January 07, 2021
It’s no secret that hometown satisfaction typically breeds fierce competitiveness, however in Texas, thriving sister cities lock horns like real-life siblings. Music is a typical level of competition, whether or not it’s Austin boasting about their world-renowned festivals and psych scene, or Houston positioning itself as a hallowed floor for pop stars and hip-hop trendsetters like Beyoncé and Megan Thee Stallion. In all of that fanfare, Dallas is usually neglected. The shining star of North Texas hardly desires for homegrown expertise; they’ve given the world chart-topping superstars like Demi Lovato, Erykah Badu, and the lately renamed (Dixie) Chicks, in addition to artsy darlings St. Vincent and Neon Indian. However whereas Austin and Houston have clearly outlined sonic manufacturers, many Dallasites agree that town remains to be growing its musical id—a matter that might quickly change, because of a rising crop of fresh-faced, extraordinarily modern Latinx artists.
“Proper earlier than Covid hit, I’d say issues had been actually beginning to choose up all around the metropolis,” says Kevin González, aka Kavvy, the founding father of indie pop romantics Luna Luna, a key act within the Dallas scene. “Artists like Fishing in Japan, Pretty Boy Aaron, and A-Wall are all arising, however there are additionally extra folks taking initiative and throwing exhibits on their very own. In locations like Deep Ellum, the place there are many venues [like Trees, Three Links, Canton Hall, and Club Dada], exhibits are all the time taking place.”
Bilingual, laidback, and impressively polished since their earliest releases in 2017, Luna Luna have developed a retro aesthetic that pairs ’80s-indebted synths and drum kits with a shiny, groovy sound that might take pleasure in regular radio play between Khruangbin and Gus Dapperton. Actually, the band opened for Dapperton in 2018, carried out exhibits with Homeshake, Boy Pablo, and launched into a Texas-wide Latinx all-star tour with Neon Indian, Empress Of, La Goony Chonga, and Selena cowl band Bidi Bidi Banda.
“Being Latinx in Dallas is cool, as a result of everyone sort of is,” provides Danny Bonilla, a singer-songwriter who can be core member of Luna Luna. “At our exhibits, we’ll be trying into the gang and it’s people who seem like us: darkish pores and skin, curly hair. I bear in mind rising up, there wasn’t that sort of illustration. Even infants come to our exhibits. So being that particular person for anybody—it simply feels actually good.”
Mexican-American artists have been cornerstones of each musical motion in Texas. In 1963, with the rising reputation of rock ‘n’ roll and rockabilly, Trini Lopez turned a Dallas hero after his cowl of people normal “If I Had A Hammer” raced up the charts, incomes the eye of Frank Sinatra and a chance to audition for The Crickets after the passing of Buddy Holly. A 12 months later, Sam The Sham, the alter ego of Domingo Samudio, scored an enormous hit with “Wooly Bully,” following within the footsteps of Ritchie Valens with a stylized stage title that appealed to broader, primarily white audiences.
“There have been a lot of Ricky Ricardo, puffy-sleeve sorts at the moment,” says Albert Valtierra, a 72-year-old Vietnam Struggle veteran and former president of the Dallas Mexican-American Historic League (DMAHL). “That was across the time of the massive soul music explosion: Motown, James Brown, Otis Redding… So lots of the bands that had been taking part in at our quinceañeras and weddings integrated that type. We referred to as them Chicano bands, which meant all of them had horns and a big-band really feel. There was an plain connection to the Black group, so even after we had been out in Vietnam, the Chicano troopers would go over and take heed to their soul music, and the Black troopers would come over and throw ‘gritos’ with our music.”
Valtierra has contributed to quite a few organizations devoted to the preservation of Mexican-American heritage in Dallas, working with the Affiliation of Mexican-American Professionals till the early ’00s, and co-founding DMAHL in 2008. He’s additionally a lifelong devotee of Tejano music, a singular Tex-Mex mix of country-western epitomized by Selena, and embodied domestically by teams like Sal DeLeon & The Centennials and Johnny Moa & The True King Band. By means of DMAHL, Valtierra and his colleagues have additionally coordinated quite a few artwork exhibitions, together with a sprawling 2017 present of archival photographs documenting Latin music in Dallas.
