“This is a really sad song about my stupid fucking life.”
These were the compelling words muttered by Michael Carrillo at the commencement of yet another majestically theatrical ballad at his always enticing, but sometimes perplexing, so-called solo sets at a bar off of the notorious North St. Mary’s Strip.
Carrillo, otherwise known as “Mikey Vibe” to those in-the-know on the creative turf of San Antonio, is the frontman (or handsome mug, rather) of the cosmic virtuoso assemblage dubbed as Deer Vibes. On this particular night, the collective that was performing went by the title of Mikey Vibe and the Willing Characters, which is his clever group name for the gigs that mostly consist of non-Deer Vibes tunes but that also, on occasion, involves several existing, former or likely future Deer Vibes members.
Irrespective of the moniker foist upon whatever collection of musicians he may have beside him, one fact is clear: You will be witnessing an unrivaled spectacle of sheer harmonious brilliance before you.
For those unfamiliar with Carrillo’s gloomy façade, his statements and actions may seem erratic or cynically frustrating, but also intriguing at the same time. Those that know him personally and the passionate, unrelenting followers of his music justly figure that it’s all a part of the melodramatic presentation. In a way, they are correct in thinking so.
“I’m not as emotional in person (off the stage), or else I would have no friends,” Carrillo joked at our recent meet up at his creative workspace and stomping grounds, The Ten Eleven.
In addition to tapping The Ten Eleven as a resource for practice space, Carrillo is the whiz behind the sound booth at the humble yet eminent live music venue. This is no surprise due to the datum that Carrillo and his family previously owned a grass roots venue called The Lab in Kirby, Texas, circa 2006. Knowledge of his hardworking demeanor was gradually spread over time by word of mouth from the bands that Carrillo aided, and once the (soon-to-be) owners of The Ten Eleven got wind of this, they exhausted no time in scooping him up and brewing said venue into his permanent workplace.
Right around this time, the initial idea for what we now know as Deer Vibes came about when Carrillo played a solo show at Music Town, a now-defunct record shop in San Antonio. Afterward, he realized that he desired a more meaningful and collaborative musical satisfaction. He soon rounded up a few fellow musicians, and by 2009 Deer Vibes made its live debut by opening for This Will Destroy You on the Ten Eleven stage.
To attempt to chronicle the history of the ever-changing, 10-plus-member lineup of percussionists, horn players, string musicians, pianists and back-up vocalists over the past four years would be an unfeasible deed. Carrillo, who is profoundly influenced by the likes of Mike Kinsella, Paul Baribeau and Aloha, is simply on a relentless search for an ideally solid musical unity similar to those of bands he admires, such as Broken Social Scene. There is a constant fluctuation of members, which Carrillo deems necessary.
The way Carrillo sees it, most members can be interchangeable mechanisms in this musical “baby” of his. “What I’m making is good enough to be believed in, by the people who have heard it—the right people,” Carrillo said.
Certainly, over time, a firm handful of members has emerged that Carrillo plans on holding onto indefinitely, including close friend and guitarist Devin De Leon, drummer Kirstian Barboza and best-friend-turned-bassist Anthony Gauna (whom Carillo used to refer to as “the 11th Deer Vibe” before his entry into the lineup).
The past three years have been chock-full of touring for Deer Vibes. And since the once seemingly far-fetched vision of touring out-of-state has freshly been checked off Carrillo’s bucket list (including opening for Appleseed Cast at a festival in Cleveland, Ohio), there is no better time than now for these willing characters to thrust together to document and disperse their self-described “indie rock shit/sad orchestral” sound.
Deer Vibes has its antlers set on releasing a full-length album by spring 2014 through Texas is Funny. The San Antonio-based record label recently re-released, Ventura, an EP the band had previously self-released in 2011. The five songs on the record are all equally enchanting, alluring and grasp your spirit in a manner that is inexpressible. Carrillo’s ghostly echoes on the tunes that do consist of lyrics (“The Feeling”) are undeniably pleasing to both vocally trained and musically naïve ears alike. DV devotees can expect similar unifications of Carrillo’s creatively vivid mind with the meticulously capable hands of his peers when the band releases its new material next year.
For Carrillo, what keeps the reverie going is that there is no alternative to being a full-time musician. “I’m not really good at anything else”, said Carrillo.
Deer Vibes’ Ventura EP is now available via Texas is Funny Records. Listen to the album below.