“We’re pretty much three minds operating as one living, breathing thing,” says Migrant Kids’ singer and lead guitarist Miguel Ojeda. The Austin psychedelic-rock trio was forged in 2011 by kinfolk Ojeda and rhythm guitarist John Zakoor.
The Latino cousins came of age together in Detroit, Mich. Visualize a Univision telenovela obstructed by little Hispanic scamps wrestling in church clothes, who don’t stop until someone gets maimed on a stray Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle action figure. As idyllic as that sounds, their sizable extended family consisted of many migrant laborers who struggled, toiled, and trekked across the broad American countryside.
Ojeda and Zakoors’ immediate families eventually put down their roots in the cold, snowy Motor City; a flagging metropolis with a rich, diverse musical heritage where the two ethnic cousins performed their first original song together as eight and nine year olds using a small Cassio keyboard.
“It was only natural that he and I would start playing together,” Ojeda says. “Our parents grew up in Texas and worked in El Campo, moving with the seasons and the work. They liked Michigan and just decided to hang their sombreros there for a bit, which turned into our childhood. (We were) a bunch of little snot-nosed brown kids making snow forts and sledding. It was great.
There was a lot of racism in Texas back when our parents lived there, and I think it left some bad feelings with them. It was really nice to move back and have them visit and see a difference: where Latino culture and La Raza are embraced. I love seeing people eating our food and groups like Peligrosa spinning the music of our people in a new way.”
Together with drummer and Cincinnati native Bryan O’ Flynn, the entity that is Migrant Kids produce “an ethereal experience of electronic storms, atmospheric voices, and rhythms that unfold and explode in otherworldly scenes.” The band exudes a special quality of loftiness, one that explains their affinity for surrealist, auteur filmmaker David Lynch. Profound, shifting tonal auras drive the rising and falling action on Migrant Kids and artfully gel with Ojeda’s expansive pitch to accentuate the emotional gravity of the narrative strains coursing inside. The songwriting is a collaborative melting pot that churns each member’s personal odyssey through the minefield of serious adult relationships and blends it into a single, open wound.
“The album isn’t about one girl. For us it’s bigger than one girl, or one relationship. It tells a story about the demise of a relationship, and the aftermath and reflection that follows that downfall. For each of us that story is a little different,” says O’ Flynn.
“Making this album felt very much like a purging of emotions,” adds Zakoor. “Music has always been therapeutic for all of us, for this we were all able to help each other get through our post-relationship woes and channel it into what you hear on the record.”
As a result, Migrant Kids convey an unrelenting sincerity with their music—and their collective dedication to it—that is rather astonishing. Sure, they emote plenty; but they get to the heart of what’s real—and that’s an unmistakable byproduct of the raw, more authentic Midwest from whence they came.
“The people of Detroit and the Midwest are like a hearty stew,” Ojeda tells me. “They’re full of substance, heart, and are very hard-working.”
On the subject of hard-work, each member has an impressive day job that most would scratch-and-claw for. But where their passion lies is evident. There’s too much blood, sweat and tears on their upcoming nine-track release to qualify as a hobby—or something to jettison for a promotion; or a horribly demanding, codependent girlfriend.
“When you tell people you play in a band and are trying to ‘make it,’ you get pegged as being ‘irresponsible,’” says Zakoor. “(But) I’ve never had to be more responsible and work as hard as I’ve had to in this band. You just can’t progress if you don’t have your shit together and are willing to treat your craft and art like a second career. I feel like the three of us do; and I feel we’re successful already because of that.”
Migrant Kids will release their debut EP on Sept. 24, with an album release party to follow on Sept. 27th at the Spider House Ballroom. RSVP on Facebook here. Check out the album’s lead single, “Canvas of Me” below.