo Olmos)

Wild Moccasins survive, and thrive, after big breakup

Houston alt-rock quartet Wild Moccasins is going strong, despite the breakup of a decade-long romance.

In 2014, it looked like the band could be at its end. As the album “88 92” was released, word leaked that vocalist Zahira Gutierrez and guitarist-vocalist Cody Swann had ended their relationship, which started a year before the group did.

It sounded fairly final. But with extensive tour obligations to honor, they hit the road with gritted teeth, and then made the surprise announcement that they would continue on as a band. The result is 2018’s New Wave-bubbly “Look Together,” a frank confessional that pulls no lyrical punches.

“It’s funny, because we made the decision to stay together at the exact same time that we made the decision to break up,” says Peruvian-Puerto Rican descended Gutierrez, who brings the rejuvenated Wild Moccasins to The City this weekend. “It was like, ‘OK, this is not working, so we need to separate. But also, whatever happens to us over the next two years, we should try to make a really good record out of it. We should try to be the most honest we’ve ever been.’”

Swann and Gutierrez started dating when they were 17 and 16, respectively. By the time they were 18, he had begun adding guitar embroidery to her textural keyboard patterns, and a 1980s-retro band took shape. By 2010, they signed to indie label New West for “Skin Collision Past” and its follow up, “88 92,” albums that don’t plumb the emotional depths on “Look Together.”

Swann attributes that to a dramatic shift in songwriting styles. Composing in the close quarters of a tour van, they began sharing lyrics with each other — no matter how painful — until a type of dialogue developed.

“In the van, Zahira would say, ‘Check out what I’m working on,’ and I would get to see it, whether I agreed with it or not, so I couldn’t help but be influenced by her,” says Swann of cuts like “No Muse,” “Boyish Wave” and “Conditional Lover,” adding, “And even though there was so much melancholy in them, pretty soon we had over 30 songs.”

The musicians won’t discuss separation details, though Swann offers, “There was no infidelity involved.”

Singing the new material live wasn’t as difficult as Gutierrez initially worried: “I think I perform better when I’m super angry,” she says.

But now, both Moccasins are happily seeing other people.

“In fact, we just took a double-date couples trip to Mexico, and our partners even hang out with each other. So we’re doing great,” says Gutierrez.

DEGA, with Wild Moccasins
Where: Bottom of the Hill, 1233 17th St., S.F.
When: 8 p.m. Jan. 27
Tickets: $12 to $14
Contact: (415) 626-4455,
Pop Music

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