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The Bands 
BY : Jeffrey Hazlett

The Rio Grande Valley is home to a thriving underground rock and roll movement that has been brewing for decades, fueled by a DIY attitude and a passion for rebellious music.

 In interviews with three bands hailing from both sides of the border, a picture emerges of a scene that is as diverse as it is committed to its alternative ethos. 

The importance of the rock and roll scene lies not only in its cultural significance but also in its ability to provide a space for marginalized communities to come together and find a sense of belonging and empowerment. Despite facing numerous challenges and obstacles, the scene has persisted and grown, serving as a vital outlet for creative expression and a platform for social commentary.

“It’s a lifestyle for me, ya’ know, man?” says “Rock-n-Roll” James Echavarria, DJ at Q 94.5. in McAllen. He’s also the frontman of a local outlaw rock band called Whiskey D, and host of a podcast called #PVT, which features and promotes many local bands and acts. 

“It's always about the bands and the musicians, you know ... But like I said, I'm trying to take care of everybody I can.”

For some like-minded valley residents, rock and roll is their life. When all the members of the band come together, they make something bombastic. It’s not just metal, punk, or rock music. It’s something devastating, loud and expressive: it’s art. 

 

“We do it for the art,” Alex Cruz (A.k.a. Raco) of The Tronautas explains, “…The money is not the important thing.”

The Tronautas

The Tronautas, a punk rock band hailing from Matamoros, Mexico, bring an oppressive and trippy flavor to the Rio Grande Valley metal scene with their sludgy, dark, doom/grunge music that sounds like an acid trip at a Foo Fighters concert (this is a good thing).

 

Alfredo, a.k.a. Radio Bot, said, "We all have different influences and backgrounds. We love different kinds of music. When we play, think I am playing Black Metal, and he's playing Nu-metal.”

 Alex chimed in, “...and I play Stoner, so we all have different influences."

The epic sound comes from the band's brotherly bond and unabashed love for art and rock music. The various inspirations, from punk, nu-metal, and hip-hop, to stoner metal and post-rock, culminate into a grungy, fun experience.

 All of those genres, influences, and straight-up artistry meld together to make up the unique, awesome sound of The Tronautas.

Draft

Draft, from McAllen, Texas, has been a staple of the local scene for over two decades. They’re known for their high-energy performances and epic covers of classic and modern rock. 

Brothers Ruben and Daniel Saenz head guitar and drums, while their longtime friend Tony Manchaca slaps the bass. The energy between the group stems from decades of playing together and continuing to grow and change with the RGV rock scene.

In a recent show in McAllen, their performance was interrupted by a bar manager for being too loud. Apparently, an angry neighbor of the McAllen bar they were playing at has complained before about the noise. 

That action alone embodies the spirit of rock n’ roll.

Overt Enemy

Overt Enemy, a thrash metal band from Mission, Texas, adds a heavy and aggressive sound to the mix, drawing inspiration from other Texan thrash bands, like Pantera or Rigor Mortis.

Overt Enemy as a band has been playing together for the last 10 years but just recently got a new drummer. Rob Hahn, the guitarist, carries himself like a classic metalhead:

 

“I think we're trying to be as successful as we possibly can be… And maybe, you know, the metal gods smile upon us, and we knock one out of the park.” 

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The metal gods indeed shine brightly on the bands in the RGV. The greater rock gods too, watch closely, waiting to solidify a band from the border in rock history. While all of the bands love being local and supporting their communities, there is always a chance that a hit song could spring from any one of the thousands of bands in the area. 

Alex and Alfredo from Tronautas said it best: 

“We're a local band, because we are here,” says Alex. “We are local, man. We all consider ourselves in the underground because and I mean, why are we doing this? We're doing this because we want to project ourselves.” 

Alfredo interrupted him, “And to have fun!”

“Yeah, and to have fun.”

“That's, that's the main reason you just have fun and if something more comes up, there's no problem.”

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