Every band has their own unique tale of how it came to be. More often than not, it includes the molding of a distinct sound and the lineup may have to be altered accordingly until the shifting and twisting pays off and it reaches an ideal fit. This, of course takes patience and a heck of a lot of heart as rupturing obstacles and never losing that inferno within may be irking and an internal trial to say the least.
However, San Antonio’s own obscure indie band Phonolux has overcome this with ease. Back in 2007, Dave Novak turned to craigslist in search of a drummer. Buddy Calvo replied and (former member) Art Guillermo hopped along bringing Miguel Romero Jr. with him. The irony of it all is that once practices ensued, instruments were rotated and the “click” occurred—it was Novak himself that ended up as drummer. Calvo took charge of vocals and keys, Romero riffed on the guitar and Guillermo picked up the bass.
Between 2007 to the present, they have recorded and released three separate compilations showcasing their hauntingly dark, yet surprisingly jive-worthy tunes. In 2009, they released a self-titled, self-produced album that received both praiseful and welcoming reviews. In 2012, the band released another full-length album, Nashville Fires.
This year was the year that brought about an amazing opportunity for Phonolux. Their new EP, Feathered Fortress, was recorded in Austin at the renowned Public HiFi recording studio owned by drummer and founding member of Spoon, Jim Eno. This time around, their EP was engineered by the vastly experienced Brad Bell who has worked with noteworthy bands such as The Submarines and Arcade Fire.
However, Guillermo’s exit from the band after Feathered Fortress (due to getting married and starting a family) left Phonolux devoid of a bassist. Formerly of the well-known San Antonio band, Wholesale Piracy, Armando Mora quickly stepped in and began performing live with the band. This modification now established the present day lineup of Phonolux.
Recently, I was fortunate enough to attend one of their live shows at Limelight in San Antonio. Once they hit the stage, the band’s sound is engulfing. Mora’s hearty bass lines and magnetic liveliness and the wickedly powerful keys flowed oh so well with Calvo’s impressive range and vocal stylings. Romero brought his friendly humor and skillful guitar work, while Novak pounded the drums passionately in a fashion that made my pulse escalate and feet stir uncontrollably. These things combined with the intense and surging lighting of the venue made the performance enticing, engaging and overall aesthetically appealing.
Adding Mora into the Phonolux mixture has obviously added an extra hint of unadulterated energy and songwriting savvy into the band’s skilled, rock fusion sound. In the three to four months since his addition to Phonolux, these four gentlemen have dreamt up seven new ditties to add to their electric live performances. As of now, the band intends on only playing new material at shows from this day forward (with the exception of one or two tracks from Feathered Fortress).
Phonolux is always gathering inspiration. From love lost, musicians they admire (such as The Beatles, Elton John, Radiohead and Led Zeppelin) and other creative endeavors. All members (sans Mora) are a part of Machina Cinema, which is a digital video production company that mainly focuses on the crafting of independent films, music videos and commercials. Novak and Romero do other freelance videography work outside of the film company, such as recording local sporting events.
They are a fierce team on and off stage. Novak said “good communication” is needed in challenging situations. Lineup changes, reinvention of one’s sound and the ins and outs of the vigorous (at times) process of recording can make day to day band activities arduous, especially when certain members may have a swollen sense of self. But, Novak said, “there are no egos.”
In addition, with Austin being San Antonio’s neighbor, the band agrees with Romero on what just may be the biggest obstacle of being a local band from San Antonio. “The toughest part is being Austin’s little bro. We get picked on for not being quite as cool as our big bro,” Romero said.
Phonolux collectively sees it as a challenge due to the fact that Austin has substantially more venues and more money to put into the quality of sound at said venues. Although, with the shared view that our hometown has most definitely progressed as the years go by, San Antonio is still viewed as “The Tejano Capitol of the World,” Romero said.
This being said, Phonolux is up for the challenge of tackling this obstacle head on. They are on the cusp of achieving brilliant things and on a journey to a wildly rewarding musical future together with a strong desire to embark on their first regional tour and aims to record a third full-length album by the end of this year.
With a new sound and fresh, heightened energy, their live performances will be something (even if you a long-standing Phonolux fan) that you will not want to miss. Keep updated with the happenings of the band, upcoming shows by visiting: www.phonoluxmusic.com. Take a peek at their music video for “Hurricane,” a track on the new EP, below.