UTPA student bands discuss accomplishments

By Elisa Garcia and Jose Salvador De Leon III

Some students zip up their backpacks after a day of classes and head to work or their homes. But for UTPA students Matthew Castillo and Sarah Walker, who also perform in local bands, the day doesn’t end until the crowd applauds.

Texas country band Matt & The Herdsmen and alternative punk group Pinky Swear bring their own rhythms to the local music scene while balancing their classes at the University.

COUNTRY STRONG

Matt & The Herdsmen is a four-piece Texas country band starring three UTPA students: Matthew Castillo, Beto Cavazos, Danny Salinas and Texas A&M Kingsville alumnus Ruben Cantu. Since November 2013, Matt & The Herdsmen have been a part of the local music scene, also performing in events as far away as Austin.

Austin native and group frontman Castillo said he had always wanted to start a band and finally did when introduced to the group’s current drummer, Cantu, in October 2013.

“I’m happy with the group that I have,” said Castillo, a kinesiology major at UTPA. “We’re all hard workers by heart, we love what we do and we’re always itching for a new gig, changing it up.”

Castillo explained that Texas Country is the combination of Western with a modern twist. He believes his band is one of few such bands on campus, and notes that each member brings a variety into the creation of songs and can’t wait to earn more notice and credibility in the music scene.

The members have been inspired by Country Music Hall of Fame artists such as Johnny Cash, Merle Haggard and Waylon Jennings.

Despite the fact that Matt & The Herdsmen have been playing together for a short period of time, they’ve found themselves performing locally at the Monster Car Wash Bar & Grill and at Austin’s Nutty Brown Café.

The band finds themselves pleasing crowds with top original songs such as Too Drunk Anyway, Come Back Home and Dance All Night.

As Matt & The Herdsmen prepared for a performance at The Flying Walrus March 27, the guys hoped the audience members would feel as if they were part of the music themselves.

“That’s the biggest reward, when nobody knows who you are, they go check you out and they end up staying the whole night,” Castillo said. “There’s people that have never heard us play or they don’t even like Country, but they just like the style and how we push it and I think that’s what gets them.”

As Castillo described the process of adding the finishing touches on a song, Cantu explained this time to be most exciting for him. He shares his passion for music with his bandmates and looks forward to what the future has to offer.

“When we finish a song and when we listen to it I’m like, ‘Wow, did we really just come up with that?’” said the Edinburg native. “I really think they’re something you could hear on the radio one day.”

The Herdsmen all share a sense of accomplishment when it comes to creating original music, however, guitarist Cavazos, who has been playing guitar for almost nine years, admits that with music comes hard work.

“I don’t know what else I would want to do sometimes,” said the Edinburg native. “I just want to play guitar and whatever I feel needs to come out, comes out.”

VALLEY POP

The night following Matt & the Herdsmen’s gig, McAllen’s Simon Sez was over capacity during a concert featuring San Antonio-based punk band FEA. The first performance of the night was by local band Pinky Swear, an alternative punk rock band whose members include: Sarah Walker, Christian Hanks, John Morales and Max Perkins.

Pinky Swear, whose four members are all UTPA undergraduate students, have been on the music scene since October 2013. The alternative punk rock crew was formed when lead singer Walker met bass player Morales through mutual friends and discussed forming a band as a “side project.” They then met current drummer Perkins, who introduced them to existing guitarist Hanks.

After their recent McAllen gig, the band discussed onstage experiences.

“It’s always intimidating to perform, especially with other bands,” said Morales, a 21-year-old anthropology major. “But after the show, especially tonight, when members of the other bands congratulate us and remarked that they enjoyed our music, it’s always really cool.”

Since its creation, the band has mainly played in Do-It-Yourself, or self-funded, shows in venues such as local bars like the Flying Walrus and the latest, McAllen’s Galax Z Fair. The group’s members briefly argued about which type of venue was the best kind to perform in.

Morales, who is from the Philippines, vouched for smaller shows due to the “intimacy” that is provided between the audience and performers. But guitarist Hanks defended big stages.

“The bigger the crowd, the more exposure you’ll get,” said the geology major from McAllen. “It’s also great to use it as a test to see what kind of reactions a big crowd will get.”

Pinky Swear practices at least twice a week in their drummer’s garage before the night of a performance, but meet up as often as possible to write music together. Walker remarked on the sense of camaraderie being in a band provides.

“It’s great just to hang out with each other and perform music that we’ve worked on to present to the public how much fun we’re having,” said Walker, a film and TV major from McAllen.

While most of the members of Pinky Swear admitted that they weren’t sure whether or not they’d want to continue performing in the future, Perkins expressed an interest in it.

“When I’m in a band, it’s a commitment,” said the 20-year-old biology major from McAllen. “I put my time, sweat and effort into it. I wouldn’t say that maybe I won’t make a career out of it, but if it happens, I wouldn’t mind.”

SOUNDCHECK

With upcoming gigs around the corner, Matt & The Herdsmen have been busy practicing, as well as writing original songs and hoping to start recording an album later this year and celebrate with a release party.

“I don’t mind performing for a long time. You get to write music, put your life on a piece of paper, make a rhythm out of it and have people relate to it,” Castillo said. “We would all give up everything if we could just make it, but we’re five months in and we have a long way ahead of us.”

Pinky Swear plans to release a cassette tape filled with their original songs later this year and has an upcoming performance with Simon Sez again April 12.