There is nothing subtle about Texas. There is a reason why we use the term “Texas-sized” to describe anything in life that’s exaggeratedly large, from posteriors, to bong hits, to jugs of beer. This boldness, naturally, extends to the Lone Star’s musical exports, loud n’ proud legendary artists like ZZ Top, Pantera, and Stevie Ray Vaughan, among many others. Now, firmly in that cocksure lineage, is a mighty bluesy metal band from McAllen, Texas aptly named, Sons Of Texas.
The young quintet’s debut, Baptized In The Rio Grande — produced by the iconic Josh Wilbur (Lamb Of God, Crowbar, Chiodos, Hatebreed) — is a Texas-sized portion of power metal grooves, dazzling guitar solos, strip joint/tailgate sing-along choruses, and soulfully charred vocal melodies.
Despite being just in their mid 20s, never having recorded an album, and having only existed for about a year, the guys play with seasoned authenticity and fiery brilliance. The guitar duo of Jon Olivarez and Jes De Hoyos boast that classic rhythm and lead division of labor of Metallica’s Hetfield and Hammett, Testament’s Alex Sklonick and Eric Peterson, and Megadeth’s Dave Mustaine and Marty Friedman. Sons Of Texas has that rare gift of having a rhythm section of brothers — Nick and Mike Villarreal — so the grooves are telepathic and deeply in the pocket. And vocalist Mark Morales has a blood raw expressiveness evoking Phil Anselmo, Chris Cornell, and Zakk Wylde.
Rock Confidential spent a few minutes with guitarist Jes De Hoyos to talk about life on the road and the band’s awesome debut record Baptized In The Rio Grande.
Sons Of Texas has a distinctive sound with a few nods to other bands vocally and musically. You all have different musical backgrounds and played in different bands before Sons Of Texas formed. With such varying tastes, how long did it take to nail down the direction you wanted for the band?
We’ve been playing in different bands together since 2004 but when this particular group of guys finally teamed up, we knew almost immediately that we would have a southern blues/metal sound just by knowing how each member sounded in previous bands.
You’ve spent quite a bit of time on the road since you’re album was released. You played everything from clubs to festivals during your first US tour earlier this year. Has touring been everything you thought it would be? Anything happen that’s caught you off guard?
Its going better than expected. I won’t sit here and tell you it has been peaches and cream the whole time; there has definitely been some shitty situations, but we’re grateful to be where we are. We’ve been well received so far and people seem to be having a good time at the shows.
I saw you guys in Knoxville a couple of weeks ago and the crowd was chanting “one more song” after your set. I’ve not seen that happen in a long time. That’s awesome proof that you’re really connecting with the audience.
That was pretty badass. Especially cause we all were and still are battling a cold. Mark was hoarse so I was taking some of his vocal parts to compensate.
The band’s name is not just about pride from where you guys are from but it also pays tribute to Texas bands that influenced you, right? Who are those artists and who else has influenced your music and career?
Absolutely. Our influences vary as individuals, but we keep getting the “yall sound like ____” and typically its Texas bands. So we thought it was fitting to have a moniker that kind of pays tribute to the forefathers from Texas who influenced us. As far as influences go, I’d say we’re centered at Pantera, Stevie Ray Vaughan, ZZ Top, Sevendust, Mudvayne , Slipknot, Stone Sour, Alice In Chains, everything. Chris Cornell…the list goes on.
Even though you didn’t have a ton of experience in the studio you managed to knock out the record in a month. Tell me about recording Baptized In The Rio Grande and the role your producer Josh Wilbur played in that process.
Recording the album was an awesome experience, to say the least. We had an idea of what we wanted the tunes to sound like and Josh really helped focus those ideas.
How would you describe Wilbur’s work style? Did he make decisions or suggestions that were out of your comfort zone while you were in the studio?
Oh yeah. One time Mark was struggling to really nail a vocal take. So Josh had Mark sit in a tub of ice, butt naked for a minute before jumping out and immediately laying down vocal tracks. I’m just pulling your short and curlies on that last one! Josh isn’t a dictator. He was more about helping us find our own way and helping to focus our ideas than anything else. He brings good ideas to the table and offers outside, unbiased perspective. All these ingredients combined with a good attitude really helped make the record what it is.
Describe the band’s songwriting process. Do you individually present ideas or do you work together? Do you write music around lyrics, does the music inspire lyrics – or a little of both?
A little of both. Typically, it starts with guitar riffs. We’ll send each other clips of cool ideas that we’ve worked on individually. That way when we hit the jam space we each have heard it and know the basic idea of it. Since we’ve had time to listen to it individually, each of us will often have different a approach to the idea itself. That’s another perk of being eclectic and having various individual influences. Every now and again Mark will present lyrics, we’ll lay down some music for em and we’ll take on an idea that way. Its cool, cause ideas can and will come from anywhere.
I’ve read members of the band describe the record as being about ‘raising hell’ and ‘surviving hard times.’ What are some hard times the band has been through and what do you guys do to raise hell?
To be honest the whole “raising hell and surviving hard times” was a summarization that a writer probably took from reading our lyrics. Our band hasn’t gone through too much hell and we try and make things as easy as possible on ourselves because we know this business can kill a band quick. We try and avoid living the cliche rock star lifestyle of sex, drugs and rock and roll because we’re actually serious about what we do. The hell we raise is on stage.
Most people assume all bands from Texas should be from Austin – was there ever any pressure or thoughts about relocating?
That’s the idea behind the title track off our debut album. Most people think, right off the bat that it’s about a baptismal in the actual river. That’s not it at all. McAllen and the surrounding cities make up what’s called the “Rio Grande Valley”. People seem to think that if you want to make it in music you have to relocate to Austin or LA. You know, one of them “hot beds of music”. It’s bullshit. “Baptized In The Rio Grande” is really a stake in the ground where we’re from. That’s where we cut our teeth and we’re damn proud of it.
What has been the most exciting part about being in the band so far?
Meeting the fans in every city we go to. It’s always surprising to us that people even know who we are. The whole journey has been a dream come true so we don’t take any of it for granted and we work out asses off to make Texas proud.
Thanks for taking time out for this, Jes. What would you like to say to wrap things up?