The members of Hydra Melody are learning firsthand the amount of work that goes into achieving childhood dreams. Founder and lead singer Jordan Berlanga never really put much thought into what it would require to make a living as a musician.
“Back in high school, it was easy to think about living life as a rock star. It was easy to have that goal, to think about it, to want it. I think what’s changed now is I know the goal is actually hard. Life happens while you’re trying to build your own, and it really is hard.”
For San Antonio indie-rock quintet Hydra Melody, quite a bit has changed in the last two years. After settling changes to the lineup and returning from their incredibly successful leg touring with iconic alt-rock band, Third Eye Blind, the group holed themselves up on a ranch southwest of San Antonio for two weeks to begin work on their new full-length album, Nocturna. The isolation was quite intentional.
“From the get-go, we took ourselves out of our comfort zone for this record,” Berlanga explains. “Writing at the ranch house for two weeks (all of our previous songs had been written in San Antonio), relocating to Austin for a month after to practice and refine, recording in Tennessee, even the album release at the Empire Theater. Everything about this record is outside our comfort zones, which I think is a good thing.”
Two years ago, with both a new bass player and new lead guitarist, Hydra Melody attempted to fulfill previously booked events and release an album of songs that two of their members were still getting comfortable playing. Once they had an opportunity to work on a voice that would truly belong to the band, they discovered an upbeat, optimistic, rhythm-driven perspective that was uniquely their own. Berlanga, along with drummer Matt Gomez, percussionist Manuel Prince, bassist Jason Harari, and guitarist Taylor Ferguson, took advantage of their time together to find a sound that everyone was involved in honing.
“Every member of the band was a huge part of the writing process,” said Berlanga. “More so than ever, everybody had a hand in every single part of every single song. Matt and Manny contributing to lyrical ideas, Jason contributing to guitar ideas, there was a huge unity in the writing process, and that’s what makes this record special for us.”
“It’s not even so much what each song says as it is the feeling of them,” Gomez adds.
“Everything we wrote is so heartfelt, we captured the feeling with the music even before the vocals were there.”
Berlanga continued, “it was interesting, and quite a challenge, to meet the feeling of the music with the mood and theme of the lyrics.”
Talking to each member of the band, one would have no idea who the lynchpin member actually is. The significance of Gomez’s pulsing drum beats combined with the smooth nature of Prince’s congas to Hydra’s sound cannot be denied. However, the guys will just as quickly turn around and point out that the classical training and overall effervescence Ferguson brings to the stage is critical to their success. Which is when Berlanga chimes in with the awe in which he listens to Harari, who switched from guitar to bass in order to play with the band. Which is the cue for all voices to argue for the strength and heart that can be heard in Berlanga’s writing and singing. True to their name, the five independent sounds only work because they are one beast driven towards one simple goal: making good music together.
Berlanga remembers when he first felt that shared goal. “The first time I heard people singing my lyrics back to me...that’s when I really knew it was all about the music. There are so many people on the planet. If even a tiny fraction of them can love our music as much as we do, that’s the ultimate goal.”
The guys are admittedly excited about their upcoming Nocturna album release event at the Empire Theater, partly, to Gomez, because of what it means for the local music scene.
“It’s cool because these large, historical theaters are opening access to local bands. They’re looking in towards San Antonio and seeing the good acts coming out of here.”
Berlanga is also eager to get inside the venue from a purely musician point of view. “I haven’t had the chance to see the inside of the Empire yet, but Jason and [Hydra’s manager] Chad [Richardson] went to the Pinata Protest event there, and they were incredibly impressed. Jason told me that the venue reminded him of the Tabernacle in Atlanta, and that’s one of our favorite venues we’ve ever played. When he told us that, we knew we HAD to play the Empire.”
Hydra Melody’s Nocturna album release is on Saturday, July 18th at the Empire Theater located in downtown San Antonio. Tickets are available at www.do210.com/twotenempire.
All photos provided by Nichole Connor.