12 El Paso bands and musical artists you should know about

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Over the past 30 years in El Paso, the hard-core rock band At the Drive-In has mostly stood alone as the city’s prominent breakthrough group on an international level. But the music scene in the Sun City has changed in the 14 year hiatus of the iconic punk band, with music taste in the city diversifying, new venues opening and old ones closing, and many bands have come out since then. If you’re from El Paso here’s who you should know.

1. Pissing Razors

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This heavy-metal band formed in 1996 in El Paso, and although then-drummer Danny Garcia moved the band to New York, the band’s inception can largely be credited to the metal scene and love for heavy metal that continues to be a constant in El Paso. Their metallic screams give you ears the same feeling your tongue gets when you drink something out of a metallic travel mug. They have an eerie sound the explodes with each riff and low yelp.

Record store owners in the city will tell you the first records to go are always those by bands such as Iron Maiden, Pantera, Black Sabbath, and Metallica. It is no coincidence that these bands were the points of comparison for Pissing Razors. They have not garnered as large of a following as one would have initially thought but that is most likely for the constant lineup changes and the ten year split they had between 2004 and 2014.

2. The Mars Volta and Sparta

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These two bands will share a slot because together they basically makeup At the Drive-In and would not have happened without the huge breakup. The Mars Volta was half of At the Drive-In, created by Omar Rodriguez-Lopez and Cedric Bixler-Zavala. The same two also reunited At the Drive-In adding Sparta member, Keely Davis.

Both the Mars Volta and Sparta have traces of hard rock while including punk elements that were so popular in the 90’s. The Mars Volta has serene calm music that will still move you and stir the same angst in you as much punk music did with the soft vocals of Bixler.

The Sparta, led by Jim Ward, staying much more true to the punk and post-hardcore genres has music that will have you head-banging whether you’re at home listening to them or stuck in the middle of traffic while you weird out the passers-by. Sparta will have their first show after a hiatus, on December 2017.

3. The DA

On the brink of fame, having put out their first album, they split. But this band is the first on the list that is not heavy rock – they are actually the opposite. The DA are high on the list because they were incredibly influential in diversifying the music scene in El Paso in the early 2010’s. They were the first band to unofficially play at the Lowbrow Palace, one of the premier venues in the city.

The DA are dance-rock band. We can only imagine if they would reached the level and fame of a band like Spoon, which has been called one of the best bands in the last two decades. But their sole-album which can be found on Spotify features quick melodic beats that can you have dancing four hours. The music is spearheaded by the frustrated-angel-like vocals of Tyler Wright. Drummer Evan Tremper has a second spot on this list.

4. The Chamanas

The Chamanas are a direct product of the culture of the El Paso/Juarez culture. They really belong to both cities, and rose to prominence after being nominated for a Latin Grammy. The indie pop band has collaborated with some of the biggest acts in the world of music, like Portugal. The Man, TV on the Radio, Jarabe de Palo, Nina Diaz, and were even featured on one track in the newest Odesza album.

5. Cigarettes After Sex

Cigarettes After Sex are another band with a strong pop sound. Their inception in 2008 was really an experimentation, with some of their first tracks being recorded at the University of Texas at El Paso. Shortly after founder Greg Gonzalez relocated, taking the band with him to Brooklyn. Since then, the band has played around the world, however, only put out their first album in 2017.

6. Holy Wave

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Now based out of Austin, Texas, Holy Wave originates from the Sun City. As their career has risen they have kept their hometown pride, featuring El Paso’s iconic Chico’s Tacos on the back-cover of their EP, “The Evil Has Landed Pt. II,” with the Franklin Mountain on the front cover.

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7. Emily Davis

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Emily Davis had a role in the creation of Cigarettes After Sex, and since leaving the band, has had music career on her own. Her acoustic guitar and vocals rose to prominence not just in El Paso but around much of the country as she has toured. Davis is set to open for Sparta in their reunion show.

8. The Royalty

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This indie/ post-punk band, much like the DA, were more than just prominent. The Royalty had songs featured on USA’s “Royal Pains” and ABC’s “The Vineyard.” Despite the critical success and not having broken up, the band has not put out music in four years. The last time we saw them was playing a free show before the screening of “The Rocky Horror Picture Show” at the Plaza Classic Film Festival.

9. Great Shapes

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This band is the product of DA drummer, Evan Tremper. After the DA broke up, Tremper stayed in music creating Great Shapes, since having shared stages with bands like WILCAT! WILDCAT!, and New Young Pony Club.

Their first full-length album was released in 2017 and has been met with high-praise, containing the same energy that was so consistent in the DA’s music. Tremper’s drumming provides a channel for audiences to beats and melodies that have twisting, shouting, and dancing their problems away.

10. Khalid

The 19-year old though not born in El Paso, moved here with is mother and made the Sun City his home, and he has made a splash bigger than ever. Put aside the Grammy nomination, the major record deal, and the tour that has taken him around the world.

What makes Khalid such a special artist that so many of us El Pasoans are proud of, is the love and pride he has for the city for himself. Elton John called out on stage at the Don Haskins center for being a talented artist from El Paso. He showed up on stage at Sun Music Festival during Marshmello’s set, a move that a lot of DJ’s and EDM (electronic-dance music) producers usually pull at the world’s largest festivals like Ultra or EDC (Electric Daisy Carnival).

The soft soothing voice that has made him so successful as his young age is just the cherry on top of someone that the city loves and has embraced as a representative.

Honorable Mentions:

Papaya Riot is another local band with such a unique sound that giving them a genre would really be unfair; the only label is good music that is fun to listen to. But because they have not released any music yet, I could not add them to the list.

Dulce Mal, another band that comes from Juarez, has opened for the Chamanas and is developing a large crowd in El Paso with music that is calming and simultaneously energizing. With only one single out, they are definitely a band to keep an eye on.

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