SONS OF TEXAS
INTERVIEW WITH JES DE HOYOS
By: Nina McCarthy, Music Journalist
Ignite Music Magazine
(Photo courtesy of Sons of Texas)
Mark Morales – lead vocals
Mike Villarreal – drums
Nick Villarreal – bass
Jon Olivarez – rhythm guitar
Jes De Hoyos – lead guitar/backing vocals
Sons of Texas is an American heavy metal band formed in McAllen, TX in 2013. They released their debut album Baptized In The Rio Grande in 2015. In September of 2017, they released Forge By Fortitude and are currently on tour in support of this new release.
Imagine being in a local band back in 2003 and receiving a strange phone call at 11pm from some random guy who called out of nowhere looking for someone from your band. This is exactly what happened to Jes De Hoyos from Sons of Texas. This man ended up being their attorney and was the beginning of their career as professional musicians. Here’s what Jes had to tell me about that call, how they got signed, their latest release, and their current tour.
Jes: I was thinking it couldn’t be a bill collector that late and asked what was going on. We spoke for awhile. We had offers before from people pretending to be the real deal, yada, yada, yada… My wife and I were in bed watching movies on a laptop with headphones because our kids were sleeping with us. She was Googling him simultaneously while I was on the phone with him. He was the real deal and I was wondering how he found us. At the end of the phone call he said, “I’m going to get you a record deal.” That was insane. Who does that? Who calls randomly and says, check this out.
I’ve never heard of such a thing happening!
Jes: He introduced us to the people over at Razor & Tie and 8 months later we had the record deal. It was kind of a weird web of events that went down.
How was it working with Josh Wilbur? (Lamb of God, All That Remains, Gojira) And is it true he decided to work with you guys after only seeing 20 seconds of watching a YouTube video?
Jes: It was incredible! I don’t have the exact time but when I asked him, I remember no him saying it was just a couple seconds into our live recording from a live show of “Pull It And Fire.” He heard a few seconds of it and really wanted to work with us. How do you decide whether or not you want to work with someone from a few seconds of a YouTube video? To me it was insane. Despite his credentials and all his achievements, he’s very much a very humble and down to earth guy. Him and his wife are very genuine people and it’s incredible that we actually know them personally and that we got to work with Wilbur. It’s insane that we got to work with him and we hope to continue to work with him in the future.
I’ve heard from other bands what a great guy Josh Wilbur is. You certainly had some amazing luck so far. Now, you were pretty much told that the band should move to Austin if you expected to get noticed. What made you decide to stay in McAllen in southern TX and prove everyone wrong?
Jes: At first I thought about if we all collectively moved to one of the cities and if it would up our chances and I brought it up in discussion. Mark’s thing was that if we’re good enough and work hard enough, it shouldn’t matter where you come from or where you’re living. It lit a fire under our asses and thank God it worked. Obviously we branched out and didn’t just play in our hometown. We played everywhere in Texas first and eventually branched out further. Mark made sense. It shouldn’t have to be about where you are living, it should be about what you’re putting out, if you’re putting out a genuine article or looking to achieve superficial goals. It ended up working out and it’s cool. It is still cool to this day. We still wave the Rio Grande Valley flag to this day high and mighty, and we’re proud to be from Texas
I agree and think it shouldn’t matter where you’re from in this digital age, if the talent is there it can be seen and discovered!
Jes: For sure. I don’t even think it’s just the talent, it’s more about the drive and individual collectively. You can have 20% talent but 80% drive and positive attitude, and I think you will go further than anyone with the most skill in the world.
I’ve been hearing that a lot. I saw your music described as “bluesy metal” which are 2 words I would never expect to see together, but it makes sense when you hear the songs. How would you personally describe the music?
Jes: In one word, diverse. You can call our music bluesy metal and some of it would fit into that category. But, if you listen to some of our other music, it’s not metal at all. We have ballads, straight up blues tunes, southern swing, and straight up metal. We have all kinds of things in our music that we can and like to do. Both of the records we put out so far have a little bit of all of that. Not to toot our own horn, but I think we’ve done a pretty fine job of being able to have such a diversity in each record and not make it sound completely odd or jarring.
That definitely broadens your fan base too because there’s something for everyone. You guys toured Europe with Seether. What is your opinion of the scene over there and how does it compare to the US?
Jes: That was our second time in the UK and both times were incredible, the enthusiasm and life in people for live music. They come out fired up and we go talk to them and they are amazed that we do that. That’s what we do. We’re not Axl Rose. No disrespect to him, but he’s accomplished and a huge star. We like to look people square in the face and tell them, “Thank you very much for supporting us.” What you put out is what you get in return, in any situation. Europe was amazing. We got to see and do stuff we thought we’d never see or do. If they’ll have us back, we’d definitely be back in a heartbeat.
Forged by Fortitude, your second album as a band was just released in September of this year. What has been the response and reviews?