“We wish to seize the historical past of Mexican-Individuals in Dallas and we wish to share it,” he provides, “as a result of it’s not taught and it’s not informed, in order that’s why I believe our reveals have resonated throughout the group.”
Whereas neglect and the wear and tear of time are a relentless problem for each scene, rampant gentrification has develop into the largest menace to Dallas’s cultural establishments. “Somebody as soon as informed me Dallas has the very best tradition cash can purchase,” says Scott Tucker, a Mexican-American author, artist, and founding father of dreamy rock outfit Aztec Milk Temple. “That sentence was actually offensive at first, however the extra I thought of it, I understood the frustration of being an artist in Dallas, as a result of galleries and venues come and go. There are many artwork patrons and venue homeowners that give all the things—particularly in Covid, they’re doing what they’ll to maintain issues going and their staffs paid. It’s simply these huge company issues that are available in and screw all the things up.”
Beloved areas like The Curtain Club and 1919 Hemphill have closed down lately, and lots of the metropolis’s most promising acts proceed emigrate to the coasts—and even simply to Austin—in the hunt for larger alternative. However there are additionally loads of folks doing the legwork to maintain Dallas artists nourished and supported. Labels like Dreamy Life Records and Idol Records have amassed huge catalogs that unfold like oral histories of the North Texas underground. Central Track, the De Colores Collective, and legendary alt-weekly The Dallas Observer, additionally diligently cowl new voices and tendencies, preserving the place of Dallas music in native media. Tucker additionally highlights the affect of the College of North Texas in Denton, the place top-notch arts packages pour a relentless stream of creatives again into the Dallas-Fort Price space, most notably Neon Indian’s Alan Palomo and The Polyphonic Spree’s Tim DeLaughter.
“Dallas is a metropolis nonetheless looking for id,” says Tucker. “It’s not comfy with itself but, and builders deal with tradition prefer it’s expendable. The underground group remains to be small, so artists and bands look out for one another on a regular basis. However the scene has undoubtedly grown. It simply must continue to grow.”
Retaining our sights on the longer term, listed below are ten Latinx acts ushering in a brand new period for Dallas unbiased music.
The most popular new band on the Dallas scene, Luna Luna have efficiently tapped into the mellow-pop zeitgeist that made stars out of Cuco and Clairo, whereas including their very own sweetheart twist. Their glorious debut EP For Lovers Only is a set of shimmering cuts that might soundtrack all the things from a clammy-handed first date to the cinematic sluggish dance at a highschool promenade. Their R&B-influenced follow-up Carousel dropped late final 12 months, they usually’ve been releasing new singles over the course of 2020, even spurring parallel tasks from keyboardist/co-songwriter Danny Bonilla and drummer Kaylin Martínez, the latter a member of punny art-rock outfit Manifest Destiny’s Child.
An effervescent collision of ‘60s woman group allure with biting riot grrrl-influenced lyrics, The Bralettes have grown into thrilling younger stars of the Dallas storage scene, full with empowering, uplifting mantras brandished throughout their bios and social media. Their 2019 debut album Cheers! is crammed with deceptively bouncy tracks like “Scary Harry,” “Occasion,” and “Sufficient,” which can get you in your ft whereas the group dissects sexual harassment, poisonous relationships, and bodily insecurities. With Covid-19 placing a damper on their tight touring schedule, The Bralettes went again within the studio; recording and releasing a new EP in November that explores a darker, grungier sound.
With a sound steeped in neo-soul and ’90s R&B, Ariel + The Tradition have been a Dallas staple for the previous few years, framing frontman Jason “Ariel” Bobadilla’s slick-tongued crooning inside hovering beat and horn preparations. Their 2019 debut EP NOSTALGIA is crammed with silky jams like “WALK OUT” and “ON THE MOON,” in addition to the occasional dip into excessive vitality bangers, most notably on “GO OFF” which thumps on a pseudo-reggaetón beat. As soon as a shapeshifting collective of musicians, Bobadilla has determined to hold on with the challenge as a solo act, kicking off this new chapter with “Dame Tu Amor,” an effusive, longing cumbia love letter to his associate out in Austin.
