Over the course of the last decade, plenty of people have suggested that “indie rock” has grown stale. They’re right. The genre grew to become an overextended exaggeration of itself, bloated with disillusioned art school middle class white kids who had never really had to struggle against much at all, aside from their own malaise. The music reflected this lack of urgency, and rock slowly dipped in importance, while hip-hop and music that grappled with more demanding issues rose in cultural standing.
But the core persistence of “indie rock” itself, the dogged determination to make music that reflects a lived experience without the help of major label/corporate backing, never died. And The Tracks, an East LA band formed of the children of first-generation Mexican immigrants, desperately needed an outlet to describe the Los Angeles they experienced. Luckily for all of us, they found indie rock.
Frontman Venancio Bermudez, bassist Felipe Contreras, drummer Jaime Conde and guitarist Jesiel Higuera met throughout middle school, high school, and their early twenties, and eventually coalesced into the group’s current four-piece lineup. Their band name, The Tracks, easily plays on the economic and geographic divide that erupts in cities like LA, and renders the phrase “wrong side of the tracks” as relevant, even in 2016, when we like to imagine we’re far beyond this kind of divisivenss.
In a strange, meandering and explicitly candid initial interview with the local site L.A. Taco, the band leader Bermudez details his experience with immigration raids, homelessness, domestic abuse, losing his father to cancer, and surviving inhumane conditions working in a tortilla factory. The conversation is gripping, and offers insight into the wounds and that motivate this band to create. Read it.
Julian Casablancas is an easy touchstone for describing Venancio’s voice, his phrasing similarly beckons, the never gruff intensity of his tenor is similarly elastic, but where Casablancas preferred the ironic phrasing of dead-eyed oblivion, Bermudez goes for Brandon Flowers maximalism. So yes, this band is like a 2016 update of The Killers/Strokes hybrid, an indie rock boss-band with real motivation and a reason to sing.
“Go Out Tonight” is the only track they’ve released so far, and rarely do I judge a band off the strength of just one song, but the towering chorus and Venancio’s voice carry this far beyond the initial guitar riffs. It’s a song about night in one of our nation’s darkest periods, a song about driving and speed while we remain frozen, a song about taking a risk during an era of fear. It’s a song that makes me remember why I used to love indie rock. Listen below.
Their debut album will come out in 2017, which means The Tracks provided my first reason to look forward to next year: Speed up the process!