In early February, when Sons Of Texas was the featured artist on Hard Rock Daddy’s Music Discovery Monday, guitarist Jes De Hoyos shared the inspiration behind the band’s debut single, “Baptized In The Rio Grande.” The album of the same name was released on March 3rd, and immediately rocketed into the Top 10 on the Billboard Hard Rock Album Chart. Check out the rest of the interview with De Hoyos below to learn more about this band on the rise!
You guys come from an area that is not exactly a musical hotbed. How did you manage to put together such a powerful lineup in such a small area?
Because it is such a small area, it wasn’t hard to find musicians that we liked. The first band that our singer (Mark Morales) was in was with our drummer and bass player (brothers Mike and Nick Villareal). The band was put together for the sake of a talent show, and then Mark left to pursue music on his own. Nick and Mike continued Lay In Ruins, and gained momentum through the years on the local circuit.
Jon Olivares (guitar) and I were in a band together with former members of Texas. Lay In Ruins was looking for a second guitarist, so Jon joined at that point, and I jumped in because they needed a bass player. Eventually, I worked on another project called Machete with Mark because I wanted to go back to guitar. We went through a long list of trial and error before finalizing the lineup that eventually became Sons Of Texas.
So is it fair to say that you guys came together naturally by being on the scene together?
Yes, but we were playing in different genres of music though. Machete was more straight-up metal, and Lay In Ruins was heavier and darker, closer to death core. I’ve always wanted to do something that had a more rock and roll feel to it, but with the liberty to add in metal and blues.
Since you and Mark worked together in Machete, did you bring any of that material to Sons Of Texas?
No, it’s all fresh material.
You guys are living proof that location is less important than writing great songs. Despite living in an area not known for its music scene, the band was actually discovered pretty quickly. How did your label (Razor & Tie) discover you?
We had gone up to play SXSW in 2012 with our original lineup (as Texas) which had two other guys on bass and drums. We were approached by someone from a different label who liked the music and asked us for a CD. He pitched it to his label and there was interest. He kept tabs on us for a while, but I guess it didn’t work out.
A while later, the head of A&R for that label had lunch with our current attorney who said that he was looking for a band with a certain “sound.” She told him about us, and gave him our EP. Fast forward to me in bed with my wife at 11 fucking PM, when I receive what I can only describe as a strange phone call from an L.A. number. I answered the call and he goes…
“Hi, I’m looking for someone from the band Texas.”
I thought to myself…“Who the fuck is this!? I’m about to go to bed and you’re calling me now?” (laughs)
He told me that his name was Eric German, and said…“I fuckin’ love your music!”
We were having this long conversation, so as we’re talking, I had my wife Google him to see if he was legit. When she told me who he was, I thought to myself…holy fuck! This guy’s the real deal!
He said… “I want to represent you. I’m going to get you a record deal.”
Mike Gitter from Razor & Tie was in Eric’s office one day when he was playing our stuff, and he said…“what is this!?”
So, Eric calls me while Gitter is in his office, and Gitter yells in the background “I love your music!” Sure enough, a few months down the road, we had a record deal.
I agree, the whole album kicks ass! I was drawn to you guys right away when I heard “Baptized In The Rio Grande” on Octane. About 10 seconds in, I knew that it was going to be a killer track. And, the album has no filler whatsoever, which is amazing considering that none of you really had studio recording experience outside of making your own demos.
The whole experience was fucking amazing! I don’t know what we would have done if we didn’t have our producer (Josh Wilbur) and his wife taking us in and helping us out while we were out in California recording the album. We actually breezed through the entire fucking album in like a month. Although it had its ups and downs, it didn’t feel like work at all. I loved every minute of it!
It sounds like it came naturally to all of you. The album has a really cool, live vibe that doesn’t sound overproduced at all. Josh did a great job of capturing your sound, which I’m sure will translate really well in concert.
The thing about the live experience is, like I mentioned before, we don’t really have a lot of recording experience, so we’ve always focused on being as tight as we can be when performing live. I think that translated to the recording experience.
You guys definitely have your own distinct sound, but if I had to pick a couple of influences that I hear on the record, I’d say Sevendust and Black Label Society…
That’s fuckin’ awesome!
