Rock Documented had the opportunity to sit down with vocalist, Mark Morales, and lead guitarist, Jes DeHoyos, prior to their performance at the in Lancaster, PA last week. They are currently touring with and through the end of this month. We talked with them about the success of their last album Baptized in the Rio Grande and their upcoming album Forged By Fortitude which will be released later this year.   Unable to find a quiet spot to conduct this interview inside the Chameleon Club during sound check, we decided to grab some burritos and chat across the street at Roburrito’s.

Rock Documented: We at Rock Documented have had the opportunity to see you tour with several big names; Hellyeah, Texas Hippie Coalition, and now Fozzy. How have these bands influenced your music?

DeHoyos: I think it’s pretty good because we get to watch them. They have years of experience, they’re already veterans in the game. So you watch them on the nightly and you pick up on things, you know, certain things you might not be doing or incorporating into your live set. So, it’s definitely a learning experience. Going out there, watching the idols you grew up watching and that kinda thing. So, it’s pretty bad ass you know, it’s a double whammy from where I’m standing.

Morales: Yea, it is. I mean, I know definitely from Hellyeah, they’ve got a hell of a live show and they’re not exactly young dudes anymore.

DeHoyos: And if it’s possible, from the first time we saw them to this last run we did earlier this year, they (I don’t know how the hell they did it) but they upped their game. It’s just, it’s insane. It’s a very intense live show.

Morales: And that new record is brutal too.

DeHoyos: Undeniable is a fucking killer record man.

Morales: They really definitely a lit a fire up our ass to kind of step it up. And especially because they’re double our age and they’re still kicking ass. They definitely light a fire, they spark a fire within us to step it up, to step up the game if you will.

RD: Any great tour stories come to mind?

Morales: Tour stories, shit. There’s been a lot man.

DeHoyos: There’s a lot of them man, some of them may not be appropriate.

Morales: What’s one of them man? We could talk about Jonny taking a shit on the snow.

DeHoyos: Dude, there you go.

Morales: Just because he’s not here to defend himself. When was this man?

DeHoyos: One of the many of times, we were talking about earlier, you don’t have a rest stop or restroom available every fucking mile, you know, I don’t know exactly what town we were in.

Morales: What tour was this? All That Remains?

DeHoyos: I don’t remember, I think it was.

Morales: Because it had to be a winter tour, because it was cold, it was snowing. We were somewhere in the… dude, I don’t even know where we were.

DeHoyos: I want to say maybe mid-west.

Morales: Somewhere like in the north, mid-west. It was the middle of the night, we had a long stretch ahead of us, so we had to pretty much drive all night. Jonny just had to take a massive shit, and he tells whoever was driving at the time, “Hey man, I really need to go.” So ten minutes turns into twenty, twenty into thirty, and it’s like he needs to go and he’s pretty much, you know, they call it the turtle head—it’s coming out. He goes, “Dude, just pull over, pull over anywhere.” So, he finds this isolated area, we pull over, and it turns out to be a parking lot of some sort. We didn’t really look at the building or what not. We went in there and he just got off and he found some trees to go take a dump. So he’s there and we’re like, “I can’t believe this guy’s shitting in the snow.”We were looking out for him and you could see his breath, it was cold man. So, he finishes up and he does his thing like the dogs and cats, you know, shovels the snow on top of his dung, and then he kind of rushes into the van. As we’re taking off, we see the steeple. He shat in the yard of a church. And we felt, “Dude, we are definitely cursed. You shat in the Lord’s house.” Oh man, but that was one of many man, that just comes to mind right off the bat. Jonny’s shit in the snow.

DeHoyos: And it was in the middle of the night, so you really couldn’t tell what it was. But we drove away, and as we’re driving away you look up and see the steeple.

Morales: It was horrible.

RD: You’ve been touring to promote your album ‘Baptized In the Rio Grande’ since it debuted in early 2015. What are your thoughts on the success of the album?

