"Some of us have started families and some of them are getting bigger," explains Hit Play's bassist Gaston de la Vega. "Life happens as we get older. The balance we've found together has brought us to this album." Hit Play's been a bit quiet since its debut six song EP In Case of Emergency and since then, there have been plenty of personnel changes.
After parting with original drummer Macbeth Proenza, who's gone on to gain some notoriety as a live EDM drummer. After his departure, Hit Play went on to experience a trail that many South Florida bands face — trouble securing a full-time drummer.
Not that there aren't any drummers, but the pool is relatively small and quality musicians are hard to find. Hit Play's post-Proenza percussionists — Alex de Renzis, Romulo Bernal, and Rich Robinson of Johnny Colorado — had too much on their plates to stick with the band.
But if troubles with drummers weren't enough, Hit Play also found itself singer-less after Alex Calante moved on from the band. "I knew this guy from Tampa, Danny Gonzalez, who sang for a band called Crooked Edge, I was a big fan. We got to play some shows around Florida while I was in another band, Black Line Grind. And then, I found out he moved to Miami," says de la Vega. "I saw that as a sign that I had to get him to sing for us." Since late last year though, Danny moved back to Tampa and guitarist Raf Solo moved to Orlando. But they're staying together and plan to rehearse a week straight once the album, Certain Sounds, release date is set.
Undeterred by circumstance, de la Vega used some downtime while working as a translator in Brazil's Ms. Universe pageant while getting back in writing form. "Brazil was a great experience. It gave me a lot to take home with me. Luckily, in this band, everyone writes. Everyone contributed to the songwriting. Raf and I lived less than 50 yards from each other. So, we got to spend a lot of time writing songs and demoing them in our apartments."
His self-proclaimed "vey basic chord progressions" were then whipped into shape by the guitar work of Solo and Johnny Underpaid, who share a unique chemistry with de la Vega as a trio core that has been working together for many years now.
"With all the lineup changes, it's always been the three of us. When it comes to input, it happens several ways. When I write a song, I'll have a vocal melody, lyrics and then I'll figure out my chord progression. I'll show this to Raf or Underpaid and they play it how they feel best represents the song. I feel very fortunate to be able to play with those two. Danny is a great lyricist. Both of us ended up writing half the album's lyrics. In this band, everyone has an opinion. Things can change at a moment's notice. As long as it feels good, everyone's happy."
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The 12-track full-length continues in the band's vein of Southern California-styled punk rock. They have that solid knowledge of when to hold back and polish and when to let the fun power-pop-punk emerge. It's easy to see a spiritual connection with post-Epitaph Bad Religion and early Lagwagon, Pennywise, and Jughead's Revenge. There's even a bonus cover of The Cars' "You Might Think" at the end of Certain Sounds. "The Cars have always stuck out to me. I just love Ric Ocasek as a producer and songwriter. Everyone in the band loved the idea of recording this and putting our spin on it. We recorded this with our friend and Fallen From the Sky guitarist, Justin Berke."
It was recorded by Ryan Haft at Pinecrust Studios, mixed by Darian Rundall (Epitaph/Pennywise) in Torrance, CA, and mastered by Jason Livermore at the Blasting Room in Fort Collins, CO. Hit Play's Certain Sounds might be in a bit of musical limbo awaiting its official release, "Nayra Serrano (Idle Hands) does an outstanding job promoting and booking bands at Churchill's Pub. She's helping me out with this. I don't know what's in store for Hit Play after the CD release shows."
Whatever the future eventually brings them, the guys in Hit Play have an album on their hands of which they can be proud. It's marked by excellent musicianship, well-composed tracks, and an inherent fun that betrays the hurtles members have had to face in order to create it.