What bands would you say have the most influence on you as musicians and songwriters?
Definitely those two (Sevendust and Black Label Society). Mark was influenced by Zakk Wylde, vocally, as well as a few others. As far as the rest of us, we all meet in the middle at Pantera. That’s my personal poison of choice. I fucking love them! Our bass player (Nick) and Mark are also heavily into Mudvayne. We have a little bit of a ZZ Top influence in there, and we fuckin’ love Stevie Ray Vaughn!
So, basically, anybody that comes from Texas, right?
(laughs) Pretty much. That’s one of the reasons why we feel the name Sons Of Texas fits us so well.
And you definitely have a big sound, so you did Texas proud…
You have a modern hard rock sound, but your shredding dual guitars are kind of a throwback to 80s metal. You’ve talked about your overall influences. Can you talk about some of the guitar duos that have inspired you?
Pretty much any heavy guitar duos, but I’d say that the major one would be Willie Adler and Mark Morton from Lamb Of God, just because they were so tight from the very beginning. It was different than a lot of the 80s stuff that I listened to when I was growing up. It wasn’t just the leads; the riffs and everything they did was tight.
Jon and I both followed them on our own before we met, and we actually did some Lamb Of God covers when we first started playing together.
Do you have any other personal guitar influences that are specific to your style of playing lead?
I’d say that it boils down to four guys…
Dimebag Darrell – I still try my ass off to play with his style and soul. That ties into Stevie Ray Vaughn, who also has a lot of soul, and could just manhandle the guitar. It was amazing watching him play. And, the other two would be Zakk Wylde and Paul Gilbert.
I think that your influences might be why you guys have such a seasoned sound already, despite your age and this being your first album…
Thank you. Mark is an old soul too. He listens to older stuff like Bob Seger and old Marshall Tucker Band, and he’s a HUGE Beatles fan!
You describe “Baptized In The Rio Grande” as an album about raising hell and surviving hard times. Can you talk about what that means?
The song is gospel from the south, no doubt, but it’s got nothing to do with religion. We come from a place way down at the southern tip of Texas called the Rio Grande Valley. It’s not exactly known as a hotbed for rock/metal music. There are some highly talented musicians and acts that are from here, but you don’t come here to get discovered. We were told by a lot of people that we had to move to a place like Austin or L.A. if we wanted to make it in music. The mentality that we had is that it shouldn’t matter where you’re from; you should be able to expose yourself to the world no matter where you live. Ultimately, the song is really an homage to where we’re from.
Do you feel like being an all-Hispanic band made things more challenging because that isn’t very common in hard rock?
I kind of felt like it might have been an issue at one point. I thought that to be in a band, you had to be from a music hotbed (like Austin or L.A.) That’s why the song “Baptized In The Rio Grande” is kind of a big thing for us. It’s where we’re from, and it’s where we were “baptized” musically. It has nothing to do with being baptized in a river. (laughs)
One of my favorite tracks on the album is “Texas Trim.” I’d say that song is also about “hard” times, but not necessarily enduring difficulties if you know what I mean….
(laughs) A lot of times we hear people who come from other areas tell us that we have some of the best looking women that they’ve ever seen. That’s what “Texas Trim” is all about, kind of paying tribute to the ladies from our great state.
So, are you guys married or single?
Two of us are single and two are married. I’m married, and I have a daughter and a son on the way.
Is it going to be hard for you to go on the road with two little kids at home?
Absolutely! And the crazy part is that we’re expected to hit the road right after my son is born. It’s going to be kind of shitty, but there really isn’t any alternative.
Is your wife supportive of you going out on the road?
Oh yeah. She’s always been supportive of everything I do musically. She does everything that she can to help promote us. She’s a sweetheart, and I don’t know what the fuck I’d do without her!
What are your touring plans to support the album?
We’re going to be doing some of the festivals, and getting on some kind of tour in late April, but the details haven’t been confirmed yet. We also did some dates with our label-mates, All That Remains.
I could definitely see you guys opening up for Black Label Society one day…
Thanks man. That would be a huge honor!
Thanks for taking the time to talk, Jes. I wish you the best of luck with the album and your new baby. Definitely looking forward to checking out the live show when you guys are in my neck of the woods!