The weather during the beginning of the year can be unbearable and hard to predict, making organizing music events difficult. Average music listeners aren’t likely to brave the elements for performers they can see in warmer temperatures. But that doesn’t stop San Antonio musicians from recording, writing and planning their next move. San Antonio is home to quite a prolific group of musicians and songwriters, and 2015 will see some high profile releases from the usual suspects as well as from some up-and-coming artists.
Nina Diaz, hasn’t formally announced a release date or title for a follow up to last year’s debut solo record but according to Faith Raddle, Nina & GIAC’s manager: ”You can expect Nina to be performing more and heading out on the road for touring this year. Her next show in San Antonio is at Sam’s Burger Joint on January 30th with Sarah Jaffe.” She is currently recording at Sonic Ranch Studio in Tornillo, Texas (just outside of El Paso) known as perhaps one of the best residential studios in the country and is working with Producer Manuel Calderon.
Jorge Gonzalez, performed drums with Nina and is a member of one of SA’s favorite alt-rock bands, Pop Pistol, who are all currently working on side projects. Pop Pistol lead singer & guitarist, Alex Scheel, produces & performs a type of music that blends electronic and traditional instruments in Femina-X, who we can expect more from later in the year.
George Garza, Pop Pistol bassist, heads the band Belukhas, Russian for Belugas. The group is preparing to release an EP of songs, primarily written by Garza, but then reworked by the entire band, “Most of the songs are my own originals, written on acoustic guitar with only vocals in mind. The band shapes them as a unit from there.” It’s a type of rock music with traditional influences like Southern Blues, R&B, DooWop, Hymns and Soul. “We went on a short tour last Summer and are currently in the process of recording a 3-song EP with Jim Meek of SA bands MEEK and Pasenger. It will be released this Spring.”
Nina’s keyboardist, Jaime Ramirez, also plays keys for the ska band Channel One, who are working on a new album for release this year. Channel One’s new bassist, Jacob Guerrero, also plays bass in The Lost Project. The Weezer-meets-Saves The Day sounding band recorded an album at Harter Studios with The Colleens' drummer Jon. “Recording at Harter Musicwas amazing. I’ve never recorded in a high end studio,” said Jacob, “Working with Jon was the best recording experience I’ve had. No offense to the other people I have worked with. Jon was just really easy to work with. He knew what needed to be done. He also gave us his honest opinion about the songs or bass lines or whatever. He never made you feel rushed.”
We’ve got a new album underway by Rivers Want, a project by Richard Evans of Guild. Don’t try to Google the band with the word “San Antonio” in it, or you’ll just end up reading about The Riverwalk. The demos of the new songs are fun, engaging and fresh. It’s a mix of lo-fi, chip-tune melodies with healthy doses of saw bass synths, definitely something to crank up on a Friday night.
There’s a new mix out that is part of the E:merge series by SOUL Family, created by localDJ D. Perez (Dorian Perez). (If the track is unavailable, try back later as licensing issues get resolved) SOUL Family is also in the planning stages of #WRECKTHEDECKS. WTD is a weeklong event featuring local DJs and electronic music performers around the city at a new venue each night. Read more about last year’s event here.
Electronic music artist and educator Ernest Gonzales has an unreleased project seeing daylight this year and a “second one I am working on ‘til March. I am at 18 tracks but shooting to have 25-30 songs and then whittle down to best ones.”
SA’s hip-hop community defines hustle. Besides creating music & videos, they must search high and low for performance spaces because several local venues have a “no hip-hop” policy, therefore it is more difficult to reach general audiences. Yet SA’s dance and rap artists have seen a little national success without much of a professional infrastructure here at home to support or advance their career.
Marco Cervantes Ph.D., a professor of Mexican American studies at UTSA and is known by his stage name Mexican Step Grandfather, is working on new projects one of which is a record to be releases this year on DJ Chicken Georges’ Peddlin’ Jazztronica Music Grouplabel. MexStep is also working on a vinyl 45 release with Spanish language producers Cookin’ Soul. He recently took to the stage at Hi-Tones for a DreamWeek event and took part in the MLK March Monday Jan 19.
Several up and coming rappers and hip-hop groups have caught my attention lately like Sam Rubik and Milli Mars. “We literally have over a hundred songs of unreleased music, to choose from for White,” the new follow up to last year’s collaborative Black record created with 3Zone$, “We also have a video for ‘Que Quiero’ “ which was recently released on the web and received over 3,400 views within a week.
Milli Mars put out an album titled “Red Klay” and the track titled “Champion” received over 3,500 listens in only 4 days. The song was produced by Prophile, who I’ve seen on other projects recently making the rounds.
BOTTOM LINE: some damn good tunes are heading our way this year, from familiar faces and from fresh, newcomers that are sure to keep your ears and weekends full. Organizers should look to these new & seasoned performers because audiences like the variety. While the kids don’t have much money to spend, they are motivated and willing, something advertisers love. While cover charges and ticket prices may keep some youth at bay, they are willing to watch commercials and drink whatever sports/alcoholic beverage sponsors are peddling these days. People like “free” stuff - but they love good music even more.