Morales: It kind of takes me back. We had no idea what kind of an impact it would have just because we had no real following. We came basically out of nowhere. The label pretty much plucked us out of obscurity. We had nothing; no foundation, no fan base, no extensive touring, none of that stuff. So when the album came out, it was solely from the promotion of the album and the single “Baptized in the Rio Grande” along with the video. We got the numbers for that first week, I forget what the numbers were for that first week, but it totally surpassed our expectations; the band’s and especially the record label’s. The label was like, “What the, this is unheard of” because of the fact, again, that we really had no foundation and nothing under our belts.

DeHoyos: Everything that happened for us, was actually really just a string of luck. We were fortunate to be where we are cause when we got picked up we didn’t have a following. We hadn’t been together for more than, what, a year? Not even that? It was 8 months, we started in January 2013 and then 8 months later we got with Razor & Tie. I don’t know what the hell happened but we are fortunate to be where we are and anything that happened after that it was cool to see that the record did as well as it did was awesome.

Morales: It was crazy. It hit charts. The single peaked at 29. I don’t know, it was in the top 40 for a little while and then as fast as it came up, it dropped out. But, just to be there for a tad bit was fucking awesome. And, it’s still doing well, it’s still selling out there.

DeHoyos: I think, if I’m not mistaken, it did #5 on the [Billboard] Heatseekers chart.

Morales: Heatseekers, there you go. So, now we are out here trying to promote the second record. That record is going to be called Forged By Fortitude and that should be coming out pretty soon here, in a couple months, I think the first week of September. That might be an exclusive there because I don’t think we’ve told anybody yet. But, it should be pretty good and we’re looking forward to it. We’re going to be playing some material tonight. Test the waters.

RD: Can you tell us a little more about the new album?

Morales: We recorded it back in January/February and it’s pretty much mix mastered and it’s good to go. We’re going to be coming out with a single here pretty soon, in the next couple of weeks. But as far as the album, I was listening to it just a couple of hours ago. I don’t know man, to me it’s a hell of a lot more agressive. It’s a little more abrasive in my taste, but it’s a reflection of what we’ve been doing the past 2 plus years. I’m speaking for myself only because of the lyric material. There’s a lot of frustration, a lot of aggravation. Just because were were new to the game, now that we know what the game’s about, you tend to scoff at a couple of things. It’s riddled with guilt, because of the fact that I have a family. I have a young family. I have three little boys back at home and there’s this endless amount of guilt of just leaving them constantly and not being able to be there with them. So this album really reflects on a lot of that. But, in retrospect, there’s a lot of positivity to it, a lot of optimism. Just keep doing what you’re doing and you get what you put into it. We’ve been pushing hard and we’re starting to see the fruits of our labor, so to speak. So, yes, it is a little bit more aggressive, but I think it has a positive note in the end.

DeHoyos: For me, I didn’t really want to hype it up too much. I didn’t want to do too because seldomly does one’s expectations, just based off of somebody else’s words, meet reality. I don’t want to be like, “Oh check it out, it’s fucking great,” and then if you dig it, cool, if not it’s cool too. I’m happy with what we did. I really enjoyed the way the songs came out and hopefully everybody else will too.

RD: One of my personal favorites, would have to be “Slam With the Lights On.” Can we expect that one on your next release?

Morales: Damn!

DeHoyos: We’re going to see how it lands. We’ll see, because I can’t give away too much about what’s on or what’s not on the record. Especially because not everything is yet set in stone.

RD: I know you guys put down a solid recording of that track because it’s everywhere.

Morales: Yea, that was on our second EP, before we started out with Razor & Tie. We were a band called Texas and we did two [EPs]. The first one was 4 songs and the second one was 3 songs. I think it’s floating around somewhere on YouTube or something maybe. If you want to hear a recording of that, just look it up.

RD: Was “slam” always the lyric you sang in that one? I swear I remember a different version?