Jes: So far we’ve gotten nothing but positive reviews. However, the label does these sponsored ads on social media and every now and again we’ll get somebody say, “This has been done before” or “It sounds like this or that.” Everyone seems to want to be a critic on social media. Your courage is high because you don’t have face to face confrontation with it, so you can shout off the mouth. While there is some truth to what they are saying, everyone is entitled to their opinion and not everybody is going to like our stuff. The thing that tickles me funny is that the song they are talking about is the single, and this is with every band, but the singles are just to have a radio presence. It’s not to say that’s why we created the song but that was what was chosen for radio presence and for a reason because it has an appeal that people of a mass audience would like. That’s not to say that’s the only sound we produce as a band. For example, “Beneath The Riverbed” is our first single but it sounds nothing like the first track on our album Forged By Fortitude, which is “Buy In Sell Out.” I’d say they are completely two different animals and you can’t take away everything from a band off one song. Another example of that is the band Extreme from back in the 80s. They had the song “More Than Words” and people think that’s all that band was about, but it’s not true at all. If you look up their live performances, they’re very much a loud and proud rock n roll band. They had a ballad and someone thought it was a good idea to put it on the radio.
You’re absolutely right. They just played by me and they really rock out! You mentioned, “Buy In Sell Out?” Can you enlighten me a little on the lyrics? From what I understand, it’s about learning from your experiences on the road being inexperienced touring musicians?
Jes: The entire album is about that. That’s what Forged by Fortitude means. Back in the day when they made swords, they’d stick the iron in the fire and wait for it to be glowing, and if you leave it in there too long, it’s not going to be good enough, but if you pull it out just in time and hammer it out, you create something that is to be used to your advantage. Forged by Fortitude just means that in everything we’ve experienced in the last few years as touring musicians and everything we’ve gone through in our personal lives and on the road all that is melded together, and we’re saying, you can be molded by the fire or you can be burned by it. It says a lot without having to say a lot of words. You work with what you know, and what do you know more than your own personal life experiences?
Exactly. What obstacles did you have to overcome or adjust to as far as touring?
Jes: Everything in my life. It was a complete 180 from what I was used to. Before we took this on full time, I had a full time job, I was with my wife and we had a kid, and then we had more kids. Having to cut off the full time job to be able to go tour full time was definitely jumping in with both feet at the same time without thinking about it. It was definitely an adjustment being away from the home, the family. Being away from the wife and kids for months at a time can be a little taxing. Again, you can either be burned by it or molded by it. It’s all about how you perceive things and how you react to that. You have to adjust your frame of mind and overcome obstacles that come your way. It’s about balancing two lives one on the road and one at home, and trying to keep it all together and we’re still working on that. Like I tell everybody, I’m lucky my wife is tougher than burned tejitas. It helps a lot if you have a support system at home.
I hear that being away from the family is the hardest thing for most touring musicians. Thankfully now we have FaceTime and things like that to keep you a little more connected.
Jes: I can’t even imagine back in the day when cell phones weren’t around. I think about that all the time like if you wanted a photo of your kid and had to snap it with a camera, go develop it and then mail it to wherever you’re going to be. By the time you get home, that photo is already old and they’ve already developed their facial features more. It’s insane to think about that now you can have everything in real time and how people take that for granted.
We are lucky in that way. So, what’s the most rock star thing you have done so far?
Jes: Me, nothing! But I can give you a story of something I witnessed first hand and it was one of the craziest moments I’ve ever seen in my life. When we were in Europe the first time, we went out with a band called SOiL. They are awesome dudes, by the way. We all came home, and being away for awhile we were all with our wives, you know. The next thing I know we were all telling our manager our wives were pregnant, me, Mark and John. My manager was like, “What the hell are you doing?” and I told him we had been on the road for awhile and then he gave us a lot of down time. All our wives were due at the same time, either late November or early December. We went to Europe knowing and preparing that one or all of us might miss the birth of our children. We go over there and keep in close contact and some have close calls. We were at our last show and were performing. Earlier in the night Mark had disappeared but he showed up right before stage time. Mark had an ITouch and we’re onstage and he’s holding it up and I was thinking what is he doing? After we completed our second or third song, he grabs the mic and apologizes to the crowd saying, “No disrespect to you guys. I know you see me holding up my phone, but my wife is in labor and is about to give birth to my son.” I was on the side dying and thinking that if he wanted to call it quits right now, I’ll back him 100% and we’ll stop the show and if he wants to go home, we’ll go home. As soon as he said that, the crowd just started losing their minds in congratulations and such. Like a true professional, he puts the ITouch down where he could see it near the mic stand and he absolutely obliterated the entire set. It was the most professional and rock star thing I’ve ever seen in my life. How do you even continue? I started to choke up a little because that could have been me. To be honest, I would have left. But he had one of the best performances of our career so far. There’s a picture of it on out Facebook and Instagram. He’s got a mic in his face and his ITouch in his hand. It was a crazy moment.
That’s an amazing story! “Beneath The Riverbed” is your featured radio single. Can you give me some insight into the inspiration and meaning of the song?
Jes: Again, it’s a different chapter of the same story. It’s about facing yourself and internal conflict. I’ll be honest, I don’t have the exact meaning to break it down as much as Mark could, but that’s a rough summary of what it’s about.