Meteoric hip-hop crew Chroma have been making a splash since late 2017, when rappers Bleu Santana, Kalid Abdul, and Polo got here along with graphic artist Andrés, videographer Marvin, and their now-manager Jonathan to kind an modern and horizontally-organized artistic collective. Their 2019 debut The Year of the Puma oscillates between boom-bap minimalism and futuristic beats, incorporating intelligent natural tinges on tracks like “Gelatina” and “Dulce.” Chroma foster collaboration with each launch, always crossing over with native contemporaries like A-Wall and Pretty Boy Aaron, which turned the first catalyst behind their sophomore LP collab, Primavera.
The tide is continually altering within the Dallas punk scene—one second, town is mourning the closing of an iconic DIY venue like 1919 Hemphill, which shuttered unexpectedly final 12 months, the subsequent it’s celebrating the discharge of Everything Is A-OK, a brand new documentary that collects footage and anecdotes of town’s wealthy punk historical past. A band like Perdidos is an ideal instance of the scene’s immutable grit. Throughout two apocalyptic EPs constructed on chainsaw riffs, punishing drums, and singer Diego’s looking out wails, are bleak tales of immigration and alienation, capturing the realtime anxieties of Dallas’s Latinx group whereas reflecting punk’s dedication to social criticism.
Hailing from McAllen, Dezorah was fashioned in 2014 when Dallas natives Danica Salazar and Eric Martinez started spinning their love of arduous rock, Latin jazz, and sci-fi into an exploratory new prog-rock challenge. Retaining a foot in every metropolis, the band cites inspirations starting from aliens to the Legend of Zelda, releasing two hovering EPs, Tierra Eterna and Creando Azul, in addition to a delightfully intimate live session the place they dipped into sluggish jamming and cumbia. Dezorah’s heart-pounding musical dueling is fantastically displayed on cuts like “In Weight” and “Conscious,” the place Salazar’s evocative vocals glide expertly over the band’s sonic maelstrom.
In sharp distinction to Dezorah, Salazar lately unveiled a brand new parallel challenge referred to as CANA! alongside co-writer and producer Johnny Garza, which dives head first into the nostalgic and undeniably catchy waters of freestyle music. Harkening again to Lisa Lisa, Judy Torres, and different Latin synth-pop stars who outlined the East Coast freestyle sound of the late ‘80s and early ‘90s, CANA!’s debut EP Luvfield is a shimmering and impressively correct recreation of interval sounds with a contemporary twist. Powdery synths, unrelenting drum machines, and Salazar’s syrupy vocals on cuts like “With out U” and “R U in Love” might transport you to an imaginary packed ‘80s dance ground the place Jellybean Benitez and Masters At Work are manning the decks.
One of many newer faces on the Dallas scene, Brian Rodsal melds emotional R&B with lure swagger for a collection of earnest, tremendously catchy earworms. The younger singer-songwriter and producer’s 2019 debut EP, When A Butterfly Thinks It Can’t Fly, is a synth-heavy ode to introverted romantics that’s filled with hypnotic vocal melodies. However whereas the sadboy vibes are sturdy, Rodsal continues to return additional and additional out of his shell—significantly on final 12 months’s euphoric singles “Better Days” and “Fade Away v2,” which attain for the daring heights of stadium singalongs.
Dance punk trio Sub-Sahara have gained a loyal following throughout Texas for his or her high-octane stay exhibits, they usually intention to seize that lighting-in-a-bottle vitality with each new launch. Hitting the scene with 2016’s Servant EP, the band has steadily perfected their mixture of barreling guitar riffs and metallic percussion, most notably on their newest EP Infatuation, which options stand-out cuts “Ulna” and “Siberia.” With a robust sense for melodrama and visceral songwriting, Sub-Sahara’s most up-to-date single “13-12” is a cheeky evisceration of police brutality conceived after the homicide of George Floyd and the next protests that set the summer season of 2020 ablaze.
Aztec Dying’s moody information draw from a effervescent cauldron of influences that vary from post-punk to shoegaze and demise rock, pairing an affinity for darkish sounds with chopping anarchist lyrics. Debuting with a 2015 demo, adopted by their 2016 full-length Machine, the band has discovered its footing in Dallas’s punk scene whereas additionally embracing an unexpectedly danceable sound lately. Spend a while with 2019’s Consequence EP, the place Aztec Dying’s kaleidoscope of themes and ambitions spin out in balanced, but typically explosive, methods.