Music News

Burrito Brothers

Bluewall Audience has been so busy reviewing and signing contracts, conducting meetings, and approving shirt designs that at least every other week, its members have to convene at their unofficial headquarters: Chipotle at Chandler Fashion Center. Any time the band needs to conduct business -- and someone else is willing to foot the bill -- the Southwestern eatery is the meet-up of choice. It might not be an office, but it's just as effective.

After all, four out of the five of them are still in high school, but these guys have already found a label to back them -- something bands 10 years their senior have been trying to do for years.

"We actually signed our record contract here," says Richard Marin, guitarist of the hardcore band, about inking a single-record deal with the independent Turnpike Records. "The final clause said [Matt Quick, Turnpike Records owner] had to agree to treat us to dinner at Chipotle."

All clad in jeans, tee shirts and zip-up hoodies, the guys in Bluewall Audience are easy to spot outside Chipotle. While Marin and bassist Adam Eljof play soccer with a discarded Dasani water bottle, vocalist Nicholas Villa looks on. Guitarist Chris Kalla soon walks up, and the four bound toward the fast-food restaurant full of energy.

When drummer James Salas arrives 15 minutes late, he doesn't fit in with his band. Sure, he's the right age to be in Bluewall Audience (17 or 18), but Salas is wearing a knee-length gray tweed jacket and Starsky-style shades. His bandmates laugh, and Eljof repeatedly yells out, "You look like my grandpa!"

Brushing off the taunts, Salas quickly explains that he was just filmed by Fox 10 singing Christmas carols for Corona High School. He rips off his glasses in an attempt at a suave move and says it's time to get down to business.

First on the agenda: the sound. Bluewall Audience began as a jam band when the guys first started high school in south Tempe. After a couple years, Kalla joined the band and motivated his bandmates to take things seriously. That was a year and a half ago, but the band still has trouble deciding what genre its music is.

"We are a salsa, fun-core extravaganza," Eljof says, to the astonishment of his friends, who react with looks that say, "What the hell did he just say?" They remain sitting speechless for another six seconds, glancing at one another and deciding what should be said about why their bassist would include salsa as a part of their classification. But they agree to call themselves a fun hardcore band.

Kalla attempts to take it a step further, calling Bluewall Audience an indie-post-hardcore band. He later admits he only said it to sound smart and has no idea what "indie-post-hardcore" really means. "Hey, it's on our MySpace description," he justifies, explaining that the band has more than 1,000 friends at the Web site and gets feedback from fans frequently.

Of course, the members of Bluewall are reluctant to confess which bands fans compare them to, but after some encouragement, Villa gives it up.

"I've heard from many people that we sound like Glassjaw -- and I'll tell you why," he says with a huff. "It's because I'm Mexican. I'm a Mexican lead singer in a hardcore band, so I remind them of Daryl Palumbo. We have a lot of minorities in our band. These dudes are Arabs," Villa adds, gesturing to Eljof and Kalla, who immediately high-five each other while yelling "dirka dirka" in Team America style. "And James is from Guam."

There is a stereotype that hardcore bands are all pale white boys with black hair and tattoos. Marin breaks it down simply, saying that his band isn't the traditional hardcore band, and it cares more about having fun than tattoos. What's important is not what Bluewall Audience looks like, it's what the band sounds like.

Marin adds that he's half-Mexican, then changes the subject away from ethnicity. He thinks his band sounds much like an indie version of Tucson rockers The Bled, and says fans have told him likewise.

The boys of Bluewall aren't concerned with other acts right now, though. They're eager for the release of their EP, Laugh. Laugh., on December 18. For a while, they weren't sure if the disc would ever get released. They recorded it in July with Bob Hoag at Flying Blanket Studios, but didn't have the money to press it. So they resolved that the only way to release the EP was with the help of an independent record label, Marin says. The determined teenagers assembled 50 press kits, sent them out to labels, and hoped for a phone call.

Matt Quick, owner of Tucson-based Turnpike Records and a student at Arizona State University, responded to their mailing and offered to put out their EP. Turnpike Records is an independent label with a small roster of hardcore-styled bands, where Bluewall Audience fits in perfectly.

"It might not have come out if it weren't for the label," Marin says, laughing. "And we're grateful to Matt for it."

The EP is much like an audio history of the five-piece. The band recorded six songs from various states of its growth, including "Solid Swiss," which was written 11 months before recording. Earlier songs on the album are more simplistic, whereas the newer tracks have more complexity and a more distinct, hard edge to them. The newer songs are catchier, too, so they were intentionally placed at the beginning of the EP, and are an indication of where Bluewall Audience is going. Now fully developed into a screamo band that verges on hardcore, Bluewall Audience incorporates swaying bass lines and Norma Jean-influenced guitar work, and pairs screamo vocals with refined, clean vocals, which are particularly evident in "Country Western."

The guys feel like they're finally on track. Now that the EP's almost out, they're ready to tour. Bluewall already has plans for spring break to head out with another local band, Fashion Music, to get a week's worth of touring under its belt. Marin says that they want to tour all summer long to sell the 1,000 CDs that have been pressed, and, once those are gone, to record another album.

But right now, all the band can focus on is the spicy Mexican food on the table. "You see, the steak is marinated in this special blend of Chipotle Southwestern seasonings," Eljof says, deadpan. "They marinate the steak for five hours, slowly, at 367 degrees."

Kalla interrupts. "I have no idea what he's talking about, but we love Chipotle."

"Dude, it's like the perfect place for a date!" Eljof retorts.

Just what they need -- one more reason to visit the burrito joint.

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Chelsea Mueller
Contact: Chelsea Mueller