As the lead guitarist, what is your brand loyalty?
Jes: I don’t think I have a brand loyalty right now. I tried for a couple endorsements and some said they didn’t have room for me on their roster right now. I’ve been trying guitars left and right and I know what I like. It’s not about a brand specifically, but the specifications in what I like. If somebody’s cool enough and wants to endorse, I’m down. But then again, maybe I should just use what I like.
That seems to be working for you. Sons Of Texas will be touring with Alter Bridge and All That Remains through the end of the year! What a killer lineup! You guys actually have a handful headlining dates including FL, IL, and of course Texas. What do you look forward to most on this tour?
Jes: I’m still very much a fan of live music and bands. Growing up I listened to All That Remains so actually being able to go out and tour with them before was awesome because this time we’ve already gotten to know them a bit. Phil is a cool dude. Ollie is badass. It’s crazy watching a band evolve since you’re a kid. I had their album “This Darkened Heart” and I listened to that thing backwards and forwards a thousand times, to the point where my friends were getting annoyed with me. It’s a great album. I still like it to this day, but watching them change and then to be going back out with them on tour again…The same thing with Mark Tremonti, I’ve followed that guy since Creed. He’s a hell of a songwriter, hell of a performer, and just an awesome musician. If anybody hasn’t seen Alter Bridge yet, Myles Kennedy is a hell of a guitar player. Him and Mark go at it live and it adds another dimension of what the band is capable of and makes for a great live performance. I’m very much looking forward to going out there and watching the people I grew up looking up to, do what they do. Not just being side by side with them onstage but to be out in the crowd watching them tear it up. I love it! There’s nothing better than it. Like when we went out with HellYeah, I watched them all the time. I stood side stage to watch Vinnie, because Pantera is my favorite band to watch and to watch him do what he does which is something I’ve always wanted to do since I was a kid, is the closest I’ll ever get to Pantera or meeting the dudes from Pantera.
You’ve mentioned a lot of my favorites! I was disappointed because there weren’t any northeast dates on this tour, although Alter Bridge was just here this summer.
Jes: I haven’t really been too involved with the schedule with this tour because there’s been a lot going on at home and I’ve been playing catch up. When I hit the road, I am pretty much playing catch up again going over the itinerary with the tour manager. When I’m home, I’m home. Nine times out of ten, people who are following the bands will know more about the dates than the band themselves. The headliner’s agents determine the route, and when they take us along, we are just going for the ride and supporting them and blowing up social media and doing the best we can to contribute to the tour.
What do you expect from your hometown show in McAllen? Do you think it’s going to be insane?
Jes: Absolutely! Anytime we’ve done a hometown show since we’ve got signed it’s been insane at home, which is awesome. It’s going go be a final big bang end of the year kind of thing for 2017 and we have a lot of friends and family that come out. My wife hasn’t been to a show in like two years, since my boys were born. She’s finally going to have a chance to come hang out at a live show. There are a lot of things going into it that are going to make this show very special for us. We are playing the historic Vine El Rey and we’re aiming to sell it out. I don’t want to shoot myself in the foot, but it’s pretty damn close and it’s going to get there, I’m sure.
You are very close to Mexico, right?
Jes: We are like 12 miles from the border.
What’s next for Sons of Texas?
Jes: Extensive touring. We just released the record Forged By Fortitude on Razor & Tie. Look for it everywhere, Amazon, ITunes, Best Buy, whatever your outlet is for music, whether it is digital or physical. We will have them with us on the road and we might even have some vinyl with us too. We like to show appreciation and gratitude for anyone that comes out to see us at a show, so definitely come by and meet us. After we load up, we head out to the crowd or hang out by merch so if anyone wants to come shake hands, have a beer and shoot the shit, we’re definitely into meeting our fans and people that come support us.
I think that is so important to the fans. I know I appreciate it when bands do that. Lastly, inquiring minds want to know, is everything REALLY bigger in Texas?
Jes: (Laughing) That’s something you have to find out for yourself. It’s not necessarily physical size. Everywhere we’ve gone in Texas, the people are big, and I don’t mean obese, but for the most part people are very nice, use please and thank you, greet you with a smile, shake your hand and look you in the eye. That’s very much a Texas thing and what they mean by everything is bigger. The people here are awesome. Maybe I’m just biased because I live here and I love where I’m from and there’s no place like home. But again, you have to get out here and experience it for yourself. Another thing too, if you are in my area Hidalgo Valley, have the Mexican food. Although, surprisingly, I did have some great tacos in some small place in a little plaza in Louisville, Kentucky. That’s the beauty of traveling, you have to have an open mind and a diverse palate to enjoy the different foods and culture. Like in the UK, my favorite dish is probably fish and chips. You’re by the ocean and have the real deal and when the fish is fresh, it’s absolutely incredible.
I live by the beach, so I understand about the fish and chips. One advantage of traveling is getting to taste the food everywhere. Well, Jes, thanks so much for your time today. I enjoyed talking to you and hope you have a great tour!
Jes: Thank you and I hope to see you when we come up to your area.
Absolutely. I’ll keep my eyes open for a date.