DeHoyos: [Laughs] That’s this guy right here. With the live setting we do change a couple of things. Sometimes it’s lyrics, sometimes it’s guitar parts, sometimes little breakdowns, just to keep it interesting. But if you get a couple of cocktails in Mark, he’ll start fuckin, mouthing off at the mouth live but it’s just for good fun.

Morales: I tend to be a little explicit sometimes.

DeHoyos: But it’s all for good fun in the live setting.

RD: Can you walk us through your album writing process?

DeHoyos: It’s two ways. Mark has an idea based off of his lyrics. He’s actually pretty good with writing music, acoustic and that kind of thing too. Or, it’ll branch out from an idea that me or Jonny will have on a riff and it’ll just build that way. For example, on the first record “Breathing Through My Wounds” was one of Mark’s old songs that he actually wrote the music for, the majority of it, and all we did was just transpose it over to a full band.

Morales: It turned into a powerhouse, a power ballad.

DeHoyos: It ended up pretty cool. Another one was “September” which was the third single off the first record. That was another one that Mark had. But stuff like”The Vestryman” or “Blameshift” is either John or myself jamming out at home. We’ll bring that to the jam space and be like, “Hey, check it out, see if you can come up with ideas.” A couple of days later it’ll end up a full jam.

Morales: This record though, was interesting. This new one because we had been touring just non-stop. Whenever we were home, we were home, and we really just wanted to spend time with family and our kids. So, we did get together, but it’s not as much as I guess we should have. But, we had plenty of ideas, plenty of riffs, and we spit balled ideas back and forth and I guess got the foundations of the songs. But, on our way up to California, about to record this thing we were like, “Dude, we really don’t have a complete solid song, they’re just a bunch of ideas.” Some of us were just biting our fingernails, “What the hell are we doing?” But, I really wasn’t too worried about it just because once we got the ball rolling, and the juices start flowing, and the energy with all five of us in one room. Then also having Josh Wilbur, our producer, in the room, it just meshes well. So, we would start to play the riff we had, I start to sing my ideas, and then it just started to snowball. I’m very very confident in writing with these dudes because it just comes so naturally, so I guess easy, I don’t know how to explain it. To me, once these guys start going, the juices start flowing.

DeHoyos: I think it helps that we just don’t ever stop too though. Personally, I’m always jamming on the acoustic in the van. It drives this motherfucker crazy in the van, “You never shut the fuck up, you’re always jamming.” I’m either working on chops, jamming out, and somehow a riff will pop up. It’s not intentionally that I’m sitting there trying to write a riff, it just happens. “Hey, I just had this idea,” and it just branches off. I think it helps that we just keep current, jam as much as we can.

RD:  What can we look forward to in the second half of 2017?

DeHoyos: Support of the record, that’s it.

Morales: Yea, just staying on the road. Hell, this is the first full-length tour that we’ve been on since November. November was our last full-length tour and that was back in Europe and the UK with Soil. That was incredible to be over there and to have so much support from overseas. It’s insane how many people knew the material, how many people believed in it and sang it with conviction and were very very receptive. But we came back and we had the holidays off, Christmas and what not. Then as soon as the New Year came we went out to California and recorded January/February and then we came back and have been home since. We‘ve played, and we’ve done little 2-3 day runs. We had a week run with Hellyeah recently, but nothing extensive. So, this is the first real extensive tour that we’ve done since November of 2016. So, without a doubt, we’re going to be on the road for a while.

See all of Rock Documented’s  coverage HERE!

About T. Strubel

Founder of Rock Documented in September of 2015. Serves as Lead Photographer, Writer and Editor. Voted "Best Photography" by the Central Pennsylvania Music Hall of Fame. Currently shoots with 2 Nikon D850s, Nikon 22-70mm 2.8 VR, Nikon 70-200mm 2.8 VR, and Black Rapid Shoulder Strap.

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